There are two ways of achieving a sparkling patio, driveway or car: get on your hands and knees with a brush and scrub until your whole body hates you, or invest in one of the best pressure washers on the market. We suggest opting for the latter as the latest breed of jet washing devices are among some of the smartest yet, boasting professional, easy to use technology at affordable price points.
These modern devices are safer to use on delicate objects than pressure washers of old, too, such as bicycles and motorcycles, with fewer worries about forcing H20 into bearings and sensitive motor parts. The days of not being able to clean you motorbike or cycle with a pressure washer for fear of damaging them are long gone.
It doesn't matter what time of year it is either; anytime is a great time to buy a pressure washer and clean that horrible grime off of your stuff. And this is especially true in the spring, summer and autumn months, as there are simply so many tasks that are made easier with one.
For example, after the grim winter months cleaning the accumulated grime off a patio or driveway is a doddle with a pressure washer. You simply point and shoot, then stand back and enjoy a pristine, new-looking surface.
Equally, if you need to clean outdoor furniture, cycles, cars, motorbikes, gutters, windows, brickwork, garage doors and much more then doing so with a pressure washer is quicker and far easier than even attempting the same with a hose. For truly immaculate results you need to invest in the correct equipment.
And that is what T3's buying guide here is designed to help with, it has been crafted like our best garden hose, best BBQ and best cordless lawnmowers guides to help people find the perfect product for them.
As such, we've included pressure washers from across the price spectrum, so there's something here for every budget, as well as made recommendations as to what each model is best at. Not sure which type of pressure washer you need? Then be sure to also check out T3's how to buy the right pressure washer for you guide.
The best pressure washers you can buy today
The all-singing K7 is clearly the best option for regular, wide-scale blasting but, given that pressure washers aren’t used that often, the smaller, lighter and cheaper K4 Full Control Home is almost as efficient, though it does come with a shorter hose (6m instead of 10m), a moderately lower 130 bar pressure rating and a smaller patio attachment. Like its larger stablemate, it’s also a bit clunky to pull around.
We tried the spray lance at close quarters on a very grubby garden path and watched in amazement as a spotlessly clean stripe appeared in mere seconds. We also tested the patio brush using the plug-in detergent dispenser and it tackled the dirt almost as efficiently. On one especially hot day, the K4 also served as an awesome mist atomizer when sprayed from about 10 feet away; the garden was literally filled with a super fine plume of cool mist. The K4 also accepts a multitude of other accessories, most notably a handy car brush, which you can be sure your neighbours will want to borrow.
• Read our Kärcher K4 Full Control review
If you want the best pressure washer out there, you’ll struggle to do better than the Kärcher K7. It’s powerful, capable of cleaning a large range of items with multiple pressure layers, and the fastest we tested, too.
The Kärcher K7 also has got an attractive design and was easy to put together out of the box, and the LED display on the handle makes it easy to keep an eye on how hard the pressure is.
This is a sizeable pressure washer and that means you get plenty of on-board storage for its accessories, which include a telescopic handle, full control lances, and patio cleaner.
The 3-in-1 Multi Jet lance is the star of the show, though, as by simply twisting it you can select the perfect mode for any cleaning application, which when used along with the K7's Plus 'n' Clean system allows for even delicate items like cycles to be cleaned.
You’ll need to be OK paying the extra money for the unit, which is undoubtedly at the premium end of the market in terms of price, but if you want a pressure washer that will last for years, this was the most impressive model.
To see how this model of pressure washer stacks up against our number one choice for most people, then check out T3's Kärcher K4 vs Kärcher K7 comparison feature.
• Read our Kärcher K7 Premium Smart Control review
If you’re looking for a budget pressure washer, the lower-cost Karcher is very easy to recommend. The obvious flaws that come with a budget model don’t irk at the price point, and even the lower-power performance still offers decent results… it just takes a little longer.
Crucially, the Karcher K2 is a well-made unit, and the lightweight design makes this a perfect model for lugging around the garden or the car when cleaning - the portability helps make up for the rather short hose.
Despite it being the baby of the Karcher family, the K2 does comes with support for all Karcher pressure washer accessories, and included in the box is a detergent bottle and Car Kit with car brush, which is ideal for keeping the pride and joy looking brand new.
For smaller homes and for users with more modest outdoor cleaning needs, then the Karcher K2 is a great choice. To compare this model to our number one choice, then check out T3's Kärcher K4 vs. Kärcher K2 comparison feature.
