I found the process of pressure washer shopping daunting at first blush. There’s a great range of products on the market, from the briefcase-sized units that you can literally carry around with you, to the professional-strength units that come with their own built-in dolly and require a storage shed of their own. They all have their own perks and purposes, and as the buyer and user, you’ll need to know how to interpret them.
- What strength pressure washer should I buy?
- Gas or electric?
- Does GPM matter?
- What spray settings should I look for?
Hopefully this low-down on the tool will help simplify the process for you.
What are you going to be pressure cleaning and washing? If you’re just looking to wash you patio furniture, your vehicles, or your home’s windows every springtime, it’s likely that you’re only going to need or want a light-duty washer, one that comes with a lower PSI (pound force per square inch) measurement (think <2000 max PSI). The good news there is that you can find a product to suit your needs affordably, or in the neighborhood of $75-175 depending on how high you want the PSI measurement and which brand you go with.
If you’re looking for something to blast through sidewalk and patio paver grime, clean deck surfaces, and blast soap onto vinyl siding with some force, opt for a mid-range washer, one rated between 2000-3000 max PSI. In doing my research, I found the mid-range options most suitable for the types of jobs I would be doing: cleaning cinderblock walls, sidewalks, and our flagstone patio. Prices ranged greatly ($150+) so shop around and look for in-store specials.
The higher-range pressure washers (3000+ max PSI) are more commonly reserved for commercial use. It’s not all that often that, as an everyday DIYer, you’re going to need a machine with commercial toughness, and if you do need one, a one-time rental might be the most suitable option.
Gas vs. Electric? This is likely another decision you’re going to want to make. In many circumstances, knowing the PSI strength you’re looking for will narrow this decision down for you. Gas-powered options typically (though not exclusively) have a higher PSI rating, whereas the electric units are more commonly available if all you’re doing is light-duty spraying. Some users don’t like to be tethered by an electrical cord (you’ll always be tethered by the hose), and others don’t want the added maintenance duty that comes with a gas-powered motor.
Pay attention to the spray settings of the model you choose. Keep in mind that a 2000 max PSI pressure washer measures 2000 PSI when it is at its strongest jet stream (a 0-degree beeline shot). You will rarely need to use this setting—it has a tendency to cause more harm than good, unless your goal is to write your name in cursive into the floorboards of your deck or on your front sidewalk. It’s a strong setting.
Focus on the range of options of each particular machine. When I was shopping, I compared two models by the same manufacturer with different PSI ratings. The lower PSI product offered a 0-degree, 25-degree, and 40-degree spray, while the higher PSI product offered 0-degree and 15-degree, and 40-degree spray, immediately promising a stronger second-tier spray for those projects when you needed something strong, but not a beeline. An associate at the store commented from his own experience, noting that a 25-degree spray wasn’t often enough to clean cement well, but a 15-degree spray would do the trick.
Finally, focus on the GPM (gallons per minute) when you’re selecting your product. Water conservation is worth noting for your own water bill. Also, the stronger the PSI pressure, the less water is being used (shown in the above photo).
Pick the right product and be on your way to having a clean home!