Looking for the Best Pressure Washer? Our 2020 reviews and buying guide are a great place to start!

updated: June 22, 2020

If you’re here, you’re probably searching for the best pressure washer for your home cleaning needs. Pressure washers, also known as power washers or pressure cleaners, are not for casual cleaning. These high-powered machines are perfect for removing stubborn grime from outdoor surfaces like cars, driveways, decks, patio furniture, siding, and much more.

Woman and a child wash a car.

You have two main types of pressure washers to choose from: electric and gas. Depending on your individual needs, each has its advantages and disadvantages. In general, an electric pressure washer is all most homeowners will need. If you have a lot of surface area to clean beyond the reach of an electrical outlet, gas is the way to go.

In our handy buying guide, we’ll cover how pressure washers work while comparing some of the top-performing products on the market. We researched several sources to gather current information.

Alex Woodward - Power Washers Expert
Our reviews give a great rundown of the pros and cons of each product listed. Individual ratings are based on price, performance, dependability, ease of use, and other factors that real customers reported after using the products.
Expert Team

How to determine power ratings (PSI, GPM and CU)

When looking for pressure washers, you’ll see a few acronyms flying around like PSI, GPM and CU. By looking at product specs, you may think that PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) is the most important factor, but in reality, you’ll want to know the CU score (Cleaning Units). You won’t find this on all product specs. But it’s a better measurement of how efficient the washer can be in terms of water usage and speed.

PSI is the pushing force. It’s what removes the grime from the cleaning surface. The GPM is the flow rate of water. More flow means more water used per job. To determine the CU, multiply the PSI by the GPM (Gallons Per Minute).

For example, a pressure washer with 1500 PSI and 1.6 GPM would have a 2400 CU score. Compare that with a garden hose at 60 PSI and 8 GPM that would have a 480 CU score. The pressure washer would use 5 times less water for 5 times the cleaning power.

Electric vs. Gas Pressure Washers

For most homeowners, an electric pressure washer will work just fine. They’re great for lighter-duty jobs around the home like cleaning vinyl siding. You will need a access to a power outlet and a hose and that’s about it. Gas washers require more maintenance.

Greenworks 1500 PSI 13 Amp 1.2 GPM
Cheap Electric Pressure Washer

    Other PROS of Electric pressure washers vs. Gas:

  • Quieter
  • Cheaper (average $150$250)
  • Easy storage
  • Can use indoors
  • Lighter
Electric Icon

    CONS of Electric pressure washers:

  • Cord limits reach
  • Less power
Electric Icon

Gas pressure washers are better for heavier-duty jobs like cleaning concrete and farm equipment. They will cost more in terms of fuel and maintenance and need to be properly winterized before storage.

SIMPSON Cleaning CM60912
Gas Pressure Washer

    PROS of Gas pressure washers:

  • More power
  • Can be used anywhere outdoors, no power outlet needed
Gas Icon

    CONS of Gas pressure washers:

  • More expensive (average $300 – $500)
  • Heavier
  • Louder
  • Cannot be used indoors
Gas Icon

What’s the deal with nozzles and degrees?

All pressure washers will come with either an adjustable all-in-one nozzle or a few replaceable nozzles, usually color coded. It doesn’t matter what CU score your washer has – if you’re using the right nozzle, it’ll get the job done. Choosing the wrong one can either do a crappy job of cleaning or cause serious damage such as peeling paint off your car, splintering a wood deck, or punching through brick mortar.

Each nozzle has a different degree, which controls the size and shape of the water jet, much like a garden hose sprayer. There are five common nozzles:

Power Washers Nozzles
  1. 0-degree (usually red) – shoots a narrow, pinpoint jet with a high amount of pressure. You will rarely if ever need this nozzle. In fact, Consumer Reports recommends you toss it. It can pose a huge risk of injury or property damage.
  2. 15 – degree (usually yellow) – shoots a 15-degree wide sheet of water that spreads the force over a larger area, but still with a lot of pressure.
  3. 25 – degree (usually green) – shoots a 25-degree wide sheet of water. This is the most commonly used tip.
  4. 40-degree (usually white) – a much gentler spray that can be used for more delicate jobs such as window cleaning (if not held too close to the glass).
  5. Soap nozzle – low pressure – you must use this one when applying soap in most pressure washers.

What can you clean with a pressure washer?

Before we dive into the nitty gritty details, we have to mention safety. The high pressure coming from a pressure washer can easily damage delicate, fragile surfaces and your skin! Never, ever point the spray at yourself or anyone else.

So what can you clean with a pressure washer? Lots of things. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’ll give you a good idea of just what a good pressure washer can do for you. We’ll list them in order of pressure needed from light duty to heavy duty.

Washing the bicycle.
  • Garbage cans
  • Motorcycles
  • Patio furniture
  • Bicycles
  • Garden Tools
  • Cars, trucks, and vans
  • Lawnmowers
  • Boats
  • Washing the wall.
  • Gutters
  • Vinyl siding
  • Fences
  • Swimming pools / hot tubs
  • Brick walls
  • Decks & patios
  • Concrete driveways

Some interior surfaces like ceramic tiles can be cleaned with a pressure washer as well, but ONLY with an electric pressure washer. Never use a gas-powered washer indoors due to the danger of carbon monoxide in the exhaust.

