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Which Pressure Washer Is Right For You?

A pressure washer comes in handy for a lot of tasks around the yard. It beats a simple garden hose for so many cleaning tasks that you need to undertake! Whether you want to clean the walls or the patio, this tool will work wonders. It can even help you get the junk out of the gutters and downspouts! But there is a huge range of options with a corresponding range of prices. How do you choose?

Here we’ll take a look at the key aspects to consider in a pressure washer. Then we’ll evaluate some of the best options available for a range of home uses.

What To Look For In A Pressure Washer

As with many tools, there are a lot of features and abbreviations associated with a power washer. It can be hard to know what they all mean and which ones matter most. Let’s have a look at the keys you should consider.

PSI And GPM

The most important factors for every pressure washer are how powerfully it sprays water and how much water it sprays. That’s the whole point of the device, right? More powerful washers are going to cost more, but does that mean they’re better? Not necessarily – it depends on what your needs are.

There are two important numbers to look at here. One is the PSI and the other is GPM

PSI stands for pounds per square inch. This is the force at which water comes out of the hose. Higher force means that you’ll be able to break apart dirt and stains more easily.

Image by I, Mschel License under [CC BY-SA 3.0]

GPM refers to gallons per minute. This is the amount of water that comes out of the hose every minute. More water coming out will help you cover a larger area more quickly.

A combination of these two is what matters. Let’s use an example. If you drink a glass of water to rinse out your mouth, it will cover your whole mouth and wash over all your teeth. It’ll rinse off the most basic layer of “junk”. This is similar to GPM – lots of water but low pressure. On the other hand, if you go to the dentist, you’ll have a focused spray of water directed at each tooth. The dentist uses less water but it’s under higher pressure. It takes longer, though, because it’s so focused. This is more like psi. Of course, in this example, you don’t want a lot of water under high pressure, because that would just hurt!

High PSI cuts better through dirt while high GPM covers more area. Of course, you don’t need to spend on what you don’t need, so it’s important to know how you’ll use it. 

We’ll look at three basic ranges of PSI and GPM. 

Under 1900 PSI with about 2 GPM is great for most regular household use. If you plan to use it for cleaning your car or lawn furniture, this is fantastic. And if your deck or patio is on the small side, these will do the trick.

From 1900 to about 2800 PSI and 2 – 3 GPM will get you a stronger pressure washer. This is generally the ideal range for home use. It will save you time cleaning your patio, sidewalks, and walkways. It’s also fantastic for cleaning the walls of your house 

Above 2800 PSI and 3 – 4 GPM, you’re getting into professional units. For most homeowners, this will be overkill. They can clean off the second floor of your home. They’re also great for washing off graffiti or stripping paint. In general, these are gas-powered models.

Find great garden hoses to connect your power washer to the water source.

Power Source

Speaking of gas-powered models, the power source of your pressure washer is also a consideration.

In most cases, though, you’ll want an electric model for your home. They provide enough power for regular use. You may have to use a long outdoor extension cord to reach some areas where you’ll use it, but that’s all. It’s unlikely that you’ll have to stray far from an outlet. Plus, you’re limited by the length of your hose, too!

There are gas models, though. These are usually the high-PSI, high-GPM models. They’ll let you roam freely and produce higher pressure. These are intended for commercial use.

Hot Or Cold Water

Most pressure washers use cold water. However, some allow you to use hot water.

Hot water does help you clean more quickly. It also saves on detergent. But this type is for industrial use, not for home. But trying to run hot water through your average model will cause damage.

Most pressure washers work only with cold water. It doesn’t have to be near freezing; air temperature is fine. This is the type of unit that you’ll want. You won’t notice much difference in terms of efficiency when working on the scale you’ll face for your own house.

Detergent Tank

Most pressure washers also have a detergent tank. This means that your cleaning agent will be missed right into the water. It’s a handy feature!

You do have to be sure to use the right detergent for the job at home. There are different products for concrete, cars, siding, and other uses. Be sure to pick the right one!

There is usually a valve so you can choose to spray with or without soap. That means you can just switch the valve closed when you want to rinse off the soapy water.

There are also condensed and ready-to-use detergents. Condensed detergents should be mixed with water before being added to your washer. Yes, of course they’re still going to have more water added. But they need to be pre-diluted as well. Ready-to-use is good to go right out of the container. But if you’re paying shipping, your dollar will go a lot farther with condensed detergent!

