5 things I wish I'd known before I bought a pressure washer

I've owned a pressure washer for over half a decade now, and these are the lessons I've learned

Kärcher pressure washer
(Image credit: Karcher)

I've been reviewing the best pressure washers at T3 now for over half a decade, and during that time I've learned plenty of lessons.

Pressure washers are fantastic outdoor cleaning tools and I frequently recommend them to T3 readers as well as my friends, family and colleagues.

However, if you are planning on buying a pressure washer, there are some things I wish someone had told me when I first started using one that I feel it is important to pass on.

As such, here are 5 key pieces of pressure washer info that I feel everyone should know.

Pressure washers

(Image credit: Kärcher)

1. Too much power is a schoolboy error

Ok, if there one thing you should learn straight away after buying a pressure washer is don't use maximum power for all jobs. Just because your pressure washer can fire out water at a ridiculously high pressure doesn't mean you should use it like that for every application.

Indeed, use a pressure washer such as the Karcher K4 at maximum power while  cleaning your car and you'll strip the paint of that motor quicker than you can blink. Same is true when, say, cleaning a wooden fence or decking. Walk up to that surface and unleash the full power of your pressure washer and you're going to be left with stripped, bare wood that will then rot easily.

Own a cycle or motorbike? Well, again, you absolutely don't want to use full power on these as you'll degrease chains, blow bearings out and strip paintwork and decals.

The lesson? Turn that power down to a suitable level for all but the most demanding of jobs. You simply won't need anywhere near full power to really clean most things well.

Karcher K2 Power Control review

(Image credit: Future)

2. If your power drops, check your hose

This is a small thing but caught me out badly when I originally experience it. I wanted to pressure wash my front drive and after bringing out my pressure washer and hooking everything up, I proceeded to turn the system on, selected the correct nozzle setting on my spray lance, slotted in a bottle of detergent and then pulled the trigger.

And, far from getting the powerful pressure washer spray that I wanted, I instead got a weak stream that was like using a normal hose pipe attachment. I immediately freaked out, believing the pressure washer's motor had broken, as I couldn't hear anything happening from the main unit. I then checked to make sure the power was indeed on, which it was, before doing a quick glance at the hose pipe, which looked fine too.

After 10 minutes of WTF?! I then finally realised that the pressure washer hose had, just under the lip of my upper patio, become kinked out of sight. This meant the pressure washer wasn't receiving water in the quantity it needed to operate.

The lesson? Make sure you have eyes on your hose from tap to pressure washer, as kinks and coils will affect performance.

Best pressure washer 2022: image depicts pressure washer blasting decking

(Image credit: Canva)

3. Using a pressure washer is a messy business

Here's another top tip that was not obvious to me when I first started using a pressure washer – it's a seriously messy business.

Sometimes you look at something and it just looks filthy, such as a mountain bike caked in mud after a month of extreme off-road usage.

But other things, such as decking and patios for example, can look relatively clean in the grand scheme of things. But, don't be fooled!

The first time I cleaned my patio with a pressure washer I was dressed in shorts, T-shirt and boots, and while they weren't my best clothes, they certainly weren't tatty old clothes I held on to for painting and manual labour.

Within about 20 minutes of use I was covered in mud and detritus that had been blown up off the patio, as well as pretty wet, too from all the back spray. I had to put everything I was wearing in the wash, boots included, just to get them back to some form of usability.

If only someone had told me that using a pressure washer in any situation will result in lots of mess before I used it. Well, now I've told you, so you don't have to make the same mistake.

I advise people to pressure wash in old clothes and, ideally, wearing wipeable water proof outer layer.

Muc Off pressure washer

(Image credit: Muc Off)

4. Add-in pressure washer detergents are fantastic

If, like me, you own multiple vehicles and have bought a pressure washer primarily to clean them then I heavily advise that you also invest in some detergent add-in bottles.

Top brands like Karcher make many different types of these detergents, ranging from ones specifically for vehicle cleaning through to patio washing, and they make the whole process quicker and better.

Can you achieve the same results just using water and then manually shampooing? Probably in a lot of cases, but while that's quite easy when cleaning vehicles, when cleaning wood or stone not so much.

A bottle of universal cleaner costs under a tenner and will last you a good while, so speed up your pressure washing and get better results with just a little extra spend.

Karcher K5

(Image credit: Karcher)

5. Kärcher is the maker of the best pressure washers

Anyone who has read T3.com over the past 5 years will have seen that the best pressure washers, in my opinion, are made by Kärcher right now.

It's not just the build quality or features either that make me think this, either, but the fact that the Kärcher range is really extensive and it, literally, has a pressure washer that is probably right for every user.

From the lightweight and compact Kärcher K2, which is ideal if you just want a system to clean small vehicles and facias, through the really strong all-rounder that is the Kärcher K4, and onto the powerhouse flagship Kärcher K7, there's a great range on offer at a wide variety of price points.

Don't get me wrong, pressure washers from other manufacturers such as Nilfisk are also quality (the Nilfisk Core 140 is defo worth a look), but I think you can't go wrong in 2022 when shopping for a pressure washer if you shop Kärcher.

My number one piece of advice when buying a pressure washer

And, if you are looking to buy a pressure washer, my number one piece of advice is to pick up a pressure washer that will suit your needs, and not to buy a piece of equipment that is overkill for you or not up to the jobs you need it to tackle.

If you just want to wash bicycles and small vehicles, as well as do the odd bit of facia, door and window cleaning then plump for a compact, lightweight pressure washer. You simply don't need the power and attachments on offer by the bigger systems.

But, equally, don't buy a cheap lightweight pressure washer if you need a system to tackle large patios, areas of decking, heavy masonry work and a large quantity of vehicles. You'll just spend much longer than you should do on each job and get worse results.

Robert Jones

Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. As the editor of PC Gamer, and former Deputy Editor for T3.com, you can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket his two favourites.