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Pressure washers work by using an electric motor to power a pump, which in turn accelerates water through a nozzle at high pressure - hence the name.
The resulting watery jet can then be pointed at a grubby object for super-speedy cleaning. Pressure washers also use a lot less water per hour than a bog standard hose, so not only will you save time, you’ll save water too.
Both the wattage of the motor in your machine and the water pressure it generates (measured in bars) determines the effectiveness of a pressure washer.
Best pressure washers at a glance
- Best for ease of use: Nilfisk Core 140
- Best for a spic and span clean: Karcher K5 Power Control
- Best for heavy duty use: Stihl RE 130 PLUS
- Best budget option: Husqvarna PW 235R
- Best for a space saver: Bosch EasyAquatak
- Best for power to cost ratio: Bosch Universal Aquatak 135
- Best no frills option: Mac Allister MPWP1800-3
What is a pressure washer’s flow rate? What should I look for?
A pressure washer’s flow rate is also an important factor, which is usually measured in litres per hour (or l/h).
A high flow rate will give you more ‘gush’ and will be more suitable for tackling larger areas such as driveways and expanses of brickwork. The type of nozzle you fit on the end of the lance (the bit where the water comes out) is also crucial. The narrower the nozzle aperture, the higher the water velocity, so pressure washers will often come with a variety of options to cover both delicate spraying and focussed blasting.
When should I use full power on my pressure washer?
It’s also worth noting that a pressure washer operating on full power can ruin car paintwork and carve unwanted patterns in delicate outdoor furniture very quickly, especially when fitted with a narrow nozzle. To avoid unwanted damage, always give your pressure washer a test blast before aiming it at your intended target.
We’ve been washing down paths, cars, fences and furniture to flush out the finest pressure washers on the market. Here’s seven of the best…
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This dapper Danish pressure washer hails from Nilfisk, a Copenhagen-based company who specialise in supplying high quality cleaning equipment for professional and home use.
It’s a beautifully designed ‘cabin luggage’ style washer that conceals its hose in a handy covered reel on the front of the unit, with slots for its two nozzle attachments (for gentle and rough cleaning) situated at the rear.
Operation is straightforward and unfussy, with a twist dial offering a three-step power control (full power, 80% power and 60% power).
Its robust aluminium pump and 1.8KW motor generate 140 bars and a flow rate of just under 500 l/h, which proved more than a match for our old, algae-ravaged decking we tested it on.
To level up your washers cleaning capabilities, Nilfisk also offers a range of handy attachments to purchase separately, such as a handy angled roof cleaner and a tube attachment to help shift unmentionables from blocked drains.
Boasting a whopping 145 bar pressure, a 500 l/h flow rate and all the attachments you could ever wish for, the K5 Power Control from Karcher will help you de-filth a multitude of objects in a wide range of scenarios.
We found the assembly instructions a little sketchy (set aside 20-30 minutes and be prepared for teeth gnashing and swearing) but once we were up and running, it was a blast to use, proving to be powerful, responsive and extremely versatile.
It’s a beefy old unit and rather heavy to lug around, and it would have been nice to see a more effective way of storing the cable and hose when not in use, but anyone wishing to spray some serious cash on a top spec power washer would be wise to take a look at this big yellow fellow.
Looking for a muscular pressure washer for frequent home or commercial work? Then point and squirt your eyes at the RE130 Plus – a punchy, heavyweight unit from Stihl that’s specced up to the max to handle the rigours of repeated use.
Featuring a nine metre steel-reinforced hose, brass connectors and an aluminium pump, this washer packs an impressive 140 bar working pressure and a 500 l/h flow rate.
Attachments have been paired down to the essentials, so you get two easy-fit nozzles that stow away neatly in the side cable compartment plus a detergent bottle that clings snugly to the rear of the unit.
In use, the RE 130 feels controlled and well-balanced, with water flow easily controlled with a twist of the nozzle.
A special mention too for the heavy duty reel and winding handle that makes short work of hauling and stowing the heavy hose when your work is done.
Husquvarna’s mid-priced watery offering is a sleek, slimline unit, resplendent in a zingy, orange and grey casing that feels solid and reassuringly robust.
Like the Nilfisk and Stihl washers (above), it sports a durable aluminium pump and has quick-fit hose fittings to aid rapid deployment.
Spray power is controlled by a touchpad on the handle which does seem a bit overengineered and unnecessary for our basic needs (not to mention it took an age to fit the battery thanks to an absolutely minute screw in the battery housing lid), but it was fun to play with when we got it up and running.
In use, we couldn’t really fault this machine – it’s a comfortable, powerful washer to use and feels a lot more expensive than its modest price point would suggest.
This compact pressure washer from Bosch is built for ease of storage, with its diminutive size making it easy to stow on a shed shelf or stash in the boot of your car.
The casing feels a tad flimsy and style-wise it may put off pressure washer purists (think ‘robots school lunch box’) but don’t be fooled by looks – this unit still packs plenty of punch.
The relatively modest 110 bar pressure struggled with the lichen-encrusted patio we tasked it with, but point it towards a mucky mountain bike or mud-flecked pathway and it’ll sort them out with consummate ease.
Weighing in at a shade under 4kg means that it’s also extremely manoeuvrable, making it the ideal partner in grime for tackling dirty windows and filthy greenhouse panes.
For Bosch washer fans wanting a bit more thrust we’d suggest taking a look at the Universal Aquatak which offers a 135 bar pressure jet, delivered from a lightweight plastic chassis.
Whilst understandably less compact than the Easy Aquatak (above), it’s still a dinky unit which will stow away neatly in your shed or garage.
Unlike the other wheel-based washers we had on test, the Universal Aquatak is ready to go, straight out of the box so no fiddly assembly is required.
This unit opts for a single nozzle with three different apertures that can be switched easily on the fly with a twist of the wrist.
We found the Aquatak 135 to be an agile, powerful performer that dealt efficiently with our dirty deeds.
If you are in the market for a decent, low cost pressure washer, this muck-busting Mac Allister is well worth a look.
It comes packing a spray gun, two adjustable nozzles and a foam sprayer, and sports a generous 6 metre hose for accessing areas difficult to reach.
On paper, the 440 l/h flow rate looks a little low compared to the other pressure washers on test, but we didn’t really notice any dramatic drop in performance as we blasted away at the crud on our car tyres.
The rotary power control at the heart of the machine is easy to access when you need to dial down the power, and we found the trigger handle grippy and responsive to our watery demands.