There are two ways of achieving a sparkling driveway or car: get on your hands and knees with a brush and scrub until your knuckles bleed. Or invest in the best pressure washer. We suggest opting for the latter and the latest breed of jet washing devices are among some of the best yet, boasting professional technology in an affordable, commercial package.
On top of this, there are now bespoke devices that are safer to use on delicate objects, such as bicycles and motorcycles, with fewer worries about forcing H20 into bearings and sensitive motor parts.
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. If you're in the market for some serious outdoor cleaning power, we suggest you read on... Want to wait and bag a bargain instead? Try our Amazon Prime Day hub.
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.
Best pressure washers, in order
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 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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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.