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What is a Pressure Washer?

By Michael Giuffre
Updated May 17, 2024
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A pressure washer is a machine that can clean many different types of surfaces using water pressure. Pressure washers have been around for several years but have only recently become so affordable that many households purchase them instead of renting them from the local hardware store. Perhaps your wood deck is in need of cleaning and repainting, or maybe your concrete porch is scuffed and stained. Whatever your problem, a pressure washer is likely to help.

Pressure washers can generate significantly more water pressure than a garden hose. In fact, most domestic pressure washers available for home use actually utilize your garden hose and its water supply. A pressure washer can increase your garden hose's pressure by 15 to 50 times, or more. Not only does this increased pressure help clean better, but it also cuts down on the amount of water you use.

The main function of a pressure washer is to multiply the pressure output from a garden hose and concentrate the water into a pressurized stream. The machine does so by utilizing an electric or gasoline-powered engine to run a highly efficient pump. This pump acts as a compressor and allows the pressure washer to output a concentrated and pressurized stream of water. After running through the pump, the water exits the pressure washer via a hose connected to a long handle that the user controls. A trigger allows the user to spray the pressurized stream in short bursts, or in a continuous spray. The stream's intensity can be adjusted on most pressure washers and is very effective at removing surface grime and dirt.

Pressure washers come in several different types. Gasoline powered washers are typically rated between 5-7 horsepower and may maintain a higher pressure than their electric counterparts. Electric washers may be suitable for tasks where you do not want to blast the surface you are working with, but require more pressure than a garden hose. For example, when washing the windows on your house, using a gasoline powered pressure washer might provide too much pressure. An electric washer would most likely be more ideal.

Pressure washers can also be characterized as cold or hot. Cold pressure washers are generally less expensive but may be less effective at cleaning dirty areas than their hot counterparts.

More important than the horsepower of a washer is the pump inside the washer. Pumps are rated in both PSI (pounds per square inch), which measures pressure, and GPM (gallons per minute), which measures water flow. When considering a washer, be sure to check for these specifications. The higher each number is, the more powerful the washer will be.

The cost of a pressure washer generally ranges from $200-$500 US dollars (USD). If you are looking for a more powerful model to strip paint or remove heavy stains and grease, expect to pay about twice that. Typically, spending more money on a pressure washer gets you a better quality washer, that has a better pump and a better engine and produces better results.

Keep in mind, however, that the more powerful the washer, the heavier it is likely to be. So, if portability is an issue, you should find a good compromise between power and weight.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon355563 — On Nov 17, 2013

By anon1071 — On May 14, 2007

Can a pressure washer be used as a water pump, just to pump water?



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