Best Pressure Washers of 2018
Bring your home's exterior back to life with a pressure washer! Our shopping guide and top picks are here to help.
Best Pressure Washers to Clean Siding, Decks, and Driveways
When faced with a stubborn stain inside your home, what do you do? You attack it with a mop, rag, or brush. And with a little cleaning spray and elbow grease, you can clean up most messes.
Not so outdoors. A brush isn't quite the tool for an outdoor stain, nor is a mop or rag. You could try using them, but it would consume an inordinate amount of time and effort.
Enter the pressure washer. A pressure washer is a strong, efficient machine you can use to clean up outdoor problem areas. All you need is a power source and a garden hose attached to a faucet.
At BestReviews, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide consumers with the trustworthy information they need to make smart buying decisions. We performed dozens of hours of research on the market's best pressure washers. Just glance through the product guide below, and you'll understand which features are key.
At the top of this page, you'll find the fruits of our labor: our product recommendation matrix. This shortlist displays the three best pressure washers on the market right now. You can count on our product endorsements to be free of bias, as we never accept "complimentary" samples from manufacturers. All of our recommendations stem from the many hours of research our staff has performed.
How Pressure Washers Work
A pressure washer consists of a water pump, a hose, and a wand/nozzle combination. You also need your own garden hose and a water spigot.
To use a pressure washer, connect one end of the garden hose to a water spigot and the other end to the pressure washer. As water flows from the garden hose to the unit, the pump expels it at high pressure through the second hose and out through the nozzle.
The stream of water that shoots from the pressure washer to whatever you're cleaning — deck, exterior siding, windows, etc. — is extremely powerful. How powerful, you ask? Consider that a typical garden hose expels water at a pressure level of 40 to 60 pounds per square inch, or psi. Next, consider that a pressure washer expels water at a minimum of 1,000 psi. Depending on the settings and power of a particular machine, it could reach as much as 4,000 psi.
In other words, a pressure washer puts out an extremely fast and powerful stream of water.
How to Use Your Pressure Washer
Using the Wand/Nozzle
The wand/nozzle combination serves three purposes.
- It allows you to direct the water jet where you want it to go.
- It allows you to start and stop the water flow.
- It allows you to adjust the shape and pressure level of the water stream.
Used properly, the high-pressure jet can eradicate debris and remove stubborn stains, moss, and mildew. Used improperly, however, the water could peel paint or damage wood and other materials. Please see our Safety Tips section for more information on how to avoid accidents and injuries.
For an extra boost of cleaning power, some pressure washers contain a tank that can be filled with cleaning solution. The machine mixes the solution with water and expels the mixture for cleaning.
Electric Pressure Washers
Pressure washers have motors that get their power from one of two sources: electricity or gas.
- An electrically powered pressure washer plugs into a standard outlet. Because it doesn't use fuel, it requires little maintenance over time. Electric pressure washers tend to cost less than their gas-powered counterparts.
- The engine of a gas-powered pressure washer runs on gasoline. It requires tune-ups and other maintenance similar to that of a lawn mower engine. These units are heavy and noisy, but they generate more water pressure than electric pressure washers.
You can read more about the pros and cons of each type below.
Electric Pressure Washer Pros
- Electric pressure washers may be easier to handle. They usually weigh between 25 and 50 pounds — significantly less than a gas-powered unit.
- The overall costs are more budget-friendly, as an electric washer requires less maintenance over the years. The initial price tag is also significantly lower.
Electric Pressure Washer Cons
- Water pressure usually tops out at 2,000 to 2,500 psi. This isn't a weak flow, but it's not as strong as that of a gas-powered unit.
- To use the unit, you must be able to reach an electrical outlet as well as a spigot.
Gas-Powered Pressure Washers
Gas-Powered Pressure Washer Pros
- These units are powerful. They usually put out 3,000 to 4,000 psi of water pressure — far more than the typical electric pressure washer.
- These units are versatile. You can use a gas-powered pressure washer nearly anywhere within the vicinity of a garden hose and spigot.
