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Pressure washers can be a godsend when it comes to cleaning a wide range of items, whether it’s mildew-covered patio tiles and stained garden benches or cars, bicycles and climbing frames.
We had at our disposal an abundance of surfaces to challenge the toughest of pressure washers.
We tested them out on garden furniture marked with oily barbecue-related stains, mildew-covered patio tiles, bicycles caked with two years’ worth of mud, and a prized car in need of a deep (albeit delicate) clean.
Looking at everything from assembly to ease of use and control, any clever additional features and of course, value for money, these are the seven pressure washers we think are worth investing in for 2021.
Read on for the full breakdown, as well as our in-depth need-to-know guide for anyone considering purchasing a pressure washer.
The best pressure washers for 2021 are:
Best for portability – Nilfisk core 140-6 home pressure washer 1800W: £169.99, Robertdyas.co.uk
Best for heavy stains – Kärcher K 7 premium smart control home pressure washer: £479, Viking-direct.co.uk
Best for versatility –Stihl RE 130 plus electric power washer: £343.50, Mowers2go.co.uk
Best for small spaces – Bosch EasyAquatak 100 long lance: £64, Amazon.co.uk
Best budget buy – Halfords PW10 pressure washer: £55, Halfords.com
Best for large gardens – Kärcher washer K 5 premium smart control home: £399.99, Kaercher.com
Best for ease of use – Powerbase 2000W pressure washer: £149, Homebase.co.uk
Nilfisk core 140-6 home pressure washer – 1800W
Best: For portability
Maximum pressure: 140 BAR
Maximum flow rate: 474 litres per hour
Size: 88.2 x 37.1 x 30 cm
Hose length: 6m
Motor power: 1800W
Who said pressure washers have to look boring? Nilfisk clearly doesn’t subscribe to this belief – the core 140-6 home pressure washer adds a dash of cheery royal blue to the pressure washer world, although it’s more than just a pretty face. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of kit which is a joy to use (and yes, we did just say that about a pressure washer), thanks to an innovative design and brilliant usability. Many of the features are ones we wish we saw more of. For example, instead of having a safety catch on the trigger, there’s simply an on/off switch next to it – flick it on and the trigger will move freely, while flicking it off will lock the trigger in place.
We also loved the fact that we didn’t always have to replace the entire wand – just the shot glass-size nozzles, all of which are clearly marked with symbols relating to their purpose, and which slot neatly into dedicated holes at the top of the pressure washer when not in use. Our other favourite feature? The internal reel for the hose, which meant no hose-related trip hazards – any excess lengths of hose can simply be reeled in.
Buy now £169.99, Robertdyas.co.uk
Kärcher K 7 premium smart control home pressure washer
Best: For heavy stains
Maximum pressure: 180 BAR
Maximum flow rate: 550 litres per hour
Size: 33 x 45.9 x 66.6 cm
Hose length: 10m
Cord length: 5m
Motor power: 28000 W
Marketed as Kärcher’s most powerful pressure washer, this hi-tech power washer, which launched in early 2021, does it all – its extra oomph, courtesy of 180 BAR water pressure, will vaporise stubborn stains from high traffic areas, but its wide range of settings means it can also be used on surfaces where a little more care is required, whether it’s bicycles or car doors splattered with aerial bombardments by the local birdlife.
Kärcher has always been one of our favourite brands for car-friendly power washers, but the K 7 takes it up a notch, and we loved how we could scroll through settings using either the trigger controls or the app. Like the also popular K 5 (more on this below), the K 7 has a handy digital display next to the trigger, allowing for total control.
Buy now £479.00, Viking-direct.co.uk
Stihl RE 130 plus electric power washer
Best: For versatility
Max pressure: 150 BAR
Minimum flow rate: 500 litres per hour
Hose length: 9m
Cord length: 5m
Motor power: 2300W
This is another incredibly compact pressure washer with clever features which minimise the space it takes up. For example, many pressure washers have bulky detergent tanks, even though detergent isn’t always required. Not so with the 130 plus – one of its nozzles has a detergent bottle attached, which can simply be put to one side if detergent isn’t needed. There’s also a smooth extendable handle, and it’s got the next best thing to an internal hose reel – an external one with a metal framework which makes it easy to only pull out the exact length of hose required.
