The pressure washer is the king of outdoor cleaning, and for good reason. Using a pressure washer you can quickly clean large areas without any great effort. The applications are endless. Façades, patios, cars, outdoor furniture, boats and pools, but also garden walls and barbecue grills are examples of objects that can easily be cleaned with a pressure washer. Instead of rinsing off dirt and grease, pressure washers essentially just strip the surface using very high pressure water. The pressure washer takes water – normally from your household supply – and increases the pressure using a built-in pump. While the water pressure in a house is normally around 4 bar, in an average pressure washer it's around 130-160 bar. However, it isn't merely the water pressure that's important, but also the water quantity, and this is normally around 300-500 litres an hour.
The price of pressure washers varies widely. The very cheapest models cost less than £100, while more expensive domestic models can be more than £1000. What primarily distinguishes the more expensive from the cheaper pressure washers is performance and functionality. More expensive models are characterised by higher water pressure, water flow and motor power, together with more functions and a variety of nozzles. This provides a higher cleaning capacity, which means you can clean more types of surface – and do so more quickly. The durability often varies too, and cheaper models generally have simpler components with a shorter lifetime and often a correspondingly short warranty period. Remember that regardless of the price tag on your pressure washer, the guarantee doesn't cover the machine if it is exposed to freezing temperatures. It's therefore important that you store the pressure washer where this can't happen.
To choose the right price class, it's important that you consider the tasks you plan to use it for and how often. You don't want to buy an unnecessarily powerful model, as this will probably be unnecessarily expensive. At the same time it can also be expensive to purchase a model that's too weak for the job, particularly in terms of your time, as weaker pressure washers are considerably slower. More powerful pressure washers tend to be used more regularly as you realise how much time you can save by washing everything with it. If you have the budget, it may therefore pay to buy a more powerful model in the long run.
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. We retain the models that perform well for longer-term testing, in many cases for several years, and continuously add updates to the reviews. In our assessment we have focused on the following characteristics:
Performance: What's the working pressure and water quantity? What level of water temperature can the pressure washer cope with? How quickly does it work?
Ease of use: How easy is the pressure washer to handle? How mobile is it? Is the hose long enough? Does the hose get tangled? How easily does the pressure washer topple over? How ergonomic is it? How noisy is it?
Design: What material is the pressure washer made from? What storage options does it have?
Construction quality/durability: How well designed is the pressure washer? How much stress and wear should the construction tolerate? Is the material sufficiently durable? Can the pressure washer tolerate falling over? What guarantee does it have?
We have scored each pressure washer according to its value for money; in other words how good it is in each area in relation to its price tag. An expensive product thus has higher expectations than a cheaper one, and vice versa. The pressure washers have been used over several months for traditional tasks such as cleaning patios, façades and cars. In addition to this, we have also tested specific areas with more extreme challenges. For example, we have tested performance at different distances by washing off paint residues and stickers from different materials, moss from garden walls and algae from shed roofs and trampolines. Mobility has also been assessed by washing roofs and vans. Finally, we have also checked the accuracy of the manufacturer's stated values for the hose length, cable length and noise level.
When you decide to buy a pressure washer, there’s a whole load of things you should think about before deciding which one to go for. You need to think about your needs, and also understand how a pressure washer works and what functions are essential. Then you can avoid buying a pressure washer that doesn’t do what you want. When you have the right information, it's easier to choose a couple of models and compare them.
Below is a list of the most important parameters to bear in mind when choosing a pressure washer.
Water pressure is measured in bar and is important because it’s a key factor in how well your pressure washer carries out its tasks. The higher the water pressure, the higher the speed (and therefore the higher the kinetic energy) the water will have when it encounters the surface to be cleaned, and the greater the power the surface will be subjected to. And of course the greater the power the surface is subjected to, the more powerful the cleaning effect. In other words, it’s important that the water pressure is sufficiently high for the pressure washer to be able to cope with the tasks you bought it for.
In general, budget models have a water pressure of less than 120 bar, while premium models have at least 140 bar, and often more. And in between there is a wide range of models in the medium segment.
One standard function is a nozzle or function to adjust the pressure. On the simpler models, the pressure is adjusted by rotating the nozzle and restricting the water flow. You can compare this with a hose pipe where you pinch the end to get a stronger jet, while at the same time less water comes out. It works the same way if you rotate the nozzle of a pressure washer to reduce the pressure – the hole becomes bigger, which results in lower pressure but a larger quantity of water.