Our Picks For The Best Pressure Washers

As you know, there is a wide range of pressure watchers to choose from. We’ll look at each category separately. Since medium duty is the right choice for most people, we’ll start looking at the top products there before moving to light- and heavy-duty.

The Best Medium Duty Pressure Washers

Sun Joe Pressure Joe 2,030 PSI 1.76 GPM 14.5 Amp Electric Pressure Washer

electric pressure washer - sun joe

The Pressure Joe is a great pressure washer at a decent price. It offers three nozzle tips that allow spraying at different angles, depending on the job. It also features a large, 54.1-ounce detergent tanks so you can easily move from one type of job to another. 

You’ll be able to wheel this model around, which is great since it weighs 28 pounds. That might not be hard to move, but after a while, it could become hard to hold. The 8-inch wheels and the 12-foot hose help keep you from having to relocate it often, though. It also has a hose reel.

This model is suitable for use with cold water only.

Sun Joe warrants this product for two years from the time of purchase.

  • PSI: 2030
  • GPM: 1.76
  • Nozzles: 5, from 0 – 40 degrees plus soap nozzle
  • Hose length: 240 inches (20 feet)
  • Cord Length: 20 feet
  • 2-year warranty

RYOBI RY1419004 Pressure Washer

2000 psi 1.2 gpm ryobi pressure washer review

Ryobi makes some great products, and this is the first of several in our list of top power washers.

This model put forths 2000 PSI and 1.2 gallons per minute to make it a good machine for most jobs around the house. It’ll get the job done and its three nozzles give some flexibility for when you want to work faster or when you need to switch to a more concentrated spray.

This model has 7-inch wheels and a more industrial-looking design, but it’s perfect for normal use. It weighs 32 pounds. There is one detergent holder.

The three nozzles include one for use with detergent, one for a wide spray, and one for a more focused spray. The pressure isn’t adjustable so for washing more delicate items – like your car – you should stand back a good distance and use the wide-angle nozzle.

Ryobi covers this model with a 3-year warranty.

  • PSI: 2000
  • GPM: 1.2
  • Nozzles: 3, including Turbo Nozzle
  • Hose length: 300 inches (25 feet)
  • Cord Length: 25 feet

RYOBI RY142300

ryobi 2300 psi pressure washer

This is a more powerful model of pressure washer from Ryobi which will give you 2300 PSI of output. It also has larger (12-inch) wheels that will make it easier to move over uneven surfaces.

With more power comes more weight, of course. This unit weighs in at a hefty 49 pounds. Those wheels will come in handy!

In the mid-duty models we’ve looked at, this has the highest psi. That can make it suitable for tougher work, although you do have to be more careful with it on furniture, cars, or other elements that it might damage.

It has a durable metal wand which is the same type they use on more powerful gas pressure washers. 

Some people complain about the noise level. It’s less than a gas-powered washer but can still reach annoying levels for some.

  • PSI: 2300
  • GPM: 1.2
  • Nozzles: 3, including Turbo Nozzle
  • Hose length: 300 inches (25 feet)
  • Cord Length: 35 feet

The Best Light Duty Pressure Washers

Sun Joe 1600 PSI Cold Water Electric Pressure Washer

sun joe electric pressure washer is great for general household use

The model SPX205E-XT from Sun Joe is a great choice if you want to buy a quality pressure washer for everyday use. It’s perfect if you have to do general cleaning of your patio, siding, car, or boat. And the price is perfect, too.

It’s easy to carry. The handle is convenient and comfortable to hold, and it’s light enough not to feel to burdersome.

The adjustable nozzle helps you get just the amount of water spray that you need. The “total stop” feature, where the motor will shut off automatically when it’s not in use, is another big advantage.

It’s not designed for high-pressure jobs like stripping paint, but it will get out most stains and rid most surfaces of dirt and grime. At the same time, it won’t damage more “delicate” surfaces like your car!

  • PSI: 1600 (1800 PSI version available at the same link -just click the button!)
  • GPM: 1.5 
  • Nozzles: 3
  • Hose length: 240 inches (20 feet)
  • Cord Length: 35 feet

RYOBI RY141612-SC19

ryobi entry-level power washer

This category features a Ryobi model, too. They offer such a range of models! 

