Nothing says “clean” like a thorough pressure washing. Decks and driveways, patio furniture, and window shutters—they all collect dust, dirt, and an occasional bird dropping, growing grimier by the day. But a deep pressure washing can spray away weeks, months, and even years of buildup.
Read on for a breakdown of the types of pressure washers available and the cleaning power offered by each one to determine which is best suited to your purposes. Then, continue on to browse the top picks, featuring some of the best pressure washers on the market for your cleanup tasks.
- BEST OVERALL: Westinghouse Outdoor WPX2700 Gas Powered Pressure
- RUNNER UP: Sun Joe SPX3000-RED Electric Pressure Washer
- BEST LIGHT DUTY: Karcher K1700 Cube Electric Power Pressure Washer
- BEST MEDIUM DUTY: Greenworks GPW1703 Vertical Pressure Washer
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Generac 7122 SpeedWash
- BEST COMMERCIAL: Champion Power Equipment Commercial Pressure Washer
- BEST FOR CARS: PAXCESS Electric Pressure Washer
- BEST FOR CONCRETE: Simpson Cleaning MSH3125 MegaShot Gas Pressure Washer
- BEST FOR STRIPPING PAINT: WHOLESUN Electric Pressure Washer
- ALSO CONSIDER: Powerhouse International Electric Pressure Washer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Pressure Washer
Pressure washers are a boon for taking the manual labor out of cleaning exterior surfaces, and they all clean in a similar manner. Still, several differences exist, such as how they operate—some models are electric, others gas-powered. Consider the following factors when choosing the best pressure washer.
Gas vs. Electric
For those who have large areas to clean, such as a pool deck, a patio, or tall exterior walls, the superior cleaning power of a gas pressure washer is the best bet. These machines provide the most mobility and power. They don’t tether the machine to an outlet, so you can move around more easily, plus their higher pressure gets the job done faster.
For smaller, simpler chores like cleaning outdoor furniture, the family car, or just a few feet of exterior space, electric pressure washers offer different benefits. They’re generally quieter and lighter than their gas-powered counterparts.
These plug-ins don’t offer quite as much mobility, but the best electric pressure washer will typically include a 30-foot or longer cord, in addition to a long pressurized hose that can stretch the perimeter of the job site. Be sure to keep the socket, plug, and your hands completely dry when connecting and disconnecting the cord.
Pressure washers come in a variety of power settings, each of which is suitable for different tasks:
- Models rated below 2,000 pounds per square inch (psi) are considered light-duty and work best on smaller surfaces like patio furniture and cars.
- Pressure washers classified as medium-duty (between 2,000 and 2,800 psi) offer a little more power and are an excellent option for larger cleaning jobs focused on smaller surfaces.
- Heavy-duty washers (from 2,900 to 3,300 psi) are suitable for large driveways, high walls, and exterior paint job preparation.
- At the top of the spectrum, professional-grade pressure washers top out over 3,300 psi; they’re most often used in commercial settings and have a steeper price.
- For a variety of cleaning jobs, consider a multi-duty model, which allows the user to adjust the pressure, tailoring it to the task at hand.
Flow Rating and PSI
Another feature to consider is how many gallons per minute (GPM) a pressure washer expels. In consumer-grade power washers, the flow rating tends to run between 1.0 and 4.0 GPM. Commercial pressure washers range from about 2.0 to 10.0 GPM. Generally speaking, higher numbers result in faster, easier cleanups. So, if you’re dealing with truly stubborn mud, crud, or gunk, let the force be with you and opt for a higher GPM.
While GPM determines the amount of flow through the washer nozzle, the pressure of the flow is rated in pounds per square inch (psi). In general, pressure washers generate an average of 1,000 to 4,000 psi of water pressure. Be aware, however, that a psi over 3,000 may damage some types of surfaces, such as softwood or siding.
Both ratings are important, although psi is used more for consumer model pressure washers, while GPM is usually more of a consideration when buying commercial models.
A pressure washer’s overall cleaning power is measured in cleaning units (CU). Not all manufacturers list a CU on their models, but it’s simple to figure out if the psi and GPM are available.
To calculate a pressure washer’s CU, multiply the GPM by the psi. For example, if the washer has a GPM of 2.0 and a psi of 3,000, the machine will have a collective CU of 6,000. When comparing different pressure washers, if you arrive at the same—or nearly the same—CU, yet the GPM and psi ratings are different, understand that the higher GPM will clean faster because it produces more water flow.
Axial vs. Triplex Pump
Gas-powered pressure washers feature two common types of pumps, each with its benefits and considerations.
- Axial: An axial pump is a direct-drive pump, which means the pump spins at the same speed as the engine. An axial pump offers good pressure and produces a lot of water power, but it tends to wear out sooner than a triplex pump. A washer with an axial pump is suitable for most DIY washing tasks.
- Triplex: Many commercial-quality pressure washers feature a triplex pump, which describes a heavy-duty displacement pump that works by expanding and contracting rather than spinning. A triplex pump will usually outlast an axial pump when both are used for the same duration, but expect to pay a premium for a washer with this type of pump.