Power Washer Engines

To power the pump, a gas pressure washer uses an engine, like a lawnmower and other outdoor equipment. The bigger the compression chamber, measured in cc (cubic centimeters), the more powerful they are. For instance, a Honda GCV190 engine has a 190cc compression chamber.

Top-Performing Pressure Washers

Electric pressure washers use motors to power the pump. They generally have 3 types:

  • Universal – cheapest, light & portable. Good for small jobs. Can be pretty loud.
  • Induction (or brushless)- average cost, good performance. Very quiet and durable.
  • Water-cooled – expensive, but reliable. Cooled water increases motor life.

Soaps & detergents

While you can use a pressure washer without any surface cleaner for light jobs, a soap or detergent can speed up the process. Soaps are usually based on natural products such as plant and animal oils and fats. That’s what makes them safe for our baths. Detergents are usually man-made chemicals.

Different pressure washers will have different ways to dispense soap. Some have built-in dispensers. Others have separate ones that attach to the hose. Remember that a downstream detergent injector is easier on the pump because it joins the water after it exits the pump. Be sure to read your owner’s manual to find what cleaning agents work best for your washer.

Briggs & Stratton Multi-Purpose Cleaner

Depending on the job, look for cleaners with these ingredients (not an exhaustive list):

  • Vinegar – windows, door handles
  • Citric acid – concrete driveways, wood decks
  • Oxalic acid – rust removal
  • Bleach – sanitizing and disinfecting
  • Sodium hypochlorite – stain removal, disinfectant
  • Sodium hydroxide (caustic) – removes grease, oil, etc
  • Ammonia – cleans glass and stainless steel

Hot or cold water?

Most pressure washers on the market use only cold water straight from your garden hose. However, there are a few hot water pressure washers available, but they are NOT cheap. A good one will set you back at least $1800. Hot water does clean more efficiently than cold, but unless you’re a pro getting paid to use it, we generally don’t recommend a hot water power washer.

Man with an Electric Power Washer

Electric pressure washers (also called electric power washers) are appropriate for the vast majority of homeowners. While not as powerful as their gas-powered cousins, electric pressure washers are strong enough to remove most normal grime. They’re great for small jobs or infrequent larger jobs. They can easily clean your driveway, deck, gutters, patio furniture, vehicles and lawn equipment.

When shopping for an electric pressure washer, consider the power you’ll need. The more PSI/GPM, the more you’ll have to pay. Electric pressure washers have a general range of 1200 – 1700 PSI. Compare that to gas at 2,000 – 2,800 PSI, and you can see why gas has more oomph. However, an electric model is easier to carry and operate and is less likely to cause damage to surfaces.



    PROS of Electric pressure washers:

  • Quieter than gas, especially those with brushless induction motors
  • Cheaper than gas (average $150$250)
  • Easy storage, no winterizing needed
  • Can use indoors – no exhaust fumes
  • Lighter and more portable

    CONS of Electric pressure washers:

  • Must be near a power outlet
  • Less power than gas
  • Wands (usually plastic) are less sturdy than metal
GFCI power socket.

While some people use extension cords to extend their cleaning reach, most manufacturers don’t recommend it. Since you’re pairing electricity and water, there’s always a risk of electrocution if the machine isn’t used properly. An extension cord can shorten the life of your pressure washer and may even void the warranty in some models. ALWAYS consult your owner’s manual before using an extension cord.

If using an extension cord, you MUST plug it into a GFCI receptacle, and the cord must have a grounding pin intact AND be heavy gauge (12 +) so it won’t trip your circuit breaker. But, if you need a few more feet to work with, it’s much safer to use a hose or wand extension.

Our 2020 reviews list some of the best models currently on the market. We’ll focus on some of the most important criteria so you can find the one that fits your project needs and budget:

  • Price
  • PSI / GPM / CU (cleaning power)
  • 3 electric power washer models from the Karcher
  • Warranty
  • Weight
  • Extra nozzles (on board storage is a big plus)
  • Plastic or stainless wand
  • Wheels – larger and pneumatic wheels provide the best stability and maneuverability
  • Plastic or brass couplings for hose attachment
  • Cord and hose length – minimum 20-foot hose and 30-foot cord
  • Hose and cord storage

Man cleans a driveway using Gas Pressure Washer

For ultimate cleaning power, a gas pressure washer (also called a gas power washer) is unmatched. These big boys are tough enough to tackle heavy duty jobs that electric power washers often can’t touch, such as removing chewing gum and tree sap from walkways, paint stripping, and stubborn stain removal from large areas such as patios, driveways, and siding.

Contractors and professional handymen definitely prefer these guys over electric models, since they don’t require a power outlet and typically range from 2,000 to 4,000 PSI.