At 1600 psi, this is good for lighter work will still providing Ryobi quality. It has the normal pack of three nozzles, including focused turbo nozzle, a 15-degree nozzle, and a soap nozzle. It also includes a 12-inch diameter surface washer for even, controller cleaning of siding, driveways, and sidewalks. This surface washer can work with most power washers up to 2300 psi.

It weighs close to 19 pounds with the surface cleaner attached. That’s a bit hefty but not unexpected. It also offers a long hose and long cord to give you even better mobility. Ryobi recommends a 14-gauge extension cord of 50 feet or less, but that still gives you a lot of range!

This model doesn’t have a soap holder. Instead, it contains a soap injector hose. Just place that hose into a bottle or bucket of pre-diluted soap.

It’s a quality machine when you just need to do occasional light jobs 

  • PSI: 1600
  • GPM: 1.2
  • Nozzles: 3, including Turbo nozzle. Surface cleaner is also included.
  • Hose length: 240 inches (20 feet)
  • Cord Length: 35 feet

PAXCESS Electric Pressure Washer

paxcess pressure washer

This pressure washer from PAXCESS offers relatively high PSI and GPM, making it excellent for many common tasks around your yard. It also has a long pressure hose and power cord, giving it great range.

This model does include a detergent tank, as well.

We’re kind of undecided about the nozzle system on this one. There’s just one nozzle, but it can be twisted to provide different levels of pressure. 

This does include a convenient hose reel to keep that 26-foot hose out of the way when not in use.

As with many pressure washers, there seem to be occasional issues with internal leaking and leaking where the hose attaches.

  • PSI: 2150
  • GPM: 1.85
  • Nozzles: 1
  • Hose length: 26 feet
  • Cord Length: 33 feet

The Best Heavy Duty Pressure Washers

SIMPSON MSH3125

high-duty pressure washer from simpson

When you need more power, you may have to turn to a gas-powered pressure washer. This one from Simpson will get the job done for those bigger or tougher jobs. If you have a very large home, patio, or sidewalk, this could serve you well.

The PSI is adjustable from 2600 – 3199. Even at the low end, that’s powerful! It runs on a Honda GC190 motor which accounts for all that power.

There’s no detergent tank on this unit. However, it does have a “downstream” injection system. That basically means there’s a hose that can draw from a bucket of detergent or another cleaning agent. It injects the chemical after the motor, so it is safe to use bleach as well.

Even though this is gas-powered, it still only works with cold water. This unit has a recoil starter – that is, it’s a pull-start system.

Remember that high-powered systems aren’t for everyone or every task. We don’t recommend using this on your car, for instance, if you value your paint job!

  • PSI: 3200
  • GPM: 2.5
  • Nozzles: 5
  • Hose length: 300 inches (25 feet)
  • Cord Length: none (Gas powered)

Ryobi 3400 psi Gas-powered Pressure Washer

ryobi 3400 gas-power power washer review

We’ve got another Ryobi here, this time for a high-duty model. This gas pressure washer outputs 3400 PSI. The GPM is a bit lower than the model above, so it may take slightly longer to finish the task. But it will still get the job done well.

Again, this is a heavy-duty unit for big jobs. It’s not for cleaning furniture or vehicles, for sure. It also weighs 70 pounds. It has 10-inch wheels to make it somewhat easy to move around, but it’s still a big machine.

The engine is from Honda, so you can rest assured it will be dependable.

To help with a variety of tasks, it has a 5-in-1 change-over nozzle. They are color-coded and spray at angles of 0, 15, 25, and 40 degrees, plus the low-pressure soap nozzle and the turbo nozzle. The soap is added through an injection system; there is no tank for it.

A great feature is that it has an electric start feature. If that fails, it can be pull-started.

  • PSI: 3400
  • GPM: 2.3
  • Nozzles: 5
  • Hose length: 600 inches (50 feet)
  • Cord Length: none (gas)
  • 3-year limited warranty

Conclusion 

A pressure washer is a great piece of equipment to help get cleaning done on your outside areas. However, there is a wide range of pressure ratings available, and those affect what the washer can be used for. The first step in choosing a unit is knowing how you want to use it. From there, you can pick a model that suits you best!