Pressure washers – sometimes known as power washers or jet washers – are one of the most versatile garden power tools you can buy, enabling you to keep everything from your car to your patio and your garden furniture to your driveway looking spick and span. They are far more powerful than normal garden hoses and use less water too.
There are three types of machine: Light duty, mid duty and heavy duty. Make sure you don’t buy a machine with less, or indeed more, pressure than you actually need.
Generally speaking, mid-range machines have a pressure of around 110 bar – a good level for tackling patios, fencing, cars, guttering and exterior paintwork.
Machines with high pressure rates of 120 bar or more are better suited to large areas of paving, driveways, wooden decking, stonework, really grubby 4x4s or caravans. The best starting point is to think about what you’ll be cleaning and how often, and work from there.
When choosing which washer to go for, check which accessories are included – a patio brush or car-wash brush can make or break your pressure washer’s results. Also, consider maneuverability and storage – some machines are cumbersome and heavy, while others are compact and light. Hose lengths can be dramatically different too.
Also don’t assume the more expensive the machine, the better it is. Some of the mid-range washers we tested outdid some of the top-of-the-range offerings, hands-down.
Here are our favourites, which we tested for ease of use (including any extra features), value for money, and results.
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Nilfisk C135 pressure washer with patio cleaner
Bar pressure: 115
This great value, easy to use machine is an updated version of an older 135 bar model, with new features including a longer 8m hose and hose storage hook replacing the old hose reel, both responses to previous customer grumbles. We like the variable fan jet nozzle and power speed nozzle, both of which make anything from stonework and decking to patios come up like new. You won’t damage more delicate surfaces (a common problem) thanks to the soft bristled brush attachment that is ideal for the likes of greenhouses and vehicles. It is heavy but features a built-in trolley to help with manoeuvrability and it’s compact enough for easy storage. But it is quite loud.
Draper 97776 total stop pressure washer
Bar pressure: 180
Another heavy-duty machine, this stands out for 4x4s, motorhomes, vans, caravans and horse trailers, all helped by the foam gun attachment which works a treat with snow foam detergents. The heavy-duty reinforced steel hose is a whopping 10m long – brilliant for getting around the side of your vehicle – and because it’s pressurised it doesn’t need further attaching. We like the quick release gun, five in one multifunctional nozzle and turbo nozzle. And with a powerful 2800W induction motor, it’s got no shortage of oomph, while the total stop valve helps reduce wear and saves electricity. It’s good at smaller jobs too and although it comes with a special attachment for patios, we felt the Nilfisk premium review below had the edge.
Karcher K2 full control home
Bar pressure: 110
This great bit of kit shows that good things can come in small packages – and it’s nice and lightweight too. A mid-range model, it can tackle basic household tasks and makes particularly short work of cleaning flagstones. It’s versatile, so you can select the pressure you need for the job to avoid any damage on more delicate surfaces, and we love the dirt blaster feature that produces extra oomph via a rotary spray. You can use it with water up to 40C – handy if you need to sanitise the surface. And it’s a doddle to use and move around. But the 4m hose could be longer and it’s quite loud.
Karcher K5 premium full control plus
Bar pressure: 145
This is an exceptionally well-built, well-engineered, user-friendly and powerful bit of kit that tackles stubborn dirt, grime and algae on a grand scale, using water up to 40C. Filthy huge decking area? Tick. A driveway so long that you can’t see the end of it? Tick. Ridiculously dirty car? Tick. And all in record time too. We like the trigger gun to select different strengths of spray (the LED display shows you what you’ve chosen) and spray lance with three built-in nozzles. Both of these features make this machine hugely multi-purpose, tackling more delicate jobs just as well, while the dirt grinder nozzle provides rotary spray with extra oomph. This has a bar pressure of 145, but you could have told us it was 180 and we’d be none the wiser. But it’s heavy, loud and expensive.
Nilfisk premium 180 pressure washer
Bar pressure: 180
This top-of-the-range premium 2900W machine is Nilfisk’s newest offering and most powerful domestic pressure washer yet. It comes fully assembled with a power patio cleaner and the results are astonishing, even on large areas. It tackles other serious jobs well too, including large driveways, stonework and even swimming pools, blitzing engrained dirt at speed. Features of note include the extra-long 10m steel reinforced hose, a flow regulator to match the pressure to the task and internal detergent system that can also be regulated. But we felt it’s not quite as effective as the Draper (reviewed above) for large vehicles.
