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Choosing the Right Pressure Washer

Choosing the Right Pressure Washer

Not all pressure washers can clean and scrub all surfaces. Level of equipment, sophistication and price are decisive before choosing the model adapted to your needs.


  1. What is a pressure washer?
  2. The ranges of the main brands
  3. Pressure and flow: determining factors
  4. Accessories
  5. Estimate working time
  6. Controlled water consumption
  7. A good guarantee


A high-pressure cleaner can clean almost everything outdoors: car, patio, garden furniture, bicycles, etc.
Prices vary greatly, especially depending on the accessories available and performance. A high pressure cleaner for occasional small jobs can be found for less than £100 while a robust device for long-term work will be charged more than £600.
Depending on the type of cleaning to be carried out, choose a model equipped with the appropriate accessory: a rotating brush for a terrace, a specific brush for the car …
Proper use of the pressure washer will ensure longevity and efficiency.


Connected to a water supply and a power outlet, the high pressure cleaner, thanks to its motor and an internal pump, increases the water pressure (from approximately 3 bars at the outlet of the tap up to 180 bars in pump outlet) for efficient cleaning. Accessories placed at the end of the lance (or the lance itself) make it possible to modify the shape of the jet (flat, conical, rotating, etc.) or to have a mechanical action (brushes, rotating brushes, etc.) in order to optimize separation dirt.

High pressure cleaners can be used for routine maintenance operations (for example, cleaning a terrace or a yard) but also for cleaning garden furniture, facades … However, depending on their level of equipment, their sophistication and, therefore, their price, not all models offered on the market are able to accomplish all of these tasks. It is therefore necessary to clearly identify your needs before making your choice.

In addition, the cleaners traditionally tested by Que Choisir are not really suitable for degreasing engines, garage floors or swimming pool walls. And even the detergents offered as accessories are not always sufficient. For these applications, it is necessary to invest in a high pressure hot water cleaner: a function that will significantly increase the bill.

It is therefore wise to take a fairly precise account of the work you will have to carry out in order to choose the cleaner that best meets your needs. Because an unsuitable pressure washer can take more time, be inefficient or wear out prematurely.


Manufacturers offer ranges of more or less powerful high pressure cleaners to meet different needs. The prices are proportional: the higher the pressure, the flow and the level of equipment, the more expensive the cleaner will be. It is better to select a model according to the use that will be made of it so as not to buy an oversized device or, conversely, which will be overloaded if the work is too long.

Note that brands like Bosch, Kärcher, Ryobi (manufacturer specializing in power tools) or even Sterwins (the brand marketed by the DIY brand Leroy Merlin) now offer battery-powered cleaners that allow occasional use in the no electricity supply and even no water supply. In this case, either a tank is integrated, or it is necessary to provide a container (bucket or jerrycan).


The effectiveness of a cleaner depends above all on the successful combination of pressure, flow rate (in liters / hour) and accessories. A challenge that not all devices meet. Hence the usefulness of consulting our comparative test of high pressure cleaners!


Mandatory indication for manufacturers, the pressure gives an idea of ​​what the cleaner is capable of doing. It’s partly thanks to her that the dirt will be loosened. The higher it is, the more effective the cleaning will be. But be careful, not all media can withstand high pressure. For example, a wooden deck will rather require the use of a dedicated brush (accessory offered by many manufacturers such as Bosch or Kärcher). Likewise, cleaning a wall in poor condition should be done with less pressure to avoid increasing damage by peeling off the paint or, worse, the coating.

There are two types of pressure:

the maximum pressure: this is the pressure at the pump outlet, on which the manufacturers communicate, logical because it is greater.

the working pressure: this is the pressure at the outlet of the lance, which will be really useful. To find it, you will have to look on the label affixed to the device or in the technical sheet.
visual high pressure jet cleaner buying guide

The flow
Indicated in liters / hour, the flow rate corresponds to the quantity of water sent by the lance. The higher the flow, the faster the job. Generally, the flow is correlated with the pressure: the more important it is, the stronger it is.


Upon purchase, the cleaners are more or less well supplied with accessories. And it will show on the price. Depending on the type of work to be performed, their frequency and the time that can be spent cleaning, it is wise to choose a cleaner equipped with the appropriate accessories:

  • rotating brush;
  • car brush;
  • detergent container;
  • etc.
  • visual high pressure cleaner buying guide accessories
  • Before buying a pressure washer, take a good look at the accessories present, buying them separately will be expensive.
  • Choose a cleaner with a simple accessory change system:
    • quick couplings for the hose;
    • quarter-turn system for the lance;
    • location for the detergent tank, etc.