And, for even more information on this pressure washer consult our detailed Kärcher K2 guide.
If you prefer something altogether more lightweight, try this cordless model from Kärcher. You can probably guess how this goes down: it's much less powerful than a corded pressure washer, but for less arduous cleaning tasks – light cleaning of cars and bikes for instance – it's a lot more convenient. You can use it to scrub the muck off your patio or clean more filthy vehicles, but you will be there longer.
In terms of flexibility, though, the KHB5 is pretty much unrivalled. In stead of plugging you hose into a base station, which then has to be brought along on your cleaning adventure (and all base stations are heavy and not very manoeuvrable), with the KHB5 you just plug the hose directly into the lance's handle. This makes it operate a lot more like a regular hose head than a pressure washer.
Of course, the KHB5 does offer significantly more power than a standard hose head, and this functionality is powered by its removable battery pack. This battery slots into the bottom of the lance's handle and has a small LED screen that shows you the charge level. Recharging takes place by connecting the battery to a charging cradle. Of course, the key to using this pressure washer effectively is to always make sure the battery is charged.
To see how this system compares to another affordable pressure washer, be sure to check out T3's Kärcher K2 vs. Kärcher KHB5 comparison feature.
• Read our full Kärcher KHB5 review
The brand of choice amongst the professional fraternity, Stihl is always a safe bet, whether it’s gardening duties or, in this case, patio blasting. This entry-level super squirter is heavier than it ought to be and it doesn’t come with any bells or even any whistles but there is a host of accessories available for it should you wish to take your pressure washing to another level.
As it stands, this model comes with just two nozzles: fan and rotary. The fan nozzle is great for cleaning cars – from a safe distance less the paint’s stripped off – while the rotary nozzle is the one to grab for heavy duty cleaning of pathways, brickwork and, to a lesser degree, stripping paint.
Warning: Do not use a rotary nozzle on the car unless you want a bare aluminium look. The Stihl RE 98 also comes with a detergent but we found it does just as good a job without it and with no white chemical foam production in the process.
The Bosch was an impressive model, although it was one of the harder pressure washers to put together on test, with a number of different elements needed to be connected when in use. The hose is long enough, but often got caught up on the mechanism when winding it in, or twisted and harder to use.The cost is a little lower on this one, but does still have a high power output and a good range of available accessories for those looking to be able to clean their car or decking with ease.A solid performer, but one that lacked many standout features compared to the others on test.
The Nilfisk Core 140 is a solid performer for not very much money, so if you're looking for a cheap, lightweight pressure washer it is well worth checking out.
It has three different power levels, which are selected via the control knob on the front of the machine. These are 100%, 80% and 60% respectively, and it makes it easy to alter the power depending on what you're cleaning.
For example, when cleaning a cycle with delicate parts, you can opt for the 60% power option, while when blasting dirty patios you can crank things up to 100%.
The Core 140 also features an internal hose reel that is 6 metres in length, as well as a plug and play sprayer detergent system. The spray gun can also be attached with two heads, one for "gentle" application and one for "rough".
Portability is easy thanks to the Core 140's light weight (only 8.6kg) and the fact that it has a raised grab bar handle and built-in wheels.
We have to hand it to Muc-Off for creating a pressure washer that actually looks cool. Its rowdy pink and black paint job makes it stand out from a crowd of dull yellow and green lumps, while a neat bag (sold separately) helps to keep things orderly.
But the real coup for bicycle and motorcycle owners is the inclusion of specific lances that have been designed and tested against water ingress on bearings and the prevention of surface damage on frames, forks and components.
Other rival products may offer a multitude of lances or varying power settings, but very few have been tested by those with a passion for two wheels and when coupled with an optional snow foam lance and Muc-Off's clever cleaning products, it makes for a quick and efficient way to rid a mountain bike of caked-on filth. Although plenty powerful enough for cleaning cars and patios, it lacks some of the specific lances and connections for tackling such grimy jobs. But it will still give it a ruddy good shot.
The only problem with this pressure washer, then, is that it's been such a success that it's often sold out.
What is the best pressure washer?
In terms of the most impressive on test, the Karcher K7 Premium Full Control Plus Home ticked the most boxes, as it was the most powerful and able to cover the most ground quickly – it felt easily like the most premium option. The fact that is it came with various lances and the patio cleaner, which allows greater range of cleaning when connected and a more upright position for the user, really impressed us.