It’s another pressure washer which doesn’t come with separate wands, but separate nozzles which fit onto the wand’s end – another brilliant space saver. Our favourite bit? The way the electric cable didn’t simply wrap around an external reel but could be stashed in its own enclosed storage space.
Buy now £343.50, Mowers2go.co.uk
Bosch EasyAquatak 100 long lance
Best: For small spaces
Pressure: 100 BAR
Flow rate: 300 litres per hour
Size: 20 x 40 x 31.5 cm
Hose length: 5m
Cord length: 5m
Motor power: 1200W
A pressure washer which costs under £100 is unlikely to do the same job as one which costs five times the price, but the Bosch EasyAquatak 100 long lance is one of the best power washers we’ve come across for under £100, and it’s incredibly simple to put together – the majority of the parts simply slot into place. Although its cord is on the short side, the extra-long lance means this isn’t a problem. It’s a great option for those with smaller gardens, partly due to its compact, innovative build.
Highlights include the space at the bottom of the pressure washer into which the hose can be tucked, and the wand’s three-part construction, which makes storage easy and quick. We also appreciated the chunky trigger, which made it easy to operate even when our hands were wet and soapy.
Buy now £64.00, Amazon.co.uk
Halfords PW10 pressure washer
Best: Budget buy
Pressure: 70 BAR
Maximum flow rate: 300 litres per hour
Hose length: 5m
Motor Power: 1400W
Despite a slightly low maximum pressure, this compact pressure washer, which reminds us of the backpacks carried by Ghostbusters, still blasts out a seriously powerful jet of water, and one which can be quickly tweaked by simply twisting the nozzle, which instantly changes the shape and power of the flow. There’s minimal assembly required, and the parts which need to be attached – such as the handle at the top, and a holster for the wand – are simple to remove, which meant we could easily stow it into the very cramped corners of our garden shed. We tested it on a particularly dirty garden bench using a wide spray setting, and a thick layer of moss, mildew and caked-on soil (we’re pretty sure some mushrooms might have even sprouted) evaporated in seconds.
Buy now £55.00, Halfords.com
Kärcher washer K 5 premium smart control home
Best: For large gardens
Maximum pressure: 145 BAR
Maximum flow rate: 500 litres per hour
Size: 41.4 x 30.6 x 58.8 cm
Hose length: 10m
Cord length: 5m
Weight: 13.9kg (without accessories)
Motor power: 2100W
Kärcher’s new pressure washer, which has been designed to be used in conjunction with an app, packs a serious punch, and it’s a surprisingly compact package – it’s incredibly manoeuvrable, with chunky wheels and a sturdy reel which prevents time-consuming tangles. There’s a small amount of assembly needed – certain parts clip on but require screws to keep them in place – but we set ours up in a matter of minutes, thanks partly to the brilliant app, which covers everything from assembly to operation.
It’s incredibly powerful – we cranked up the power (with a light touch of the plus and minus buttons near the trigger) to clean some particularly dirty garden furniture, and years of grime disappeared in seconds. The sturdy patio cleaner (included as standard) means it’s just as good on stonework.
Buy now £399.99, Kaercher.com
Powerbase 2000W pressure washer
Best: For ease of use
Maximum pressure: 145 BAR
Maximum flow rate: 450 litres per hour
Hose length: 7m
Cord length: 7m
Motor power: 2000W
It was the little things we loved about this pressure washer, including the way the wand screwed onto the hose rather than clipping on – a simple feature which gave a much tighter connection. Its meaty 145 BAR also helped it throw out one of the longest jets of water we’ve come across, and one which spruced up our seriously neglected patio tiles in seconds.
In our opinion, this is one of the best pressure washers in terms of versatility – a wide range of brushes comes as standard, including a triangular brush which meant applying extra cleaning power to tight corners and narrow spaces was a breeze. It’s also incredibly compact, something aided by a folding handle on the hose reel, side holsters for the various attachments and built-in detergent tank for those extra-tough stains.
Buy now £149.00, Homebase.co.uk
Pressure washers FAQs
What is a pressure washer?
A pressure washer (often referred to as a power washer) uses a high-pressure jet of water to clean a wide range of items, including patios, garden furniture and cars.
What can you use a pressure washer for?
Pressure washers can clean everything from decking, garden furniture and fencing right through to vehicles, exterior paintwork, swimming pools, gutting and patios, while heavy duty machines can even clean large paths, driveways and stonework. A good machine should remove stubborn dirt and grime, mould, loose paint and even chewing gum.