The possibility of storing accessories on the cleaner:

  • location for spare nozzles;
  • detergent tank;
  • reel for the power supply cable and the high pressure hose, etc.
  • This will not only simplify use by having everything on hand, but also the storage of the device when the job is done.

Another important point at the time of purchase: the storage of accessories.
It is always possible to complete your initial installation with accessories available in stores, but these add-ons can be quite expensive. Depending on the use you plan to make of your cleaner, it may be preferable to buy a very complete one from the start. Thus, the rotating brush is essential for efficient cleaning. The sandblasting kit can also prove to be a powerful ally for deep stripping of metal grates, gates or painted walls. As for the self-feeding device, it will only be useful if there is a water reserve (pond, cistern) from which the water used by the cleaner can be drawn.

The length of the power supply cable

Pressure washers run on water and electricity, two things that don’t mix. Do not connect the device to the electrical outlet by using extension cords. In fact, the longer the power supply cable, the better!

The length of the hose

Four meters seem to be the minimum to be able to maneuver the cleaner with complete flexibility. Good news, the vast majority of devices on the shelves are above this threshold.

A long hose allows you to use your cleaner in “extreme” conditions.

Adjusting the shape of the jet

The ability to change the shape of the jet directly at the handle is more comfortable in use. This will also avoid having to buy several lances. This function is not standard on all cleaners. However, depending on the type of work to be done, the Que Choisir tests show that models without this function can sometimes be as efficient as those equipped with it. In any case, the closer the nozzle is to the surface to be cleaned, the stronger the impact of the water will be and the more easily the dirt will be removed. Be careful, however, not to damage the material to be washed due to too powerful an impact of water: plaster or paint detachment, tearing of particles, etc.

Cold or hot water

Most of the cleaners in our test are called “cold water” and only accept a maximum water temperature of 40 ° C. Nevertheless, some take 50 ° C (Mac Allister) or even up to 60 ° C like those of Nilfisk. This can be a good addition to cleaning tougher dirt.

Cooled engine

Who says engine, says heating. Pressure washers are no exception. Their engines are in the vast majority of cases air-cooled. However, some high-end models have liquid cooling (via tap water which cools the engine before passing through the lance). This solution will be especially useful for large jobs that require a long time of use. Indeed, some versions, often the less powerful, can shut off for safety reasons after a period of use. You must then wait for the device to cool down before resuming work.


Not every pressure washer can work at the same speed. It is mainly the flow rate that will determine the cleaning time.

So, unless you have the time, and the inclination, to spend several hours cleaning your patio, the more powerful will be more appropriate. Note that these indications are valid under normal conditions of clogging and congestion, that is to say for a terrace that is not embarrassed by many flowerpots that will have to be moved.


Beware of misconceptions: using a high pressure washer is actually more economical than using a simple garden hose. The flow rate at a garden hose is, on average, 2000 l / h. In comparison, the flow rate of a pressure washer (for the most common models) never exceeds 650 l / h. That is almost 3 times less.


2, 3 or 5 years: some manufacturers offer free warranty extensions which can be advantageous. However, be careful to detail the general conditions to know the causes of failures excluded from this warranty.


Buying a good pressure washer, adapted to your needs, is the basics. You still have to use it correctly, respecting a few simple rules, to make it last a long time and avoid disappointments.

Warning: you must never put an automatic water shut-off system on the device (this is tolerated at the tap). This could cause shock waves as close as possible to the motor and eventually damage the motor or pump.

Using the high-pressure cleaner

1. Fully unwind the high pressure hose and the power supply cable. This will allow a greater radius of action and prevent overheating of the electric cable.

2. Open the water tap.

3. Operate the handle (appliance still off) until water flows from the nozzle.

4. Switch on the device.

5. Pull the trigger to release the pressurized water and check that everything is working properly.

6. Put the desired accessory at the end of the lance and start working.

Stopping the high pressure cleaner

1. Shut off the water supply.

2. Remove the accessory from the lance and empty it by holding it vertically.

3. Press the handle to empty the water circuit, appliance and supply pipe. Keep pushing until the hose begins to fold back on itself, proof that it is completely empty.

4. Switch off the appliance and unplug it.

5. Tidy up the electric wire and the supply hose.

If the cleaner is dirty (splashes, leaves, etc.) it is advisable to wash it with a wide high pressure jet at a reasonable distance.

If you’re looking for a new pressure washer, check out our collection of power washers here

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