How to Choose a Pressure Washer

For outdoor cleaning projects, a pressure washer is the best tool for the job. They are up to 50 times more powerful than a sprayer attachment on a garden hose and use a lot less water. Also called a power washer, you can clean a number of things such as your car, driveway or even the vinyl siding on your home with this tool. How to choose a pressure washer depends on several factors.


A stream of water from a pressure washer
  1. Assess your outdoor cleaning needs. Lighter cleaning jobs include washing cars, boats and garden furniture. Tougher cleaning jobs include decking, concrete stains, vinyl siding and stripping paint.

  2. An electric pressure washer and a gas-powered model
  3. Choose between an electric-powered and gas-powered pressure washer based on your needs. An electric-powered model requires close proximity to an electrical outlet. It is lightweight, easy to use, economical, produces little operational noise and is best for lighter cleaning jobs. A gas-powered model can be used anywhere outside because it requires no electricity. It is louder than electric models and provides stronger cleaning abilities which are great for both light and tough cleaning jobs.

  4. Decide on a hot water pressure washer or a cold water model. Cold water cleans great especially when paired with pressure washer detergent. This model type is cheaper and easier to use and maintain. Hot water pressure washers clean more thoroughly, particularly on oil-based stains. They depend on a heater attachment fueled by propane or diesel, which raises the price tag.

  5. Determine the PSI (pounds per square inch) water pressure strength you desire for your outdoor cleaning jobs. The higher the PSI you choose, the greater the cleaning power of the pressure washer. Light cleaning jobs like washing cars are best served with 1200 to 1400 PSI whereas tougher cleaning jobs, such as removing oil from your driveway or cleaning vinyl siding, are made easier with 2200 to 3500 PSI washers. A pressure washer with 1500 to 2000 PSI is quite acceptable for most average cleaning jobs around the home.

  6. Select the pump drive type for your pressure washer based on how often you will use this outdoor cleaning tool. The direct drive type is best for light to medium duty a few times a week. The belt drive type is best for longer, heavier duty cleaning jobs that average 20 hours or more a week.

  7. Compare the overall cleaning units (CU) of the pressure washer. Cleaning units are calculated by the rate of gallons per minute (GPM) of water flow multiplied by the PSI. The higher the CU rating, the better the pressure washer cleans.


  • Never point the pressurized spray of water directly at people, animals and breakable items. A pressure washer can break windows and cause damage or injury when used incorrectly.

About the Author

Tiana Mortimer has been Executive Director for a nonprofit boychoir organization since 1999 and a freelance writer since 2004. Her nonprofit work has been published in a variety of regional publications and she has ghostwritten hundred of articles for the internet. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Operations Management and Marketing from the University of Houston.