On slightly more advanced models, the pressure is instead adjusted via buttons, and on some models you can read the pressure on a display on the handle. There are even models where you can adjust both pressure and flow remotely.
The water flow in a pressure washer is normally measured in litres per hour. This gives you a good idea of how much water is used up per session. Together with the water pressure, the water flow determines the intensity of the water hitting the surface. The greater the intensity, the more drops of water hit the surface and the quicker it is cleaned.
Budget models often have a flow of approx. 300-350 litres per hour, while premium models usually have a flow of 450-500 litres per hour.
Providing that the water pressure is sufficiently high, the water flow multiplied by the water pressure determines, at least theoretically, the cleaning effect of the pressure washer. And the better the cleaning effect, the larger the area you can clean in a given period of time. The cleaning effect should therefore be the primary parameter when you buy a pressure washer. Unfortunately, you can’t really determine the cleaning effect simply by multiplying the stated values for water flow and water pressure – it has to be evaluated by actually using the pressure washer. But higher pressure and flow often go hand-in-hand with a better cleaning effect. Similarly, the cleaning effect can’t be determined by the motor power of the machine, even though a higher power usually also means a better cleaning effect.
For an average homeowner, a pressure of around 130 bar and a flow of around 450 litres an hour is often sufficient for the broad range of tasks around a domestic home. It should also be possible to reduce the pressure for tasks requiring less brute force, such as washing your decking.
Domestic pressure washers generally have electric motors that you connect to a normal earthed wall outlet. The motor drives the internal pump that increases the water pressure. In general, a higher motor power means higher water pressure and a bigger water flow. Often it’s important to turn on the water to the pressure washer before starting the motor. Otherwise the pump can create a vacuum, which can damage the machine.
The hose is an important component, both in terms of length and material. The hose should be sufficiently long, but also sufficiently flexible. A short, stiff hose makes the work more of an effort and takes more time. Common hose problems include it continuing to coil up during use after being stored for a while and the pressure washer tipping over every time you try to extend the hose.
Ergonomics play a major role in pressure washer handles. They must be comfortable to hold for long periods. You must also be able to stand upright and still be able to clean things like patio tiles from close up. The modern standard is a telescopic handle, which means that you can maintain a distance of about 20 cm from the surface you’re standing on without having to stoop over. However, in some situations a shorter handle is better – such as when you’re standing on a ladder cleaning something very close to you. Another important factor is how easy it is to attach and remove accessories from handle. The current standard is a straightforward click in/click out function.
The design is above all important from a user perspective. How stable is the pressure washer? How easy is it to store out of the way when it’s not in use? Is it possible to hang accessories and nozzles on the pressure washer itself when they aren’t in use?
Pressure washers make a fair amount of noise, and more powerful models are usually louder. The higher the noise level, the worse it is for your hearing and comfort levels. However, noise levels don’t usually vary greatly for pressure washers intended for domestic use. Pressure washers are generally so noisy that some type of hearing protection should be worn. If you follow this recommendation, it is less important how noisy the pressure washer is.
The motor power and water pressure and flow settings determine the energy consumption. A pressure washer which is ineffective doesn’t simply mean that you spend more time on cleaning tasks, but also that you consume more energy. Even though a more powerful model consumes more energy per second, it can still be more energy-efficient if it works sufficiently quickly.
Guarantees on pressure washers are often divided between the machine itself and the sprayer equipment. Note that damage due to freezing is not normally covered by the manufacturer’s guarantee. You should therefore make sure you store the pressure washer where it will never be exposed to temperatures below zero.
Some manufacturers and models support the use of an alternative water source. This can be practical if you have access to free water from a well or from collected rainwater, and is particularly important if you live in an area where you have to be sparing with water.
The number of accessories included with the machine varies widely, and more expensive pressure washers tend to include more accessories.
The big manufacturers normally include a nozzle with a rinsing effect for more delicate tasks and a rotating nozzle with a “cutting” effect for tasks where more power is required. For example, you don’t want to have water penetrate into the façade of your house or risk causing splinters on your decking by using too high a water pressure.
Some manufacturers include a foam nozzle intended for fitting at the very end of the spray attachment. This means that cleaning products are at the very end of the flow and don’t go through the machine. You then avoid the inconvenience of cleaning products remaining in the machine after it has been used.
