July 4, 2022

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9 Best Pressure Washers for 2022

Staff, Courtesy of SIMPSON

Nothing gets outdoor surfaces clean the way a pressure washer does. It’s a one-two punch for dirty and grime. First, the machine siphons cleaner out of an onboard tank or a nearby bucket and applies it with a gentle spray. Then it blasts the surface clean with a high-pressure water jet that provides tremendous cleaning and rinsing power. In no time, dirt, pollen, mildew, bug nests, spider webs, and bird droppings are wiped right off. We tested more than a dozen pressure washers to find out which are the kings of clean.

The Best Pressure Washers of 2022

How a Pressure Washer Works

Water enters the pressure washer via a garden hose (a) and moves through a pump, which consists of a series of two or three plungers (b) arranged in a line or a circle. The plungers are powered by an output shaft on the engine or from a motor. Each plunger boosts the water pressure sequentially, one feeding higher pressure water to the plunger next in line. The last pulse of high-pressure water exits the pump. The water moves through a component called the unloader (c). This component unloads water if it gets too hot because the gun’s trigger is off. Next, the water travels down the hose to the gun (d). When you pull the gun’s trigger, you send a series of high-pressure pulses of water out the nozzle.

“It’s important to understand that the pump produces cleaning and rinsing efficiencies with high-velocity water pulsations,” says Vince Morabit, a mechanical engineer who’s designed and developed outdoor power equipment from pumps to chainsaws since the early 1960s. “Think of it this way: The kinetic energy in that pulse of water is like a chisel being struck repeatedly by a hammer.”

And since residential pressure washers also dispense cleaner, either out of a built-in tank (e) or by siphoning it out of a bucket, they clean via mechanical and chemical means. You apply the cleaner and then rinse the surface. The cycle is always the same: clean, rinse, repeat.

“The cleaning agent you use is as important as the pressure washer itself,” says Morabit. By selecting the right one, you rely less on the pressure washer’s force and more on the gentle removal of grime by the chemical action of the cleaner.

Illustration by Charlie Layton

    Selecting Gas or Electric

    The pump that provides the high-velocity jet of water out of a pressure washer may be driven by a gas engine or an electric motor. One is not necessarily better than the other, but which you buy will depend on your cleaning needs, budget, and how you feel about maintaining the equipment you own.

    Electric: These are best suited for brief cleaning sessions, running from 15 to 30 minutes. They have enough power for general washing of outdoor surfaces. They work well on wood and synthetic decks that need only gentle cleaning, all types of outdoor furniture, single-floor ranch houses, all types of exterior siding, and will clean the undercarriage of a pickup truck. They’re not well suited to heavy-duty cleaning or long sessions in the height of the summer. Their motor, cord, and ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) can get extremely hot. These are much quieter than gas-engine pressure washers, and they need hardly any maintenance. As a bonus, they’re easy to store indoors during the winter.

    Gas: These are best suited to heavy-duty cleaning. The power afforded by a gas engine can drive a large and powerful pump, enabling these machines to shoot water to higher surfaces, clean heavier deposits of mold and dirt, and even slice thick deposits of mud from equipment such as farm machinery, trucks, and off-road vehicles. A gas engine is much louder than an electric motor, plus requires maintenance in the form of oil changes, replacement air filters, and a yearly change of the spark plug. Not to mention you have to be careful about fuel degradation. Today’s alcohol-containing gasoline quickly degrades and can damage fuel-system parts like carburetors and gas lines. Also, these are best stored over the winter in the garage or an outbuilding.

    Photo: Trevor Raab

    A Word About Safety

    All the machines we tested were safe to use, and we encountered nothing in them that caused us any concern. However, pressure washers by their nature demand careful and deliberate handling, both for your sake and that of whatever you’re cleaning.

    Both electric and gas pressure washers can damage surfaces. Of the two, the risk is higher with gas-engine machines owing to the fact that they’re generally more powerful. There are some key things you need to know to clean safely and effectively.

    • Use a green or a white nozzle for most jobs; their broad spray angle is less likely to damage surfaces. Reserve red and yellow nozzles only for the toughest cleaning. Their narrow spray angle provides more cutting action but is more likely to damage a surface.
    • Avoid electricals. Don’t wash outdoor light fixtures, outlet receptacles covers, transformer boxes, doorbells, cameras, or backup generator cabinets. These objects are both easily damaged by high pressure water. Also, pressure washing them can, in the worst case, send water inside their electrical box, leading to a corrosion-induced electrical failure.
    • Watch your distance, and keep moving. The longer you keep the pressure washer’s stream focused in one place, and the closer it is to the surface, the more likely you are to cause damage.
    • Avoid or proceed with caution around delicate surfaces such a shade sails, insulated-glass windows, and outdoor furnishings built from soft materials like cedar or redwood.

