A pressure washer (or power washer) should be on your list of “must haves” as a homeowner. This is an important and versatile tool to own, but they are also available to rent. Consider buying one, though, because after two rentals you may as well have purchased outright.
There are two main types of pressure washers – gas and electric. The electric versions come with long cables and can also be plugged into an extension cord, but you will limit your work area by requiring an electrical outlet nearby. Electric models are perfect for typical household jobs and tend to have lower water pressure so they’re safer and easier to use. Another bonus of the electric type is that when the trigger is released to stop the flow of water, they are silent.
Gas powered pressure washers produce a much stronger water stream, up to 2,800 pounds per square inch as compared to the electrical 1,700. This means they can clean more quickly and clear off tough stains like motor oil on your garage floor. It also means that there is more danger since this water stream is strong enough to damage the items you’re washing and also has the potential to cause injury to the user. They usually clock a noise level at or above 85 db which is the threshold for wearing ear protection, so pick up a pair of ear plugs before you begin washing.
Before buying a pressure washer, consider what you’ll most likely use it for. Electric models are modestly priced and most are under $200. They don’t require any maintenance and can be stored anywhere, even inside your home. If you have tough stains and large projects, the gas version is probably worth it at the $300-500 price range. They have stronger, metal parts and are less likely to leak. You must store them in a garage or shed, not inside your home, so be sure you have a location to do so.
Pressure washers come with either adjustable nozzles or different caps you can swap out depending on what type of spray you need. Electrical washers have plastic parts that can easily be replaced if they begin to leak, and you can usually do this with more durable brass parts. Some washers come with soap dispensers, so you can choose to spray just water or a soapy mixture for faster cleaning.
No matter which type of pressure washer you use, please practice the following safety measures: Never point the nozzle at yourself or another person. Start out with lower pressure and gradually increase it so you don’t damage the surface you’re working on. Wear closed-toe shoes and safety glasses or sunglasses at all times. Do not use a pressure washer to wash your car, as it will likely damage the paint.