Pressure washer reviews: Features explained

Pressure washers (also known as jet washers and power washers) deliver a powerful concentrated jet of water to remove dirt more efficiently than a brush, and use less water than you would with a garden hose.

Pressure washer features

Before buying or hiring a pressure washer, think about what you are going to use it for. This will help you decide which features and accessories will be most useful to you. To find out which of our Best Buy pressure washers have the specification you need, read our pressure washer reviews. 

Detergent tank

This lets you pump specially formulated cleaning solutions through the nozzle. Some smaller machines have a detergent bottle attachment for the lance (lance-mounted) but these tend to be less convenient than integral detergent tanks within the main body of the machine. Some Karcher models have a suction tube that can draw in detergent from any suitable container but again this is less convenient than integral detergent tanks.  For most tasks other than car cleaning, detergent isn't needed, unless surfaces are particularly greasy or stained. 

Wheels

These are useful on the heavier machines. Check the handle is tall enough to wheel the machine around without stooping. Before buying a heavy model, consider whether you'll need to transport it up steps or over uneven ground as wheels will not be of much use in these circumstances - you'll need to be able to carry it.

Pressure gauge

pressure gauge

Pressure gauges are of little practical use

Some more expensive models have a pressure gauge on the lance handle, but as the pump pressure doesn't vary they're of little practical use.


Attachment storage

On-board storage for spare lances and attachments means they are always ready for use, and you can just wheel the whole machine inside for storage. Few machines have on-board storage for a patio cleaner attachment.

Cable tidy

This ensures the power cable is less likely to be a trip hazard in storage and get into a tangle. Simpler machines have a single hook for the cable to hang on. Better is a two-hook winder or an integral cable reel.

Safety lock

All triggers should have a safety lock to avoid accidental use. Designs vary, so check how easy it is to use.

rotary jet

Rotary jets are useful for shifting stubborn grime

Pressure washer accessories

Lances

Basic pressure washers come with just one lance; more expensive models come with several, but make sure you'll have a use for all of them. 

  • Fixed jet lance The pressure of this jet can't be adjusted, though you can hold it further from the surface to reduce the force.
  • Variable fan-jet lances Also called variable pressure lances, these allow you to vary the force of the jet from a focused point to a broad fan. This is useful for gentler cleaning or easily damaged surfaces such as decking and cars.
  • Rotary lances (sometimes called 'Dirt Blasters' or 'Roto-power' lances) aren't adjustable but the focused jet spins as it leaves the nozzle and you can vary the cleaning power of the jet by moving it closer to the surface. These are useful for shifting grime on paving slabs but should never be used on decking or cars - particularly tyres.
  • Angled lances are useful for cleaning the underside of cars and garden furniture.

Our pressure washer reviews specify the types of lances that are supplied as standard with all of the models Which? have tested.

Brushes

Some pressure washers come with brushes - these are useful for washing your car and for cleaning a greenhouses and conservatories.
Fixed brushes just allow the water to flow out through holes between the bristles, whereas a rotary brush uses the power of the water to rotate a circular brush.


Patio cleaner attachment

patio cleaner on wall

Patio cleaners with handles can be used on walls and fences

Some machines come with a patio cleaning attachment, or you can buy one separately for around £40-£50. These attachments are circular plastic hoods with a brush around the bottom edge. Inside, a pair of jets rotates at high speed close to the ground to remove dirt. Some models have hand grips so you can use them on vertical surfaces like walls and fences. 

We found patio cleaners can make the job easier and less messy than using a standard lance as you're less likely to stoop when using it and the plastic hood helps to stop dirty water spraying everywhere. 

Patio cleaners are also less likely to blast the sand away from block paving than conventional lances. However, in our tests, most don't clean between paving slabs very well. For a Best Buy pressure washer that has an effective patio cleaner, see our pressure washer reviews.  

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