Pressure Washers: What They Are And Why You Might Need One

Updated Nov. 2019

Before we get into the details about pressure washers, let’s take stock of all of the other products which are used to clean your property, regardless of whether it is the interior or exterior.

There are so many different tools at your disposal when it comes time to clean up the house. Just take a step back and think about every piece of equipment that you need to make sure that your house keeps looking spotless. First off, we have the broom, which is used for small amounts of dust and dirt.

Washing-House

However, the broom was eventually superseded by the vacuum cleaner, which is the next logical step. Instead of just brushing dirt and dust particles around, the vacuum is used to suck them up and deposit them in a container where they can be removed later on. There is also the mop, of course.

A mop is useful for those messes that require a bit of moisture to come loose. While mopping may be a little more time-consuming than the other methods that you can use to clean your home, it does a much more effective job of it than most of those other options.

If you want to clean the outside of your house thoroughly, however, you only have a few options, and by far the most effective one of these options is the pressure washer. Before we get into further detail about pressure washers, let's take a look at what they are and ensure that all of our readers know too.

What Is A Pressure Washer?

If you have never heard the term before, you may be wondering what a pressure washer is and how it can be useful for you. Right now, we’re just going to take a basic look at pressure washers. Later on, we’ll get into the details of how they operate and the reasons for which you may need a pressure washer.

A pressure washer is a machine which uses a pump or a motor to compress a stream of water into a jet that is powerful enough to scour the outside of buildings and other areas that are hard to clean. You will find that a pressure washer can be a very versatile piece of equipment, in the right hands.

Electric-Pressure-Washer

Many people are afraid of using pressure washers due to their notorious reputation for being difficult to handle safely, but with a bit of care, you will realize that this is not too big of an issue. So now you know that a pressure washer is essentially a high-pressure hose that is used for cleaning.

A Brief History Of Pressure Washers

Pressure washers were originally invented in the 1920s, but it took until the 60s and 70s for technology to advance to the point where these machines became practical. Even when they were gaining popularity during the 70s, they were still large investments that were only available to cleaning companies and not individuals.

How Pressure Washer Works

Even the weakest of pressure washers spray water at around 1500 pounds per square inch. You will find that this is absurdly powerful. 1500 psi is quite literally 100 times the pressure of the atmosphere. So how do these machines pressurize water to such a large degree? It is much simpler than you may think.

A pressure washer contains a few integral components. There is one container which is attached to the pressure washer and contains the soap or another type of detergent that will end up mixed in with the water to improve the cleaning abilities further. This container is attached to a motor and pump combination by a hose.

When it comes to water, there are some models which are equipped with reservoirs for the water, but the vast majority take their water from a tap. This tap can be a faucet or one which is meant to be attached to a garden hose.

Regardless of whether the water is available in a reservoir or directly from the source, it is connected to the motor and pump through a separate hose. The motor (gas or electric) features its own power supply. In the case of electric motors, it is a power outlet, for gas motors, it is the gasoline that you fill it with.

Pressure-Washer-Work

When the pressure washer is on, the electric motor starts running and sucks a combination of water and detergent into the pump. This pump then compresses the water that enters through the hose into a high-pressure jet that is then pumped towards the nozzle.

The nozzle of a pressure washer is often tiny, which helps increase the pressure of the water even further. When the jet of water exits the washer, you will find that it has significantly increased in force, so it can clean off the sides of buildings, asphalt, and other surfaces that are usually hard to clean.

Of course, different pressure washers operate using different principles, and we glossed over the differences earlier on in this paragraph. But you will find that there is one significant difference between these two types, and that is the method that is used to power the motor which runs the pump.

In the subsequent section, we are going to take a look at the different types of pressure washer that you will come across and how they differ from each other.

Pressure Washer Types

Pressure washers come in a range of sizes and have different power sources, so buyers need to be sure that the washer they purchase is suitable for its intended purpose.

Industrial Pressure Washer

The most powerful and reliable type of pressure washer is the industrial pressure washer. These machines are meant to operate on a different level from their counterparts which are sold commercially. These pressure washers make use of much more resilient parts that are intended to be utilized for a longer duration.

For example, while a commercial model will have a mean time between failure of a couple of hundred hours, you will find that industrial models will have one of a couple of thousand hours. This is because they are meant to run day in, day out, usually at worksites or other areas where high-power washing is often needed.

Trailer-Pressure-Washer

If you are looking into buying an industrial pressure washer, you may wish to reconsider your decision. You will find that these pressure washer can output a powerful jet of water that can be quite hazardous. Aside from the dangers associated with these pressure washers, you will find that they are costly.

