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Pressure Washer Buying Guide

Pressure washers make quick work of a variety of outdoor cleaning projects. Our guide gives you the information you need to choose the best gas or electric pressure washer for your next job.

How Pressure Washers Work

Whether you call them outdoor cleaners, power washers or pressure cleaners, all pressure washers work the same. Water enters the machine at low pressure and a gas engine or electric motor pumps water through a hose and a spray nozzle at higher pressure. When a garden hose won't cut it, pressure washers deliver the efficient cleaning power you need.

Electric Pressure Washers

Electric Pressure Washer.

Electric pressure washers usually cost less, start with a flip of a switch, run quieter and cleaner, and they weigh less than gas models. While less powerful and less mobile than gas-powered models, electric power washers are ideal for light-duty jobs, such as cleaning patio furniture, grills and vehicles.

Power Cord Alert: Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Some electric pressure washers must be plugged directly into an outlet using the machine's built-in cord while others allow the use of an extension cord. Consider this when buying a pressure washer, as it will determine how much area you'll be able to clean.

Power Cord Caution: If your pressure washer works with an extension cord, use the type suggested by the manufacturer. 

More Power Cord Safety Tips

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When using an electric pressure washer, keep the electrical connections dry and off the ground. Don't touch the plug if your hands are wet.

Gas Pressure Washers

Gas Pressure Washer.

Gas pressure washers give you the mobility and power you need to tackle larger jobs, such as cleaning decks, patios, sidewalks and exterior siding. While some gas pressure washers have a manual pull-start, some feature a push-button electric starter.  To keep your machine running at its best, always follow the manufacturer's fuel requirements.

How to Fuel Outdoor Power Equipment 

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How to Pick the Perfect Pressure Washer

Multi-Duty Gas Pressure Washer.

How powerful a pressure washer is determines what kind of jobs it can handle. That power, or pressure output, is measured by pounds per square inch (PSI) and gallons per minute (GPM).

A pressure sprayer rated with a higher PSI and GPM will clean better and faster, but often cost more than lower-rated units. Use the PSI and GPM ratings to determine the cleaning power of a pressure washer.

The greater the combination of the numbers, the more area you can clean in less time.

  • Light-duty: Perfect for smaller jobs around the home, these pressure washers typically rate between 1300 to 2000 PSI at 2 GPM. Whether you want gas-powered or electric, these compact, lightweight machines are ideal for cleaning patio furniture, grills, vehicles, as well as small decks and patios.
  • Medium-duty: Generally gas-powered, these medium-duty pressure washers generate between 2000 and 2800 PSI at 2-3 GPM. Best for home and shop use, and built with premium components, these sturdier, more powerful units make it easy to clean everything from exterior siding and fences to walkways and driveways.
  • Heavy-duty: Great for everyday commercial uses, these professional-grade pressure washers put out between 2900 and 3000 PSI at 3-4 GPM. Durable, gas-powered units make light work out of most large-scale cleaning jobs, including graffiti removal, paint stripping and washing a two-story home. 
  • Extra heavy-duty: These pressure washers rate around 3300 PSI and higher. These models handle many of the jobs of other machines, but add more power.
  • Multi-Duty: A multi-duty pressure washer, or an all-in-one pressure washer, allows you to adjust your machine's water temperature and pressure flow for more delicate cleaning tasks.
  • Hot Water Pressure Washers: Ideal for industrial and farm use, hot water pressure washers generally cost more and are more complex to operate, but they clean better and faster than cold water pressure washers, and they use less soap or other cleaning chemicals.

Pressure Washers: Helpful Terms

Gas Pressure Washer.
  • Amps (A): Indicates power output on electric models.
  • Cubic centimeters (cc): Indicates power output for gas pressure washers. 
  • Axial cam pump: Found on most pressure washers designed for homeowners, it ensures simple, maintenance-free operation.  
  • Triplex pump: Pressure washers intended for frequent commercial or industrial use often have triplex pumps. It gives the machines a longer life expectancy and helps them perform with greater efficiency.  
  • Interchangeable nozzle tips: Accessories ensure you get the exact pressure and flow you need for your job. While high-pressure tips deliver a narrow spray with more cleaning power, low-pressure tips have greater coverage and can be used to apply a cleaning detergent.
  • Adjustable wands: These accessories allow you to change the spray pattern and pressure without changing the nozzle tip.  
  • Interchangeable wands: These allow you to change water pressure and flow by replacing the wand, not the nozzle. 
  • Rotating nozzles: These accessories spray in a powerful circular motion. 
  • Chemical or detergent injection: This refers to pressure washers that use of cleaners and other chemicals from an onboard tank or other means.  
  • Onboard detergent tanks: These make using pressure washer chemicals more convenient. 
  • Unloaders and thermal relief: This design feature helps reduce pressure and heat buildup that could damage the pressure washer.  

Pressure Washer Tools and Accessories

Woman Using an Extension Wand to Pressure Wash Siding.

If you want to clean faster with better results, invest in tools and accessories:  

  • Brushes let you apply scrubbing power to cleaning projects.  
  • Extension wands and spray tips help you clean second-story homes and hard-to-reach areas around the home.
  • Angled wands work with extensions to clean gutters.  
  • Surface cleaners with spinning jets help you clean driveways and sidewalks.  
  • Pressure washer chemicals help with a variety of cleaning tasks. Some manufacturers require specific approved chemicals.  

How to use a Pressure Washer

Man Pressure Washing Patio Furniture with an Electric Pressure Washer.

How you use a pressure washer depends on what you're cleaning, but here are some general tips to get you started and keep you safe:  

  • Read owner's manual.   
  • Stand on a stable surface to avoid losing your balance. 
  • Wear ear and eye protection. 
  • Never leave a spray gun unattended while machine is running. 
  • Use the correct nozzle and spray setting, at the proper distance, to avoid damage.  
  • Never point the spray gun at people, animals or plants.  
  • Keep the spray away from electrical fixtures, power sources and power lines.  

How to Pressure Wash Your Home

Pressure Wash Decks and Fences

Pressure Wash Vehicles and Boats


Always follow the manufacturers' use, maintenance and safety instructions.

How to Maintain Your Pressure Washer

Routine maintenance varies by model, but proper care of your pressure washer ensures efficient operation and a long life for your machine. General inspections are recommended and pump care is especially important if you store a pressure washer in freezing temperatures. Typically, gas pressure washers require more maintenance than electric models, including air filter, oil and spark plug changes. 

Learn about Pressure Washer Maintenance

Power Base: More Than a Pressure Washer

Power Base Engine, Mower Attachment, Snow Thrower Attachment, Pressure Washer Attachment and Leaf Blower Attachment.

Some outdoor power equipment systems, like the one pictured in the bottom-right, can handle a variety of projects with a single engine that can power several attachments including a pressure washer, mower, leaf blower and snow blower. This helps reduce maintenance requirements and frees up storage space.

See this Troy-Bilt system — available exclusively at Lowe's — in action

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