It also offered the ‘smoothest ride’ by far, with the vibration caused by the water streaming through minimised hugely – we found ourselves able to operate it for much longer, without needing to rest our hands.
However, if the K7 is out of your price range, then consider the similar but cheaper K4 Premium Full Control Home, a pressure washer which is also much lighter. It doesn’t have as long a hose or as powerful a motor but it cuts through even the most ingrained dirt and mildew with aplomb. And like the K7, it comes with a patio cleaner attachment too. Get more information in our 5-star Kärcher K4 Full Control Home Pressure Washer review.
We must also point out the brand new addition from Muc-Off, as the motorcycling/bicycle experts have created a pressure washer that's now safe to use on these sensitive souls. A variety of lances (sporting a range of pressures) means you can now blast the filth off a mountain bike with no worries.
The Stihl RE 98 is another fine option, although it doesn’t ship with any fancy extras, aside from the obligatory spray jet and rotary nozzles. Further down the list, the Nilfisk D-PG 140.4 X-tra and Bosch AQT 45-14 X both performed well in terms of outright power, but neither come with the patio cleaner as standard. We tested them with the accessory, but both lacked the hefty feel that the Karcher K7 and K4 came with.
We found the main issue with the K7 was that it would sometimes not be able to draw enough power from the wall tap, which would mean the pressure would drop when using. You can’t tailor the pressure levels directly from the lance, where the Nilfisk model has a clever wireless function that allows you to change the power for when you don’t need the full whack if you suddenly decide to clean the window that you’ve splattered with mud.
The Karcher K2 feels decidedly budget and doesn’t come with the range of accessories you’d hope for, but like its bigger brothers, the K7 and K4, it offers detergent in the box which can make cleaning brickwork a cinch.
However, with multiple pets around we decided against trying this, despite the materials saying that when it’s dried it’s safe – you might want to check if there are any neighbourhood pets around if you’re thinking of doing the same thing.
How to choose the best pressure washer for you
When it comes to choosing a new pressure washer, you need to decide what you want it to do. If it’s just clean a small pathway once a year, then you’ll likely be OK with a simple, low-cost model for as little as £80.
However, if you want a wide variety of pressures, enabling you to clean everything from trainers to a multi-car driveway, you’ll need to invest a few hundred pounds to make sure you’re getting the right accessories and power options on offer.
It can be tricky to work out what the specs actually mean, but in our testing, we found only two different things really matter: the power of the motor (and therefore pressure), which is measured in bars, and the length of the hose.
The fact is, most pressure washers will do the job of cleaning up brickwork, which is the traditional use for these units – it’s just that the more expensive models will cover more ground in less time, so it’s your back that you’re saving.
We should add that, in some instances, a pressure washer can actually make things look worse. For instance, we tried blasting some algae from a garden fence, only to realise that it took most of the paint off too. Whoops.
How we test pressure washers
The applications of pressure washers are wide-ranging, and at T3 we try to use each pressure washer we review in multiple applications before bestowing a score on it.
However, from our extensive testing of pressure washers over the years we've learned that the two primary uses of a pressure washer are cleaning patios and decking, as well as cleaning vehicles such as cars and motorbikes.
As such, we always use a pressure washer for both of these things, as they are what the vast majority of buyers will use the kit for. It helps us give the prospective buyer the most accurate take on a pressure washer that is possible.
In terms of each piece of hardware, we first evaluate how easy it is to setup the pressure washer, which includes the clarity of instructions. Once the pressure washer is setup we take a look at design and build quality. Here we're looking to see what the fit and finish is like on the main body, as well as how well-made any spray lance or included accessories are.
From there we move on to performance, which involves using and moving the system in a cleaning scenario. We're looking at effectiveness of cleaning, reach and power of the spray gun, what different spray modes are on offer, and how the washer handles any detergent or cleaning agent.
Some sample cleaning scenarios we undertake include: patio cleaning, decking cleaning, masonry cleaning, window cleaning, automobile cleaning, push bike cleaning and gutter cleaning, among others.
Next we have look at any included accessories included in the pressure washer package, such as dedicated patio cleaners or spray gun extenders. We also test out any companion app at this stage to see what it offers in terms of unit control and customisation.
Finally, we compare the pressure washers to others on the market at a similar price point, or those that offer the same sort of functionality. With all this considered we then bestow a star score on the pressure washer and, if it is high, consider it for our best pressure washers buying guide.
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