Gas pressure washers are not just for the professionals, however. Over the years, the performance gap has closed between the cheaper gas washers and high-priced electric washers. If you already operate gas lawn mowers, weed eaters, and other such equipment, you’ll be ready to handle the maintenance needs of a gas pressure washer.


    PROS of gas pressure washers:

  • No power cord to limit reach, no power outlet needed
  • Great for cleaning large areas quickly
  • Best for removing very tough stains
  • Versatile for a wide variety of applications

    CONS of gas pressure washers:

  • Heavier
  • Louder
  • More expensive (~$300$500 for residential models)
  • Can’t use indoors due to exhaust
  • Requires winterizing – must drain all water and add antifreeze

Gas pressure washers use engines to power the water pump. There are two main types of engine/pump systems – direct-drive and belt-drive. Direct-drive is more affordable and compact. However, they are prone to overheating after extended use (4 or more hrs/day). They also vibrate more and are louder.

Belt drive concept.

A belt-drive system takes up more space, resulting in a heavier, more expensive washer. The belt, however, extends the life of the engine by absorbing vibration and reducing RPM. It can run at a lower temperature and won’t overheat with extended use (8 hrs/day).

Most gas power washers operate with cold water. However, you can find hot water gas power washers that heat water to 140 F. The high temp is really effective in breaking up tough dirt. However, these tend to be really expensive (over $1500).

Our 2020 reviews list some of the best models currently on the market. We’ll focus on some of the most important criteria so you can find the one that fits your project needs and budget:

  • Price
  • PSI / GPM / CU (cleaning power)
  • Warranty
  • Weight & carriage frame
  • Gas models.
  • Extra nozzles (on board storage is a big plus)
  • Plastic or stainless wand
  • Wheels – larger and pneumatic wheels provide the best stability and maneuverability
  • Plastic or brass couplings for hose attachment
  • Cord and hose length – minimum 20-foot hose and 30-foot cord
  • Hose and cord storage

How to Use a Pressure Washer Safely and Efficiently

Nothing beats a pressure washer for cleaning years’ worth of stuck on grime from surfaces all around your home. From mildew to tree sap and even old chewing gum, a pressure washer is your best friend to remove these stubborn sticky messes.

Professional Power Washing

Pressure washers rely on water pressure to produce the cleaning power needed for such jobs. They do this by pumping water through a very narrow hose and wand, which increases pressure the narrower it gets. On the wand is a hand-squeezed trigger that activates the flow.

Some pressure washer wands have an adjustable nozzle. Others have separate detachable nozzles. Both types allow for more control over the angle and pressure used for different tasks.

Due to the high pressure, it’s vitally important to follow strict safety measures to prevent surface damage as well as injury to yourself and others. Follow these general guidelines for safe operation of your pressure washer:

Man wash a house from the aerial platform.
  • Read the manual. It will tell you exactly how to operate your particular model, along with important info about replacement parts and troubleshooting.
  • Never touch the spray. Don’t point it at kids or pets either. It can easily lacerate skin and even remove fingers if the pressure is high enough.
  • Wear protective gear. No shorts and flip flops. Think safety goggles, work gloves, enclosed shoes, ear protection (especially with gas power washers), and pants.
  • Prep your surroundings. Cover exterior lights, vents, and close your windows. Get all tripping hazards out of the way, including pets and kids.
  • No ladders! Pressure washers can produce a serious kickback force, which can lead to a nasty fall. Opt for extension wands to reach high areas instead.

It’s not difficult to use a pressure washer, but there are some rules that should be followed for a safe, effective cleaning job each and every time. These are general steps. The process can vary depending on your machine.

  1. Sweep or brush all loose dirt and debris from the surface you’re cleaning.
  2. Connect garden hose to the water inlet.
  3. Turn the faucet on fully.
  4. Sweeze wand trigger to release air pressure.
  5. Man prepares the pressure washer for cleaning job.
  6. Check hose connections for leaks.
  7. For a gas power washer, pull the starter cord to start the engine. For electric, plug into a grounded, GFCI outlet.
  8. Let water run through the machine for about a minute to prime the system. But never let it idle for longer than 3-5 minutes so you won’t overheat the engine.
  9. With trigger off, attach a low pressure nozzle, or set adjustable nozzle to low. Always start with low pressure and work your way up.
  10. Hold the wand with both hands. Plant feet firmly on the ground.
  11. Start with low pressure, about 18 inches from cleaning surface. Move in a side-to side motion at a 45 degree angle to the surface.
  12. Keep moving. Don’t stay in one spot or you risk damage to the surface. Move the spray in overlapping lines to avoid streaks.
  13. If you need more pressure, try moving the spray closer to the surface, but no more than 6 inches away. Or lock the trigger on the wand and attach a higher pressure tip.
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Alex owns a home improvement and restoration company in Vancouver. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management from Saskatchewan Polytechnic and is a NARI Certified Remodeler. His team does a wide range of home restoration products, both interior and exterior.
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Denese R. Rutledge
March 15, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Great article, Thanks for writing about the best Pressure Washer. Reading your article I know a lot of new things and I also chose which item I need to buy.

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