      How We Test

      Testing pressure washers is the proverbial dirty job. We wash concrete and brick pavements, vinyl and cement board siding, aluminum trim and gutters, faux stone, vertical brick, and wood trim. Vinyl fences and outdoor furniture, too. We even very carefully washed some cars (using the white nozzle). One of the toughest tests was blasting clean three large commercial trash cans with bottoms awash in a nauseating soup of summer stink. They looked and smelled like new cans when we were done with them. Aside from cleaning ability, we look at ease of use. Would the washer tip over if you tugged on its hose? Just how easy is it to get the thing up a set of ramps and into the back of a pickup truck? Was the hose easy to tighten on to the pump fitting? And just how stiff is the hose that takes the water from the pump to the gun? Read on for our evaluations.

Most Powerful Gas

Generac 8874 Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Engine: 196 cc
  • Weight: 60.8 lb
  • Cleaning power: 2,900 psi
  • Max flow: 2.4 gpm

This Generac is classified as a residential pressure washer. But it’s a different category of machine, closer to the commercial end of the spectrum. Pick up the spray wand on this thing, and that becomes clear very quickly. The big engine and equally large horizontal-shaft pump have more than enough oomph to tackle tough cleaning jobs. We also liked the thermal relief valve that discharges water from the pump after three to five minutes of the spray wand not being used. By helping the pump run cooler, you extend its life.

In terms of power, consider this demonstration: We blasted clean a portico by holding the spray wand at about 45 degrees and, as we walked forward, the combined blast or air and water simultaneously cleaned the brick surface and blasted out loose debris like sand and leaves. Given that level of performance, we think the 8874 is a lot of machine for the money. Not everybody needs that much cleaning power, but it’s good to know that it’s there if you need it. Its only demerit was typical of pressure washers, and that is the poorly designed holder for hanging the spray wand.

Most Powerful Electric

Ryobi RY142300 Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Motor: 13 amps
  • Weight: 48.8 lb
  • Cleaning power: 2,300 psi
  • Max flow: 1.2 gpm

    The RY142300 is a journeyman machine, one that delivers consistent soaping and washing performance. It’s stronger than the Karcher K5 , the Worx, and Sun Joe and about equal to the Craftsman (the other electric pressure washers below). It’s much heavier than the Craftsman, though most of that weight difference is attributable to its physically larger motor. We suspect that the Ryobi is the more durable of the two machines, again owing to that big bruiser of a motor. Our only complaint with this otherwise fine pressure washer is its spray wand mount on the handle. All it takes is one good bump to knock the wand off. It’s very irritating.

Best Electric

Greenworks Pro GPW2700 Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Motor: 14 amps
  • Weight: 47.4 lb
  • Cleaning power: 2,700 psi
  • Max flow: 2.3 gpm

The GPW2700 sailed to an easy victory among the electric pressure washers, not surprising given that this is an expensive and well-made piece of equipment. Its high pressure and volume output enable faster and more thorough cleaning. And those come courtesy of the constant-run motor, which is always turning, not just when you pull the spray wand trigger. This improves trigger response and reduces priming, since the pump is held under constant pressure. Also, the machine has a pressure and flow sensor so that the pump output adjusts to suit the nozzle you insert in the spray wand. All of this adds up to better wash performance.

Although the pressure washer stands for storage or when you need to wheel it for transport, it operates horizontally. Thus, it can’t tip over. And pivoting hooks ease access to and wrapping of the 35-foot cord. Our complaint: The hose outlets (both for the spray wand and the garden hose hookup) are close to each other, reducing access to them.

Best Overall

Simpson MegaShot MSH3125 Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Engine: 187 cc
  • Weight: 61.2 lb
  • Cleaning power: 3,200 psi
  • Max flow: 2.5 gpm

If ever there was an aptly named piece of outdoor power equipment, the MegaShot is it. For the money, you get a big Honda engine with massive air cooling fins on its head (it’s one of the best engines in the business, by the way) and an equally hefty pump, complete with anodized hose fittings. And the combined action of that engine and pump produce a lot of dirt-blasting capability. No, this isn’t a commercial power washer—you’d need to spend another $1,000 to get there. But it comes about as close as you’re going to get at this price level. We used it to blast clean concrete (including removing masonry stain), dirty vinyl siding and trim, mildewed wood, outdoor furniture that could only be described as grotesque, and equally nasty vinyl fencing. While we were at it, we blasted anything else in the vicinity that looked even remotely dirty.