Most pressure washers include more than one nozzle so the user can adjust the water spray pattern. The connections (¼-inch “quick connect”) on these nozzles are standard, which means nearly any nozzle purchased for a pressure washer will fit another pressure washer.
The factor to consider, however, is the psi rating of the nozzles. Lower psi-rated nozzles are often a bit less expensive than higher psi-rated nozzles, depending on the quality. Still, a low-rated nozzle may not stand up under the pressure of a high-rated pressure washer, so make sure to use a nozzle with an equal or greater psi rating than the washer to which it’s attached.
Pressure washers, especially gas-powered models, can be hefty, weighing up to 55 pounds or more. They can be a chore to take out, put away, or load in the back of a pickup truck. If transporting the washer is essential, look for a compact, lightweight model; some weigh as little as 15 pounds and include attached carrying handles.
Most of the lighter-weight pressure washers are electric, and there’s a trade-off when choosing a more portable model because it won’t generate quite the CU as a heavy-duty, beefier unit. Still, with the design improvements in today’s electric pressure washers, they’ll do a decent job of tackling most around-the-house and car-washing tasks.
Most pressure washers don’t come with many bells and whistles, but a few options can make them simpler to operate.
- Built-in detergent tank: Some models feature an integrated tank instead of a dispenser that attaches to the wand, making it easy to fill the tank with detergent for washing tasks.
- Steel-braided hose: Reinforced with steel binding, these hoses are often found on commercial pressure washers but can be ordered separately to fit almost any washer. They’re less likely to bulge or leak.
- Upgraded wand: Like nozzles, pressure washer wands are rated for psi. Some washers include a wand rated for a higher psi, making them stronger and more likely to last longer.
Our Top Picks
With an array of pressure washers on the market—all looking somewhat alike—it can be challenging to figure out which surface cleaner is the best. These top picks represent some of the best pressure washers on the market that are most suited to DIYers. No matter the cleaning needs, one of the following models is sure to be a help for deep, thorough outdoor cleaning around the house.
Strong water pressure and a good flow rate are what set apart this gas-powered pressure washer from Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment. This machine delivers up to 2.3 GPM at a rate of 2,700 psi, making it suitable for tough outdoor cleaning chores, from washing mold stains off concrete on the highest setting to cleaning windows on the lowest.
The power washer includes four quick-connect nozzles and a 25-foot abrasion-resistant hose. Another positive: This unit features a built-in detergent tank for easy cleaning and a 1-gallon-capacity gasoline tank.
Those who are not ready to invest in a pricey power washer can still get power at a great price with this model from Sun Joe. Indeed, the Sun Joe delivers up to 1.76 GPM at 2,030 psi to effectively tackle light, medium, and heavy-duty washing jobs.
The pressure washer boasts five quick-connect spray tips, a 20-foot high-pressure hose, and a 35-foot power cord. Its dual removable detergent tanks allow users to load two different types of detergents (window cleaner in one and vinyl siding cleaner in the other, for example), then switch back and forth as desired. A built-in safety feature shuts off the pump when the user is not squeezing the trigger.
For quick and efficient cleaning of mildly dirty items—such as house windows, car exteriors, vinyl siding, and patio furniture—check out Karcher’s electric pressure washer. The Karcher’s 1,700 psi, 1.2 GPM flow rate, and three quick-connect spray nozzles make the tool powerful and versatile enough for tackling a wide range of light-duty cleaning chores.
The pressure washer includes large wheels and a telescoping handle, making it a snap to pull the unit along as needed.The washer also provides a handy on/off foot switch, a built-in detergent tank, and a rear hose storage bin.
For enough power to tackle demanding cleaning chores around the house, such as removing loose paint chips from siding before repainting or powering stains off decks and patios, consider this Greenworks model, which features 2,000 psi and a 1.2 gallon-per-minute flow rate. Included are large 5-inch wheels, a telescoping handle for easy maneuvering, and a pressure-resistant 25-foot hose.
Also included are three quick-connect nozzles and a soap dispenser that connects to the wand for those times when it’s imperative to use a detergent or a concentrated cleaner. This medium-duty power washer is well suited for most exterior household cleaning chores.
To wash dried, packed-on mud from driveways, you’ll want the extra power of a pressure washer like this one from Generac. This gas-powered unit features an easy-pull start cord and large wheels that can ride over rough terrain. The spray wand outputs water at up to 2.7 gallons per minute and features four adjustable power settings, in addition to four quick-connect spray nozzles.
The Generac also includes a power brush that attaches to the wand for extra scrubbing action to remove even stuck-on stains. The washer comes with a 25-foot high-pressure hose, and it features user-friendly controls all in a single location on the front of the machine.
Looking for a commercial-grade pressure washer? For blasting away rust stains from iron stairs or farm equipment, Champion Power Equipment’s gas-powered unit delivers a hefty 4.0 GPM flow rate and delivers 4,200 psi of sheer water pressure.
Designed for reliable, sustained use, this pressure washer features a triplex pump motor, in addition to a 50-foot hose and oversized tires. Included are five quick-connect nozzles, a wand, and a trigger gun for use without the wand. The pressure washer also comes with a built-in detergent tank for convenience.