The major manufacturers also have a wide range of other accessories to purchase separately. These include packets for cleaning vehicles and different types of brushes and handles.
The Stihl RE 129 Plus is a powerful pressure washer that quickly gets the job done, and we designate it our best in test. It cleans most things with panache. There's practically no noticeable difference compared to other pressure washers with slightly higher pressure levels. It cleans alloy wheels and decking as effectively as cars and façades. The handle is comfortable and gives very few vibrations. The RE 129 Plus is equipped with an ergonomic, high quality hose. We measured it as being a little shorter than the specification, but it's still long enough to get around the car or wash a largeish façade. The hose has a slightly fabric feel and follows your movements extremely well. Above all, it doesn't get tangled.
The separate cable hanger with built-in hose reel is a welcome addition, with smart control during retraction. The fact that the hose reel is on the top also makes it simple to roll the hose in and out. The Stihl RE 129 Plus is something of a monster, and it's heavy to move around. At the same time it's also robust, stable and hard to tip over. The weight is actually only a disadvantage when lifting or constantly moving it. The design is generally appealing. The large wheels mean that it rolls smoothly over different types of surface, and nozzles can quickly be connected and changed.
Nilfisk C-PG 130.2-8 PCDI X-TRA is a handy, compact pressure washer. It's not the most powerful model on the market, but given its neat size and weight it outperforms our expectations. It's undoubtedly capable of basic tasks such as keeping the car clean, washing the façade of your house or cleaning the patio. You can also easily set the pressure using buttons on the handle. The ample hose length means that you can easily clean the whole car without having to move the machine. The hose is semi-rigid, but still follows the user's movements well even in colder weather. This is important because the machine doesn't weigh very much, which means that it easily tips over if you jerk the hose when it's fully extended. Fortunately, the hose length and flexibility means that this doesn't happen very often.
The C-PG 130.2 includes a number of accessories. In addition to the spray and rotary nozzle, you also get a patio accessory and a dosing nozzle. The latter can be used for things like car shampoo, degreaser and soft soap. The pressure washer also includes a drain hose for flushing out blockages and a hose for collecting water from a water butt. Changing the nozzles and connecting other accessories is very quick and easy. It's also possible to store the majority of accessories on the machine, and it has a hose reel on the top. Its comfortable handle, minimal vibrations and moderate noise level makes the C-PG 130.2 pleasant to use. It may initially feel a little plasticky, but you soon forget this given all the included accessories and ease-of-use. The neat size of the C-PG 130.2 also makes it easy to pack up and store out of the way when not in use.
The Kärcher K5 Full Control is a powerful machine that easily removes dirt from both wood and metal. It's just as easy to clean your patio as it is your dirty alloy wheels. Everything from stickers to old paint residues quickly disappears. The K5 is an upmarket version of its smaller sibling, the K4. It has slightly higher water pressure, which produces a better effect. The hose is a couple of metres longer, which definitely improves user-friendliness and means you have to move the machine much less often, for example when washing the car. At the same time the hose is quite stiff, especially in cold conditions, which makes it fiddly to handle. Situations often occur where it's easier to move the pressure washer than it is to roll out more hose.
Given the price class, the number of included accessories feels rather stingy. There are only two nozzles in the standard packet and no special accessories for car washing, attaching cleaning products or patio cleaning. However, the machine is well equipped to deal with such accessories. There are places to store nozzles which are not currently in use, and changing between them is a quick process. The included rotary nozzle is very effective, but creates vibrations which can be unpleasant if you use it for a long time. This problem doesn't occur with the fan jet nozzle. Otherwise the machine is both attractive and well designed. The telescopic handle makes the Kärcher K5 easy to move while also being easy to store. On the nozzle there's an LED display that shows the pressure, although this is somewhat unnecessary as you can feel what the pressure is as you use it. Given Kärcher's strong brand and the price tag, we expected more of the K5 Premium Full Control pressure washer.
However, the Kärcher K4's wheels are very good. There are quite substantial and make it easy to move because it can be rolled without problems across even difficult surfaces. The spray pressure is regulated by rotating the spray pipe. An LED display on the handle shows the current pressure, which is undoubtedly impressive but not very much practical use. The included accessories consist of just two nozzles. We would have liked to have also seen a dosing nozzle or a patio cleaning nozzle included. The machine is stable and easy to store as a result of the hose reel and telescopic handle. If you aren't going to use your pressure washer for washing the car, but for smaller jobs such as cleaning the barbecue and outdoor furniture, the Kärcher K4 Full Control is perfectly adequate.
