Pressure Washer Shopping Tips

by Barb Hopkins

A pressure washer is a great power tool for cleaning decks, patio furniture, siding, walkways and more. Instead of spending money at the car wash each week, you can use a pressure washer to clean the grime off your vehicle. High-powered pressure washers can even strip old paint from decking, furniture and property fences.

To choose the best pressure washer for your needs, consider three factors:

Stanley-pressure-washer1. The amount of water pressure the unit produces
2. How many gallons per minute it will spray
3. Price to fit your budget

Water pressure: PSI

Water pressure is measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI. The higher the PSI, the stronger the force of water the unit can produce. The Stanley Electric pressure washer, shown at right, has a PSI of 1800 and may be a good choice for washing cars, lawn tractors and the windows on your house. A lower PSI means the force of the water won’t remove paint or break glass.

Craftsman-pressure-washerThe Craftsman CX series pressure washer, shown at right, boasts 4000 PSI and is powered by a Briggs & Stratton engine. It’s a powerful gas pressure washer designed to remove the toughest dirt, grime and even mildew from driveways and brick patios.

Water flow: GPM

Water flow is measured in gallons per minute (GPM), or how many gallons of water can flow during a single minute. The higher the number, the faster the water flow. A faster water flow plus a higher PSI means a pressure washer with more force and efficiency for BE-pressure-washerheavy-duty jobs. The best pressure washers for heavy-duty jobs, such as stripping old paint or removing stubborn mildew from bricks and cement, combine a higher GPM and PSI for maximum power.

The BE commercial pressure washer, shown at right, with 3500 PSI and a GPM of 4 gallons per minute features a Honda engine and powder-coated steel frame and has a belt drive pump system.

Direct drive and belt drive

Direct drive pump systems for pressure washers have fewer moving parts and often cost less. A belt-driven pump system is designed so the pumps turn at a lower RPM (revolutions per minute), which can help this style of pump system run cooler and produce fewer vibrations than a direct drive. Many heavy-duty pressure washers feature a belt-drive pump system, which also can reduce pump fatigue, extending the life of the pressure washer.

Pressure washer tips

When using a pressure washer, remember these tips:

  • Never use a gas pressure washer indoors or in areas without ventilation.
  • Electric pressure washers may work better for washing items such as cars, lawn mowers and windows.
  • Gas pressure washers (without a cord) allow more freedom of movement and may be better for cleaning driveways, second-story windows and the siding around your house.
  • Always choose a detergent designed for the object you’re cleaning. There are different mixtures for washing cars, de-greasing a lawn mower or removing mildew from a deck.
  • Always use the right nozzle — a nozzle that offers a highly concentrated spray can damage surfaces such as wood or even break glass.

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