Never wait in line at the carwash again. The PAXCESS blasts a respectable 1.8 gallons per minute at 2,150 psi. Rather than swapping out nozzles for different types of cleaning chores, the PAXCESS features an all-in-one nozzle that simply twists to create high pressure, low pressure, or foam. On the foam setting, users can lather cars up with suds to help in the process of removing dust and highway grime.
The detergent tank is removable, so you can easily rinse it out to be sure residual detergent isn’t hanging around in the tank during the application of a rinse agent. The washer includes a 26-foot high-pressure hose and a built-in reel for hose storage, in addition to a long, 33-foot power cord.
Concrete driveways are notorious for collecting all manner of grease and antifreeze spills that seep into their porous surface. To removing tough stains on concrete, you need a pressure washer that generates some real power. This one from Simpson Cleaning fits the bill, as it features a 3,200 psi spray and delivers a generous 2.5 GPM flow rate to displace even stubborn mud and stains.
The washer boasts oversized 10-inch wheels and a welded steel handle for maneuverability. Included are five quick-connect nozzles that fit the washer’s wand, as well as a 25-foot high-pressure hose.
Scraping away loose paint chips is a time-consuming chore. Next time, blast them away with a WHOLESUN pressure washer that generates up to 3,000 psi of water pressure and a 2.4 GPM flow rate.
As the WHOLESUN comes with a long 33-foot power cord and a 20-foot high-pressure hose, the tool provides its users with plenty of reach, not least because it has a removable wand. The WHOLESUN also includes four quick-connect nozzles, a detergent dispenser, and a built-in reel for hose storage.
Clean all manner of common stains and messes with this electric pressure washer from Powerhouse International that delivers 3,000 psi at a 2.2 GPM flow rate. Adjustable power settings enable you to adjust the water pressure to suit the task at hand.
This unit comes with five quick-connect spray nozzles and a flexible, 30-foot-long water hose that can be maneuvered without twisting or kinking. It also includes a telescoping handle, swivel castors, and a 35-foot power cord that winds up on an attached reel for easy storage.
Pressure Washer Attachments
Many pressure washers include a few attachments, and because the fittings are often universal on pressure washers, users can also pick up aftermarket attachments.
- Spray gun: This pistol-shaped handle features a squeeze trigger for delivering a blast of water.
- Lance or wand: This straight metal rod attaches to the spray gun and comes in various lengths.
- Nozzles: These tips control the pattern of spray. Some nozzles deliver a narrow stream, while others offer a wide fanned-out pattern. A foam nozzle incorporates air into the water stream to provide a foamy mix of soap and water.
- Detergent dispensers: If the washer doesn’t have a built-in detergent tank, users can connect a dispenser to deliver soap and detergent.
- Filter: An inline water filter connected to the hose traps hard water deposits that might shorten the useful life of the spray gun and nozzles.
How to Use a Pressure Washer
Using a pressure washer is a relatively straightforward task, but read all safety and usage instructions before operating one for the first time. Features will vary by model, but in general, the steps, and a few dos and don’ts, are the same.
- Connect a water hose.
- Fill a detergent tank or attach one if soap is desired.
- Attach a nozzle.
- Turn water pressure to the lowest setting.
- Start the washer’s engine or motor.
- Hold the spray gun with both hands and spray the surface.
- Start a minimum of 18 inches away from the surface—you can move closer later.
- Turn up the water pressure, if necessary.
FAQs About Your New Pressure Washer
Pressure washers significantly speed up cleaning time, reducing or eliminating the need for manual scrubbing. For those new to the world of pressure washing, some questions are to be expected.
Q. What is a good psi rating for a pressure washer?
Pressure washers range between 1,000 and 4,000 psi. A machine will clean away light stains at the lower range, but heavy stains typically require a psi of 2,500 or higher.
Q. What is a good CU for a pressure washer?
A pressure washer with a cleaning unit (CU) rating (multiply psi by GPM) between 4,500 and 7,000 will handle most household cleaning jobs.
Q. Do gas pressure washers require oil?
Oil is necessary for lubricating a gas engine and helping it run smoothly.
Q. What kind of gas does a gas pressure washer use?
Most gas pressure washers use regular gas from a gas station, but most are not designed to use gas that contains more than 10 percent ethanol.
Q. Why does my electric pressure washer keep shutting off?
It may be overheating, have a clog in the line, or have a more significant problem. Try turning off the machine, disconnecting the hose and wand, and then reconnecting and trying again. If that doesn’t help, contact the manufacturer.
Q. How do you winterize a pressure washer?
Flush the pressure hose from the washer and store it separately. Drain the gas tank or add a fuel stabilizer to the tank to keep the gas from separating and clogging the interior working parts over the winter.
A pressure washer isn’t for daily use, but when there’s a stubborn mess to clean up, most users will be glad they have one on hand. The best pressure washer will vary by the type of cleaning chores and the amount of necessary power. Investing in one that’s powerful enough to tackle the tasks at hand but not so powerful that it’s unaffordable is the best course of action.