The Husqvarna PW 360 is our best in test because it is a substantial yet light pressure washer that gives you the best of two worlds. It looks relatively neat and is easy to move around. But it's a very powerful machine and the long, steel reinforced high-pressure hose is very flexible. It's long enough to go all around the car, and the hose is easy to reel back in when it's time to move the pressure washer. The PW 360 has a relatively low water capacity given its high pressure, but this doesn't actually cause problems in practice. However, it's a bit of a shame that it can't cope with a higher water temperature given the price. A higher water temperature would have made it easier to remove tough dirt such as oil.
The accessories included are standard in terms of the competition, and the design is so similar to many other brands that several of them are interchangeable. In fact, the construction of the PW 360 is essentially identical to that in several competitors. However, the machine is specified slightly differently, and the combination which has been chosen gives a very good result. We can wash lighter coverings of moss from patios etc. without problems. It's also user-friendly in that it's easy to assemble and also to fold up after use. Thumbs up for the fact that it's possible to suspend the power cable. Given the power, the construction and the slightly lower price than similar models from other brands, this is a very good buy for anyone seeking a pressure washer that can cope with a wide range of tasks.
The Husqvarna PW 235 is our best budget choice as a very good value for money pressure washer that copes with several tough tasks despite its compact size. For example, you can remove moss with the rotary nozzle. With the fan jet nozzle you can quickly wash the car. The high-pressure hose isn't steel reinforced, but of a soft and relatively flexible type. For example, you can stretch it out straight without the machine body overbalancing. The hose remains very flexible as long as it isn't too cold out. The hose is also quite long. This means that you can easily move around even larger objects and can wash them from all sides. The hose rolls neatly onto the reel again when you have finished. The pressure washer is easy to lift and transport as a result of its moderate weight and compact format when the handle is folded down and the spray gun dismantled.
The Husqvarna PW 235 is easy to assemble but comes with the hose separate - in other words you need to roll it onto the reel yourself. There are no good instructions for this in the manual which makes the installation unnecessarily time-consuming. Otherwise, however, the manual is of high quality. If you buy the pressure washer via a specialist shop, they should install the hose for you. The noise level that the machine emits is no higher than equivalent competitors, but the noise profile is rather unpleasant. The handle is also rather resistant, which makes it uncomfortable to use for longer periods. But these are just small details. Overall, the PW 235 performs at a very high level. And it's also very light, so you don't need to worry about the weight when you carry it. In brief, you get a great deal of pressure washer for your money. The PW 235 is the ideal choice if you want a light pressure washer that goes a long way for a good price.
The Nilfisk 150.2-10 X-TRA is a powerful pressure washer with a high maximum water temperature, which means that you can easily remove even ground in dirt. The steel reinforced high-pressure hose is very flexible, and the 10 m length is plenty to allow you to move freely. The design of the machine is similar to that of several competitors. It's a tried and tested design that works well. For example, it's easy to replace the nozzle, fold the machine up and hang up both hose and power cable. The entire assembly consists of click fit functions, so you don't need to dig out a screwdriver. The hose is already rolled onto the hose reel, which is also a nice feature.
The Nilfisk 150.2-10 X-TRA is easy to move even though it does weigh quite a bit. The hose reel runs smoothly when winding in the hose. This pressure washer falls into the slightly more expensive price segment, which means that we have extra high expectations in terms of performance. However, we feel that the difference between this and its somewhat cheaper competitors isn't sufficient to justify the higher price. For example, we'd have liked it to include more accessories, a particular special function or a more robust build quality. Even something as simple as a rubber clad handle would have made it feel more premium. But it's still a good buy. The 150.2-10 X-TRA is ideal if you want high water temperature and a well considered combination of water quantity and pressure. This means you can more easily clean tougher surfaces such as paved patios or spillages on drives.