Commercial Pressure Washer

This is the more common type of pressure washer that you will come across. Commercial pressure washers are designed for use by consumers instead of companies and professionals. While these models are less reliable, they are also built to less stringent specifications, which makes them much more affordable and common.

If you are trying to find a pressure washer for home use, 90% of the time, it will be a commercial model. This ensures that you will have little difficulty acquiring your pressure washer, whereas an industrial model can only be bought from specific retailers.

Believe us when we say that a commercial pressure will be the best option for most reasonable applications. There are few reasons why you would need to invest in a pressure washer model which is more powerful, as it will end up being a waste.

Gas Powered Pressure Washer

A pressure washer which uses gasoline for fuel makes use of an internal combustion engine to power the pump. There are a few pros and cons when you compare this type of pressure washer to one which is powered by an electric motor. The ideal choice is up to you when making this decision.

You will find that gas pressure washers tend to be more powerful than electric pressure washers as they are only limited by your supply of gasoline and the size and horsepower of the motor. On the other hand, electric models are constrained by their wattage, which means that you will either need a more powerful outlet or a generator.

Pressure washers which use gas for power can also be refilled on the fly, which allows you to take them anywhere that you need pressure washing, without having to worry about a source of power. This is opposed to electric pressure washers which will always need a nearby generator or a long enough extension cord.

Unfortunately, gas pressure washers are less common than electric models since they tend to be harder to manufacture. This also makes them a more expensive option. You will find that gas pressure washers are ideal for applications in which you will not have a nearby outlet, like at a worksite.

Electric Pressure Washer

On the other hand, electric pressure washers are getting more and more common by the day. While gas models used to be the best pressure washers around, you will find that models which use electricity for power are slowly catching up. These pressure washers are ideal for use as home cleaning machines.

They are so useful at home because you are guaranteed to have a free outlet within reach of an extension cord if you are only using them to clean the exterior of your house. These pressure washers can be more affordable to operate than models which are powered by gas, depending on the price of power in your area.

Electric pressure washers also tend to feature more affordable up-front costs. This ensures that you can purchase one without having to worry about taking a chunk out of your savings. While gas models have gotten more affordable, you will find that electric pressure washers are still the cheapest.

One of the other advantages that you will find to electric pressure washers is that they are much more friendly to the environment. Where gas powered pressure washers tend to have two-stroke engines which are emissions nightmares, you will find that electric models are as clean as they can get.

Pressure Washer Uses

What do I need a pressure washer for? The answer to that question is simple: just about everything.

Washing Exterior Siding And Fences

One of the most popular applications for pressure washers is when they are used to clean fences and the siding of homes. They are ideal for this application as grime is usually deeply embedded in these surfaces. This makes them harder to clean by hand, so a pressure washer is often the only option.

Cleaning-Wooden-Fence

Aside from the difficulty of cleaning these surfaces, you will find that fences and the sides of buildings often have quite a bit of surface area that will have to be cleaned off. Cleaning these surfaces manually can take so much time that it becomes unrealistic to use any other method.

There is also the fact that buildings and fences tend to be taller than a person, so you will not be able to reach most of the dirt without access to a ladder. A pressure washer reduces the severity of this issue as the water jet goes a reasonable distance before it loses its power.

Washing A Grill

A pressure washer can also be put to good use cleaning a grill onto which grease has become very tightly attached. Using a grill brush can get tiring, especially if you have a large area to clean. There are alternatives to grill brushes, but most of them have a few issues that make them sub-optimal.

Steel grill brushes, while more effective than fabric models, always run the risk of leaving a piece of steel on your grill, which can harm you if it finds its way into your food. It is for this reason that pressure washers are highly effective options for those who need to clean off their grills.

Simply set your grill in a corner where the water jet will not do any damage to surroundings and spray it down. Your grill will be clean in seconds, and you won't have to deal with any annoying scrubbing. As you can see, pressure washers are highly effective cleaning options for those who don't have time to waste, no matter the use.

Cleaning Driveway

Another use for your pressure washer is if you want to clean your driveway. While it can often be hard to get oil stains and rubber marks out of your driveway with conventional methods, you will find few better ways to maintain a pristine driveway than using a pressure washer.

Since a pressure washer can get under the layers of grease and rubber, it is one of the only ways to remove marks on your driveway aside from using expensive chemicals. This is especially useful if you just repaved your driveway and the marks are more noticeable than they would be otherwise.