Bosch fontus cordless outdoor pressure washer
Bar pressure: 15
Unusually, this is cordless so no need to connect it to either electricity mains or outdoor water mains. The water tank is a decent 15l capacity and although it only comes with one battery, you can replace it with another one from any other 18v Bosch products you may have. It’s not that powerful and probably best thought of as a pressurised hose than pressure washer – but that’s enough for bikes, cars and windows. We found we got between 30 minutes to an hour of use from a full water tank and fully charged battery, depending on setting, and the battery only takes an hour to charge. But at 4m, the hose could be longer and it’s heavy and expensive for the pressure.
Stihl RE 110 pressure washer
Bar pressure: 110
New this year, this mid-range machine does a cracking job on garden furniture, bikes and small areas of decking and patios – and it’s quick too. The rotary nozzle works a treat with pressure regulation and the forceful pencil jets are good for more entrenched dirt. We loved the soft ergonomic handle and long sprayer, and it was simple to set up and use. It’s easy to move about on the wheels, and the side storage compartment keeps nozzles and the power cable neat and tidy, while the hose is a decent 7m long. But be sure to use the right nozzle or you could damage surfaces and be warned it is heavy.
Titan TTB669PRW pressure washer
Bar pressure: 130
This felt as powerful as some other machines we tested that cost twice the price, and the patio attachment and long hose came in useful, although the hose is a bit on the flimsy side. It takes just minutes to put together and the interchangeable nozzles and attachments are quick and easy to fix on and remove. It’s relatively lightweight and comes with a small detergent bottle, as well as accessory storage. The extendable handle could be longer, though, and the decking brush isn’t up to much. And perhaps not surprisingly for the cost, it doesn’t feel as well engineered as some of the others tested.
Stihl RE120 high pressure cleaner
Bar pressure: 125
This all-new pressure washer does a sterling job on car cleaning, especially when combined with the vehicle cleaning kit, angled spray lance extensions and rotary brush (although be warned these all cost extra). The pressure is good for bigger jobs too, especially average sized patios and driveways (but again, accessories cost extra). It has all the same benefits as the earlier RE110 model (rotary nozzle, pressure regulation, pencil jets, soft handle, neat storage) and the hose is even longer at 8m. It has integrated wheels and robust handle – a good job as it is heavy. It does vibrate when in use and stops short of dirty block paving.
Vonhaus compact high pressure washer
Bar pressure: 105
This no-frills, lightweight pressure machine is the cheapest in our round-up and just the ticket for basic jobs like bikes and outdoor furniture. It’s compact, which makes it easy to store, and both the hose and cable are flexible and good at reaching tight spots. Although at 5m respectively, we felt it could be longer. The instructions could be clearer too and the nozzle adjustment (which you use to switch from soft to higher pressure) less fiddly. Ditto for putting the attachments on and taking them off after use. But these are small niggles rather than deal breakers for this little powerhouse of a machine.
Pressure washers FAQs
What can you use a pressure washer for?
Pressure washers can clean everything from decking, garden furniture and fencing right through to vehicles, exterior paintwork, swimming pools, gutting and patios, while heavy duty machines can even clean large paths, driveways and stonework. A good machine should remove stubborn dirt and grime, mould, loose paint and even chewing gum.
What type of pressure washer should I get (petrol or electric)?
Most pressure washers are electric, corded machines that run off mains electricity. They are quiet, affordable and easy to use. Petrol powered pressure washers are more powerful and expensive, making them more suitable for heavy-duty jobs and working away from home. They lack annoying cables but will need topping up with fuel.
What features should I look for?
Light duty machines are up to 100 bar, which is good for decking, fences and garden furniture. Mid-range machines are 110 to 130 bar – these can also tackle vehicles, exterior paintwork, guttering and small patios and driveways. Heavy duty machines are 130+ bar – these are more suited to large areas, plus stonework and really grubby 4x4s or caravans.
Adjustable pressure settings give you much more flexibility and allow, for example, higher-pressure machines to tackle more delicate jobs.
Length of hose
This can vary dramatically so make sure there’s enough cable to reach your plug socket (or be prepared to buy an extension lead).
All machines come with a standard spray head, but some come with added extras, including:
• Specialist brushes (for cars and bikes, for example) • Specialist lance (most come with a basic one, but you can get others for different surfaces) • Patio cleaners (concentrates the power into a small area) • Foam nozzle (a handy way of applying detergent – great for vertical surfaces like cars) • On-board detergent tank that you can pre-fill with a cleaner of your choice • Professional hose (adds length to your water supply hose)
Pressure washers with this feature use the trigger on the spray gun, as opposed to a switch on the main machine, to start and stop the flow or water. This can save quite a bit of water, especially for more fiddly jobs that don’t require a constant flow of water.
If space is at a premium, look for more compact machines with integrated storage, especially for cables and hose reel.
The verdict: Pressure washers
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