Gas-Powered Pressure Washer Cons
- You need a bit of muscle to handle these devices, as they weigh anywhere from 55 to 85 pounds. You'll almost certainly want wheels with this type of unit.
- These units cost more money over time, as they require more maintenance than their electric counterparts. Also, they sell for $100 to $200 more than electric units.
Pressure Washer Parts: Wands and Nozzles
The wand that you hold to operate your pressure washer features a trigger that you can depress to start and stop the water flow. The wand attaches to a nozzle which determines the shape of the water jet. Most units come with interchangeable nozzles.
Nozzles of differing angles can help diversify your water spray. The number of degrees in a given nozzle depicts the angle of the water jet. For example, a 40-degree water jet is about one-ninth of the arc of a full circle.
Nozzles are color coded to ensure you don't grab the wrong one.
- A zero-degree nozzle, marked in red, releases a tight water jet similar to a pinpoint. Tight water jets with small angles offer the most pressure. This is the most dangerous type of nozzle, hence the red coloring. Residential jobs rarely call for the use of a zero-degree jet.
- A 15-degree nozzle, marked in yellow, is the smallest water jet angle you'd want to use for most residential jobs. You could use it to strip paint, but a painted wooden surface could sustain damage if the jet were to get too close. A 15-degree nozzle is suitable for cleaning cement.
- A 25-degree nozzle, marked in green, lends itself to many outdoor jobs, including cleaning patio furniture. If you have stubborn stains that a larger angle can't eradicate, try the 25-degree nozzle.
- A 40-degree nozzle, marked in white, is great for cleaning a car or the siding on a house. Used properly, a jet at this angle shouldn't have enough pressure to cause property damage.
- A low-pressure nozzle, marked in black, is a great choice when you want to clean an object with a detergent mixture.
Some pressure washers don't allow for replacing nozzles on the wand. Instead, this type of unit offers different degree settings within a single nozzle. To change the water jet angle, simply twist the end of the nozzle.
Important: You should exercise the same amount of caution with the high-powered settings on an all-in-one nozzle as you would with high-powered interchangeable nozzles.
Pressure Washer Costs
Pressure washers range in price from approximately $150 to $500. As previously mentioned, gas-powered machines usually cost more than electric-powered machines.
- Electric machines start at about $150 and top out at about $300.
- Gas-powered machines start at about $250 and max out at about $500.
Of course, you do have the option of renting a pressure washer instead of buying one. If you plan to use the machine less than once per year, you may wish to consider this; most hardware stores rent them on a daily basis. But a rental costs anywhere from $50 to $100 per day, and if you buy a unit, it easily pays for itself within three to five uses.
Best Pressure Washer Brands
We recommend that you buy a pressure washer from a well-known brand. That way, you'll have an easier time finding replacement parts down the road. Here are some of the brand names to know in the pressure-washer market.
- Briggs & Stratton
- Sun Joe
Pressure Washer Safety Tips
1. Avoid contact with the skin.
Exercise caution when using a pressure washer, as the water expels at 20 to 80 times the force of a standard garden hose. If you were to hit someone (or yourself) with the jet stream, injuries could result.
- Cuts: The most common injury caused by a pressure washer is a cut to the skin. And once the skin is broken, the pressure washer instantly forces water into the cut. This could cause a bacterial infection down the road.
- Bruising: Even if the water jet doesn't break the skin, it will almost certainly leave a bruise.
- Falls: If you were to strike someone with a water jet, you could knock them off balance. This would be especially dangerous if someone were standing on a ladder.
2. Wear protective gear.
It's a good idea to wear safety goggles when running a pressure washer. Others in the area should wear them too. A high-pressure water jet could cause significant damage to the eyes.
In addition to protective eyewear, manufacturers recommend that anyone in the vicinity wear full-length clothing: long pants, long-sleeved shirt, boots or shoes that cover the feet completely. In other words, don't use this machine with exposed skin.
3. Use common sense.
As long as you follow the unit's instructions, you should be able to stay safe with this device. Just be smart about how you use it. Make sure you have complete control of the pressure hose and wand at all times. And never aim the water jet at another person.