Best pressure washer 2018: clean everything from trailers to driveways

Want that drive to sparkle? Get these hard water magicians

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There's nothing like the feeling of watching dirt literally stream off a brick… and these are the best pressure washers to give you just that thrill.

Granted, pressure washers are cumbersome beasts that need a power outlet nearby and access to a garden hose. But while you could spend hours scrubbing down an algae-covered pathway or a filthy outdoor wall and get absolutely nowhere while nursing an aching back in the process, a pressure washer does the job in minutes. 

Read on to find out more…

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. It was also impressive that it came with different lances and the patio cleaner, which allows greater range of cleaning when connected and a more upright position for the user, which saves back pain.

It also offered the ‘smoothest ride’ by far, with the vibration of the water streaming through minimised hugely – we found ourselves able to use it for much longer without needing to rest our hands.

However, if the K7 is out of your price range, then consider the almost identical K4 Premium Full Control Home, which is quite a bit cheaper and 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. 

The Stihl RE 98 is another fine option though 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 around £100.

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 that all 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 tested some of them on a garden path covered in green algae and they immediately restored it to its original appearance. Some folk may want their pathway to look like the day they installed it but there are just as many that prefer the seasoned, well-worn look. So, just remember that once you start pressure washing something like a pathway or patio, there’s no turning back.

Here are the best pressure washers

The Karcher K7 is the best pressure washer we've tested, but let's get a bit more in-depth on why the other options could be a great option for you!

Karcher K7 PREMIUM FULL CONTROL PLUS HOME

1. Karcher K7 PREMIUM FULL CONTROL PLUS HOME

The best pressure washer on test - if you’re willing to pay

Specifications
Weight: 18kg
Max pressure: 180 bar
Dimensions: 46.3 x 33 x 66.7 cm
Hose length: 10m
Max flow rate: 550 l/hr
Reasons to buy
+Smooth water flow+Good range of accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Large to store

If you want the best pressure washer out there, you’ll struggle to do better than the Karcher K7. It’s powerful, capable of cleaning a large range of items with multiple pressure layers, and the fastest we tested. It’s 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.You’ll need to be OK paying the extra money for the unit, but if you want a pressure washer that will last for years, this was the most impressive model.

KARCHER K4 FULL CONTROL HOME PRESSURE WASHER

2. KÄRCHER K4 FULL CONTROL HOME PRESSURE WASHER

Best all-round washer for discerning folk

Specifications
Weight: 12kg
Max pressure: 130 bar
Dimensions: 41.5 x 30.5 x 58.4 cm
Hose length: 6m
Max flow rate: 420 l/hr
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performer+Good range of extras
Reasons to avoid
-Main unit is awkward to move around-Patio cleaner works best on smooth surfaces

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. 

STIHL RE 98

3. STIHL RE 98

Best for wannabe pros

Specifications
Weight: 16.2kg
Max pressure: 120 bar
Dimensions: 41.5 x 30.5 x 58.4 cm
Hose length: 6m
Max flow rate: 380 l/hr
Reasons to buy
+Stihl reliability
Reasons to avoid
-No accessories included-Heavy to lift

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.

Bosch AQT 45-14 X

4. Bosch AQT 45-14 X

A strong performer with too much vibration

Specifications
Weight: 22kg
Max pressure: 140 bar
Dimensions: 80.8 x 40.8 x 37.4 cm
Hose length: 8m
Max flow rate: 450 l/hr
Reasons to buy
+Powerful performance+Robust design
Reasons to avoid
-High vibration in water stream-Patio cleaner lightweight

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.

Karcher K2

5. Karcher K2

The best budget option on test

Specifications
Weight: 4kg
Max pressure: 110 bar
Dimensions: 32.2 x 21.2 x 40 cm
Hose length: 4m
Max flow rate: 360 l/hr
Reasons to buy
+Cheap+Good range of accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Shorter hose than others-Smaller gun that others

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. It’s 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.

Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 Xtra 140

6. Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 Xtra 140

A powerful unit with an innovative handle

Specifications
Weight: 13.8kg
Max pressure: 140 bar
Dimensions: 87.5 x 39.5 x 34.5 cm
Hose length: 9m
Max flow rate: 450 l/hr
Reasons to buy
+Wireless control+Powerful motor
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn’t come with patio cleaner-Plastic holders can be fiddly to use

The Nilfisk is a solid performer, and one that comes with an innovative control solution through a wireless controller on the lance. This makes it easy to switch to low power mode for a more vulnerable part of the garden before blasting up to the most powerful mode to get your brickwork sparkling. Using the wireless control was a breeze, although the display isn’t great in direct sunlight and needed to be squinted at in summer.

For the price it’s a shame that all the accessories are optional, but with a high level of power at least you’re working with a decent base and can accessorise as you see fit.