Pressure cleaner buying guide
Compare models from Bosch, Briggs & Stratton, RYOBI, Kärcher and more to find the perfect pressure washer for heavy-duty home cleaning.
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Quick facts about pressure cleaner:
- Whether you're cleaning your patio, driveway, car or something else, a pressure washer is a handy tool to have in your garage.
- With a whole lot more power than your average garden hose, pressure cleaners can help you blast moss, dirt, mud and grime off a variety of surfaces.
- The cost of a pressure cleaner ranges from $50 to over $1,000.
Compare some of the best pressure cleaners
What is a pressure cleaner?
A pressure cleaner is a tool that connects to your garden tap and delivers a powerful, high-pressure stream of water through a cleaning nozzle. Also known as pressure washers and water blasters, these cleaners provide a fast and efficient way to clean driveways, patios, tiles, concrete, cars, bikes and more.
Why should I consider a pressure cleaner?
The main advantage of using a pressure cleaner is that if you need to give a dirty, muddy or mouldy area a deep clean, a pressure cleaner is much quicker and easier than a hose, bucket and scrubbing brush.
You can use a pressure washer for a wide range of cleaning jobs, including the following:
- Removing oil stains and dirt from concrete
- Blasting moss and slime from tiles and patios
- Hosing dried mud off your car
- Cleaning outdoor furniture
- Prepping surfaces for painting
Why shouldn't I consider a pressure cleaner?
If you only really need a pressure washer for a one-off job, you might be better off renting one for a day from an equipment hire service like Kennards Hire. Check the daily rates in your area before deciding whether hiring might be a more sensible option.
Also, you don't always need to spend a lot to get the cleaning power you want. If you only want a pressure cleaner for basic jobs, for example blasting mud off your bicycle and getting your outdoor furniture looking new, an entry-level model for less than $200 should have all the power you need.
What types are available?
You have three main options when choosing a pressure cleaner:
Electric pressure cleaners
- As they're generally easier to use and maintain than petrol-powered washers, electric pressure cleaners are usually a good choice for most homeowners. They're affordable, don't require too much maintenance and have enough power to tackle a wide range of cleaning jobs around the home. However, as they plug into your home power points, you'll need to deal with the hassle of lugging around a power cord (and possibly an extension cord as well).
Petrol-powered pressure cleaners
- If you want extra power to tackle bigger cleaning tasks or you simply don't fancy being tethered to an extension cord, a petrol-powered washer may be worth considering. More portable and more durable than electric washers, they're suitable for heavy-duty work and use in remote areas. However, they're noisier and heavier than electric models, need fuel and require more upkeep.
Battery-powered pressure cleaners
- Though less popular than the first two options, there are a few manufacturers that offer battery-powered models. They can be convenient and easy to use, and the battery which powers your pressure cleaner may also be able to run several other garden tools from the same manufacturer. However, battery-powered models often can't offer the same power as other options.
How to compare pressure cleaners
Cost will always be a major consideration when buying a pressure cleaner. You can pick up an entry-level electric-powered model for around $50, but most units sit within the $100-$600 price range. As a general rule, the more money you spend, the more cleaning power you'll get. Petrol-powered pressure cleaners start at $300 and go up to around $2,000 for an industrial-grade model.
There are many additional factors you should take into account when buying a pressure cleaner. Here's what you need to consider:
Nozzles and attachments
Some manufacturers provide an all-in-one adjustable nozzle to change the angle and force of the spray, while others provide a set of interchangeable nozzles. Check what nozzles and attachments are included as standard to suit different surfaces. Regular options include pinpoint spray, a wide fan nozzle and turbo (or rotary) nozzle.
Also consider what brushes the pressure washer comes with to help you scrub your back deck, wash your car, clean drains or perform other specialist tasks. For example, a patio cleaner attachment can be an extremely useful inclusion if you have a large outdoor area to clean.
Pressure and flow rate
There are two key factors that determine the cleaning power of a pressure washer: water pressure and flow rate. Check the maximum water pressure for any unit you're considering – 1,600-2,500psi is a common range for electric-powered pressure cleaners. Some models feature an LED display to allow you to easily check the pressure setting you are using.
Also, check the maximum rated flow (measured in litres/minute, or gallons/minute if shopping with a US retailer) of the unit you're considering – electric units are commonly between 5 and 7.5L/minute.
Also known as the spray wand, this directs the spray onto whatever surface you're cleaning. Metal wands are more durable than plastic ones, and it's also important that the wand is long enough for you to reach the ground without stooping.
Some models come with extension wands for jobs like cleaning second-storey windows, and angled wands that can work with an extension wand to clean gutters.
Check the length of the hose that runs from the body of the cleaner to the spray lance. The longer it is, the easier the machine will be to use.
Some models incorporate storage space for the lance and hose into the unit so they take up less room in your shed.
Most pressure cleaners feature some sort of detergent injection system for increased cleaning power.
- Portability. Most electric and battery-powered pressure cleaners weigh somewhere between 5kg and 20kg, but petrol-powered models are heavier. Check the weight quoted on the specs sheet to make sure you'll be able to comfortably manoeuvre the unit around as you clean.A unit with large, sturdy wheels will make it easier to move around and negotiate obstacles as you clean.Also, the longer the power cord on an electric model, the easier it is to clean without having to change power points or grapple with an extension cord. Most cords are five metres or longer.
- Automatic cut-off. This feature ensures that the washer only sprays water while you depress the trigger, allowing you to move from place to place and shift obstacles without spraying water this way and that. A safety lock on the trigger will also ensure that you don't accidentally start spraying.
- Running time. If you're considering a battery- or petrol-powered model, check how much cleaning you can expect to finish before you run out of juice.
- Warranty. Check the length of the manufacturer's warranty – most will offer at least two years of protection – and exactly what it covers.
Which pressure cleaner is best for me?
To decide on the best pressure cleaner for your needs, you'll need to consider exactly how you plan on using it. What type of cleaning will you be doing? Do you want electric, petrol or battery power? How much are you willing to spend? Once you know what sort of cleaner you want, you can then start comparing your options.
To help simplify the shopping process, we've compared the pros and cons of five popular pressure washers in the table below:
|The good||The bad|
|Bosch AQT 45-14 X|
|Briggs & Stratton BWS020|
|Kärcher K4 Premium|
|Gerni Classic 110.5|
Pressure cleaner tips
There are a couple of important things to remember before using a pressure cleaner:
- Stay safe. Pressure cleaners are seriously powerful machines and should always be used with caution. Getting in the way of a misdirected spray, particularly when the nozzle is on the narrowest setting, could do serious damage and lead to a trip to the emergency room.
- Be careful with paintwork. When using a pressure cleaner on your home or car, be very wary of damaging paintwork. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and always err on the side of caution when setting water pressure.
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