How does a pressure washer work?
Pressure washers are mains-powered, and they also connect to a garden hose. In a nutshell? They’re water pumps powered by an electric motor. The water comes out of a part which is commonly described as either a nozzle or a wand. Pressure washers will usually come with different adaptors. These will typically be different, smaller nozzles which fit onto the end of the wand, or entire wands which can be easily attached and removed. These wands are often referred to as lances.
What type of pressure washer should I get (petrol or electric)?
Most pressure washers are electric, corded machines that run off mains electricity. They are quiet, affordable and easy to use. Petrol powered pressure washers are more powerful and expensive, making them more suitable for heavy-duty jobs and working away from home. They lack annoying cables but will need topping up with fuel.
Are pressure washers bad for your car?
Most pressure washers can be used to clean cars – even prized motors with pristine paint jobs. This is because the average pressure washer will come with several attachments, and will have controls which allow users to alter the power of the water jet.
“Most pressure washers can be used on vehicles, but you should always carefully follow the manufacturer’s guidance and advice,” says Paul Hicks, product and marketing manager at Stihl, one of the top pressure washer brands. “Always keep the water jet a reasonable distance from the car to avoid damage and consider using a dedicated cleaning solution to help remove the dirt from the car too.”
The best pressure washer features to look for
If you’re going to be using your pressure washer on a wide range of surfaces, you’ll want one with settings which allow you to quickly tweak the water pressure, while multiple fixtures – such as pressure washer brushes designed specifically for patios – will come in handy, too.
“Two of the main things to consider when choosing a pressure washer is the water pressure and flow rate,” says Stihl’s Paul Hicks. “Look out for a pressure washer that provides both good pressure and a high water flow rate. It’s easy to get high pressure, but the holy grail is a combination of a high pressure and a high flow rate.”
Light duty machines are up to 100 bar, which is good for decking, fences and garden furniture. Mid-range machines are 110 to 130 bar – these can also tackle vehicles, exterior paintwork, guttering and small patios and driveways. Heavy duty machines are 130+ bar – these are more suited to large areas, plus stonework and really grubby 4x4s or caravans.
Length of hose
It’s also worth taking a second to consider how the pressure washer will attach to your water source. “Make sure the washer can be connected to a standard hose or includes a syphoning kit suitable for any fresh water source,” says a spokesperson at Ryobi, another leading pressure washer manufacturer. “And make sure the washer is portable. This will allow you to clean on the go anytime, anywhere.”
All machines come with a standard spray head, but some come with added extras, including:
Specialist brushes (for cars and bikes, for example)
Specialist lance (most come with a basic one, but you can get others for different surfaces)
Patio cleaners (concentrates the power into a small area)
Foam nozzle (a handy way of applying detergent – great for vertical surfaces like cars)
On-board detergent tank that you can pre-fill with a cleaner of your choice
Professional hose (adds length to your water supply hose)
Pressure washers with this feature use the trigger on the spray gun, as opposed to a switch on the main machine, to start and stop the flow or water. This can save quite a bit of water, especially for more fiddly jobs that don’t require a constant flow of water.
If space is at a premium, look for more compact machines with integrated storage, especially for cables and hose reel.
How to care for your pressure washer
In the same way you drain a hose before storing it, make sure you drain any excess water from the hose after using the pressure washer. Storage is important, too. “Always make sure you hang your pressure washer gun and hose so that the water will drain out of them,” says a Ryobi spokesperson. “It’s also important to avoid storing it in an area where temperatures will get below freezing level.
The verdict: Pressure washers
For the ultimate deep clean, Nilfisk’s core 140-6 home pressure washer won’t let you down – not only can it blast out 474 litres of water per hour, but it’s incredibly easy to use, too. We also loved the space-saving features – who would have thought we’d find ourselves getting so excited about an internal reel? But trust us – these often-overlooked features will quickly prove their worth, especially if you’re short on space.
Kärcher recently launched two new pressure washers, but it’s the sheer power of the K 7 premium smart control home pressure washer which deserves a special mention.
Stihl’s RE 130 plus electric power washer also deserves a shout out – it’s incredibly powerful but comes packed with handy features, such as a built-in storage area for the cable.
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For more garden gadgets, read our review of the best robot lawnmowers that get the job done for you