What Kind of Pressure Washer Do I Need?

Choosing the right pressure washer and tools for your application is important. Use too little force, and you’ll have to repeat your efforts. Use too much, and you can damage the surface you are washing!

Picking A Pressure Washer

Pressure washing allows you to use much higher flow rates and temperatures than water coming directly out of a faucet. A gas or electric engine powers a pump that forces a high pressure, high flow stream of water through your hose, wand, and spray gun. Different engine, pump, and accessory configurations are available, each offering capabilities up to a certain limit. These limits are defined in terms of:

1. Pressure: pounds per square inch

2. Flow: gallons per minute (GPM) – sometimes indicated by hour (GPH) or day (GPD)

3. Water temperature: degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius

This is great info if you know exactly what pressure and flow you need for a given job. But, if you’re new to pressure washing, how can you tell?

Types of Users

Many pressure washers and accessories like hoses and guns also come with an additional designation: the type of user. Users are grouped into four common categories: Residential, Prosumer, Professional, Commercial.

4 different pressure washer types

Residential Pressure Washer

1. Cold water

2. Occasional use

3. Basic jobs

4. Around 1,000 – 2,000 PSI

You may be in need of a residential pressure washer if you will be occasionally washing your own house, deck, garage, car, driveway, etc. These are lighter-duty models that won’t offer the same “oomph” as another grade of pressure washer – intentionally so! A professional or commercial pressure washer will deliver too much power for residential applications. It will be an unnecessary expense, and can potentially damage certain surfaces due to excessive force.

Prosumer Pressure Washer

1. Cold water

2. Monthly use

3. Basic jobs

4. Around 2,000 – 3,000 PSI

Prosumers, or “professional consumers” are semi-professional consumers. These folks aren’t running a pressure washing business; rather, they are private individuals looking for a serious result, and have a little more experience in the area than a standard residential consumer. A prosumer pressure washer might be a good choice for a small business owner who needs to regularly power wash their auto repair garage floor, parking lot, or other heavily trafficked area.

Professional Pressure Washer

1. Hot or cold water options

2. Weekly use

3. Large jobs

4. Higher PSI ranges (3,000+)

A professional pressure washer user is someone who is skilled in pressure washing and needs to deliver consistent, highly clean results on a regular basis. For instance, someone who is in charge of pressure washing the parking lots and buildings on a college campus might benefit from a professional grade power washer. They won’t be using the pressure washer every day, but when they do, it’s for large scale jobs that need superior results.

Commercial Pressure Washer

1. High temperature options

2. Daily use

3. Large/contract jobs

4. Highest PSI (3,500+)

Commercial pressure washers are designed for daily use. Ideal for persons employed by a power washing business, these are exceptionally heavy-duty units – and often very heavy! In order to deliver the appropriate amount of pressure for nearly continual use, these units will feature large motors, pumps, and fuel tanks. They may be able to be moved around with a forklift or attached to a truck bed.

different types of pressure washers being used

Surface Cleaners

Pressure washing surface cleaners are typically round pressure washing units that attach directly to a pressure washer in lieu of a standalone wand or gun. They are designed to roll or ‘glide’ across floors and walls. They might also be known as graffiti removers, water brooms, or roof cleaners depending on the specifications of the unit.

Gas vs. Electric Power Washers

Electric pressure washers are often more compact, but deliver a lower PSI than gas-engine models. They work well at the residential and prosumer level, where an electric source is generally available.

Gas pressure washers may be louder and bigger than their electric counterparts, but can typically deliver a higher PSI and also work well in areas that do not have an electrical connection available. These are a good choice for professionals in need of a lot of power, or commercial users who take their business on the road and need to be able to operate anywhere.

Pressure Washer Accessories

Choosing the right accessories for the job is key! Just as how pressure washers can deliver certain flow rates and are designated for different types of users, accessories also fall into the same categories. If your pressure washer does not come with hoses, guns, and spray tips, or if you need to expand your selection, be sure to choose ones that match your pressure washer type and grade. Some accessories are only compatible with a gas or electric model, too!

Spray tips can make a great difference as well. Traditionally, standard quick connect pressure washer nozzles come in one of five colors, each with a different spray angle and application. Choosing the appropriate spray tip for your job can also mean the difference between a clean surface and damaged one!

Spray Tip Sizes/Colors

  1. Red – 0° spray angle with a direct solid stream. Use with caution on hard, durable surfaces.
  2. Yellow – 15° spray angle for heavy-duty cleaning. Ideal for durable surfaces like stained concrete.
  3. Green 25° spray angle for general purpose outdoor cleaning such as brick, decks, and porches.
  4. White – 40° spray angle for more delicate surfaces like stucco and aluminum siding.
  5. Black – 65° wide stream spray angle for gentle soaping and rinsing.
5 most common spray tip colors for pressure washers

Safe Pressure Washing

Finally, whether you’re using a residential pressure washer around the house or running a busy commercial power washing business, personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial. Wearing goggles, face shields, coveralls, and gloves is an important part of pressure washer safety!

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