However, when you are cleaning your driveway, it is important to make sure that the pressure on your washer is not set too high, as certain models will be powerful enough to peel away the top. Unless you feel like getting your driveway repaved, ensure that it will be able to handle the water pressure before doing anything.

Washing A Car, Boat, Or Motorcycle

Another use for a pressure washer is quickly washing a vehicle. You will find that pressure washers are particularly useful for washing boats, due to the accumulation of algae and even barnacles on the underside. If you have never seen barnacles on the bottom of a boat, you may not know that they are as sharp as razors.

Cleaning off the underside of a boat manually can be quite hazardous, so you will want to either enlist the aid of a professional or do it yourself using a pressure washer. Most pressure washers will be powerful enough to remove almost anything from your vehicle with a little bit of effort.

When it comes to cars and motorcycles, you will have to be a bit more careful. Particularly in the case of motorbikes, you will find that your pressure washer can do quite a bit of damage if it is used irresponsibly.

While you have to be careful while using your pressure washer to clean off your vehicles, a pressure washer will make for a much more convenient alternative to manually washing them. If you are looking for alternate uses for your pressure washer, this is certainly one of the best ones.

Pressure Washer Accessories

There is a wide variety of accessories for both professional and home and garden cleaning equipment including brushes, squeegees, nozzles and more.

Pressure Washer Brushes

Brushes are attachments which fit over the end of the exit hose of your pressure washer. They are meant to be used in combination with the high-pressure jet of water to wash off the surface that you intend to clean more efficiently. These are similar to vacuum brush attachments, except they work with a pressure washer instead.

You will find that the water pressure will only marginally displace the dirt and grime which is on the surface that you intend to clean, so a brush is an excellent way to make sure it comes off and stays off. Brushes are often rather inexpensive attachments, so if you are looking for a cheap way to improve your pressure washer, there are few better options.

Pressure Washer Lances

A lance is an extension to the nozzle of your pressure washer. You will find that they are so-named because of their resemblance to an actual lance. These extensions are long and pipe-shaped. The point of a lance is to increase the range of your pressure washer or to change the type of jet that it projects.

You will find that lances are some of the most versatile additions that can be mounted to pressure washers. Some can even change the direction of the jet by up to 90 degrees. If you are looking to change the functioning of your pressure washer radically, there are few better options than a lance.

Detergents

One other accessory to consider for pressure washers is the detergent that you are going to use with your machine. Many manufacturers make their own proprietary pressure washer detergent, but you don’t always have to use those if you have a pressure washer which is not overly specialized.

You will find that some companies manufacture detergents which are made for specific applications, such as cleaning off concrete or other surfaces. If you want to ensure that you can clean as effectively as possible, you may wish to opt for a type of detergent which is a little more specialized.

Manufacturers

Looking for the best pressure washer? We compiled a list of the best pressure washer manufacturers on the market:

Sun Joe

Sun Joe is a brand of the Snow Joe company, which was originally founded in 2004. When they were founded, they produced a single product, a snow blower. Snow Joe is the brand which specializes in winter tools, and Sun Joe is the brand which specializes in tools for better weather, like pressure washers.

Karcher

Karcher is the world’s most popular maker of pressure washers. When you buy a product from them, you can rest assured that it is made to superior standards than the models which you would find from other makers. Due to this, you may find that Karcher products are available for a premium price.

Greenworks

Greenworks, as you may have guessed from their name, is a company which specializes in the manufacture of tools and equipment which may be used for the garden or home exterior. There are few better options for lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, but you will find that this company also specializes in the production of pressure washers.

Maintenance And Safety Tips

When using a pressure washer, you will have to ensure that you are as careful as possible, as they can be highly dangerous pieces of equipment in the wrong hands. You should carefully go over the instruction manual before you even pick up the pressure washer. This way, you can be sure that you are aware of all of the safety features.

Once you have learned how to handle your pressure washer safely, you should ensure that you never point it at another person, especially when it is plugged in. Pressure washers can end up causing severe injection injuries if they are at a high enough pressure setting, similar to certain types of paint sprayers.

Repairing-Pressure-Washer

Regarding maintenance, you may find that you sometimes have to clear the hose of obstructions. If your hose is jammed from buildup, you will not always want to turn on the machine to clear it as this may end up ruining your hose. Instead, consult the user manual for your machine.

Conclusion

We hope that this guide has given you all of the information that you need on pressure washers. Now that you are enlightened in regards to these machines feel free to move on to our buying guide, in which we will take a look at the five best pressure washers around.

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