Our verdict: This is a productive, no-nonsense pressure washer complete with a pull rod choke and a big red on/off switch. But, hey, pull that choke, yank the recoil starter, and that big Honda roars to life in seconds. Demerits? Its hose appears to be very durable, but boy is that thing stiff. It will likely take a lot of use before it softens up a bit.

Best Value

Sun Joe SPX 3000 Xtream Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Motor: 13 amps
  • Weight: 26.2 lb
  • Cleaning power: 1,700 psi
  • Max flow: 1.2 gpm
    Light-duty washing doesn’t get much more inexpensive or portable than this compact pressure washer. For your money, you get a foaming soap dispenser and two cleaning brushes–one general and the other designed to clean automotive wheels. You also get a full set of nozzles (four). The machine’s ergonomics are very good; the hose outlets, the on/off switch, and the carrying handle are well shaped and located to make this little machine easy to use. But it tips over easily on grass or other uneven surfaces due its small wheels and vertical configuration. It’s best confined to working on pavement.
    We worked the SPX 3000 very hard (harder than a homeowner probably would) and found its cord and GFCI were quite warm when we were done. There’s only so much these small machines can withstand when you run them relentlessly on a summer day, with temperatures hovering between 80 and 90 degrees.

Lightweight

Craftsman CMEPW2100 Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Motor: 13 amps
  • Weight: 29.4 lb
  • Cleaning power: 2,100 psi
  • Max flow: 1.2 gpm

This is a light, easy-to-handle machine with adequate power for mid-duty jobs. We particularly appreciated two features: the large, easy-access detergent tank right on top of the machine, and the whopper of a power cord, 35 feet long. That’s about 10 feet more than on the average electric pressure washer, virtually eliminating the need for an extension cord.

Of all the nozzles we tried on it, we had the best results with the turbo (rotating blast). It proved particularly adept at cleaning concrete. A final design detail that we really like is its slide-on spray wand mount. The gun can’t be knocked off, like it can with other machines.

Most Stable

Worx WG604 Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Motor: 13 amps
  • Weight: 29. 4 lb
  • Cleaning power: 1,600 psi
  • Max flow: 1.3 gpm

Here’s what we like about this Worx: It’s small, light, rolls easily, and is reasonably resistant to tipping. Its hose reel works well. As to its cleaning ability, it punches above its weight class, moving it surprisingly close to the mid-duty end of the spectrum despite its low psi and flow. Given those small numbers, we were surprised at how productive this pressure washer is. We plugged the turbo nozzle in and cleaned 30 feet of sidewalk in no time, blasted off the front stoop, cleaned out some baggy cobwebs that formed around the front door and its overhang, reeled the hose back, unplugged the thing, and called it a day.

One last word: We like the dial on its detergent cap that lets you select how much or little cleaner you want to apply. The quarter cap itself is a bit fussy and needs some refining, but the idea is great.

Easiest to Use

Karcher K5 Premium Full Control Plus Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Motor: 12.4 amps
  • Weight: 35.4 lb
  • Cleaning power: 2,100 psi
  • Max flow: 1.4 gpm

At first, the K5 seemed to be too small and light to be effective. But, as with the Worx above, we were pleasantly surprised. It may be light duty, but it’s certainly spunky. We came to appreciate its combination of thoughtful industrial design and output. Unlike other pressure washers, its spray wand hose and garden hose both hook up by means of pop fittings (supplied with the machine). Also, there are no nozzles to attach, just rotate the tip of the spray wand and fine tune the power, if necessary, using the digital control at the base of the gun. Frankly, though, we found it unnecessary. We dialed the wand’s tip to adjust the output and that was that.

The only limitation we found with the machine is that it’s not suited to operate on the lawn; it easily tips over on such a surface. Wheel it around on pavement, a patio, or a deck, however, and you’ll be fine.

Biggest Detergent Tank

Karcher G3000X Pressure Washer

KEY SPECS AND FEATURES

  • Engine: 196 cc
  • Weight: 77.2 lb
  • Cleaning power: 3,000 psi
  • Max flow: 2.4 gpm

    The G3000X is a bit old school in its design (note the carriage bolts) and lacks the finesse of the Generac. But it has outstanding cleaning ability. lt’s another pressure washer closer to the commercial end of the spectrum because of its big engine, horizontal-shaft pump with big brass hose fittings, and a thermal relief valve that helps the pump run cooler. We also liked its fold-forward handle that reduces its storage space in the garage or shed.

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