The Nilfisk E145.3-10H X-TRA is a substantial pressure washer with a good hose. The thickness and textile-like material of the hose – together with the pressure washer's carefully considered design – make the entire construction feel substantial. You can store nozzles which aren't in use and they're easy to change. The hose is on a hose reel on the top of the pressure washer and easily goes all the way around a car. The positioning is advantageous as it means the hose unrolls smoothly when you pull on it. At the same time, the high weight of the machine means that the E145.3-10H X-TRA remains solidly on the ground during use. Despite this weight, the pressure washer is easy to manoeuvre. As long as you aren't after a pressure washer that you can carry up onto the roof, the weight isn't a problem.
Nilfisk have been clever in their placement of the dosing container. This is located on the nozzle, which means that you can constantly keep track of how much detergent you have left. And it's also easy to regulate the quantity. The fact that the container is an accessory included with the pressure washer is another clear plus. The E145.3-10H X-TRA has only one flaw, and this becomes apparent when you're using it at full power. It produces extremely powerful vibrations and a very loud noise. Even if you aren't normally sensitive to this, after just a few minutes the pistol can hurt your hand from the vibrations caused by the high pressure. At the same time, the washing result isn't any better than comparable models in the same price class, which makes these disadvantages even more evident. Apart from this, however, the Nilfisk E145.3-10H X-TRA is a high performance and affordable pressure washer.
The Kärcher K5 Premium Full Control Plus is a medium strong pressure washer with an interesting pressure control solution. The pressure washer has an intelligent spray gun solution where you rotate the nozzle to get different types of strength and water movement. This makes bigger jobs easier as you'd otherwise have had to change nozzle often. Now you simply have to rotate it to get a completely different effect. For example, if you're washing the car you can quickly change between mix mode where you mix in detergent, to lance mode where you rinse off the car with lighter jets. However, we found that lance mode was weak and ineffective and more in line with the pressure from a normal hose. But dirt blaster mode gives full pressure, which is ideal for washing patio furniture, the patio itself or removing lighter coverings of moss. Given the price, however, we would have liked a little more power and even a higher maximum water temperature.
The Kärcher K5 Premium Full Control Plus comes without accessories. This is partly because the different nozzles are integrated into the spray gun from the start. But another difference from its competitors is that it doesn't include a foam sprayer. Instead you have to buy a container of detergent that you connect directly to the machine body. The liquid then runs through the machine. This is useful in that you can control the quantity of detergent that comes out at the other end. But it's a pain that you have to then clean out the machine before you can use it for jobs where you don't want to use detergent. You're also locked into Kärcher's range of detergents, as the bottle is a specific shape. Another disadvantage is the hose. This works fine as long as it's warm out. Even though it gets a bit tangled, it extends without overturning the machine. But when the outdoor temperature is cooler, it becomes quite difficult to handle. In this respect, it's reminiscent of cheaper pressure washers. The hose could also have been longer. However we liked the handle on the top of the machine body. This is easy to pull up and push down, and has an intelligent lock so that you can carry the pressure washer, although the machine is rather heavy. The Kärcher K5 Premium Full Control Plus is best for somebody who needs a pressure washer during the warmer months, for example to keep the decking and car clean.
The Stihl RE 98 is a compact pressure washer with an inviting price tag. It's easy to assemble and has a useful bracket on the side for the power cable. However, the hose is one of the worst we tested. It's neither flexible nor particularly long. At the same time the machine is relatively light. The result is that when you try to extend the hose, the machine topples over. It's hard to straighten out the hose even when someone holds the machine still. Perhaps it's because of the hose that Stihl have used a standard hook arrangement on the back of the machine, instead of rolling up the hose on a hose reel. This works OK as long as you don't need to move the pressure washer. If you need to carry it, however, the hose can easily slide off and get tangled. This means that despite its neat size, the pressure washer is fiddly to handle. And when it comes time to put it away, you unfortunately can't fold the handle down.
The Stihl RE 98 provides a good amount of pressure. If you attach the rotary nozzle, you can even remove lighter moss growth. But this isn't a machine for those who want to be able to wash away oily patches or anything else that requires hot water. Or for tougher tasks such as removing stubborn roof coatings. The noise level is normal for this type of machine. Given the size of the machine it's quite heavy, but still relatively easy to carry. It also rolls easily even on an uneven lawn. The included foam nozzle is attached to the front of the spray gun. This means that the detergent never runs through the machine and you constantly have a good overview of the quantity remaining. The 6 m hose is rather short, particularly given that it's difficult to extend. Overall, this pressure washer is suitable for people washing smaller areas with a less powerful jet. For example, it's ideal for washing patio furniture or paved areas.