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Home & garden.

13 August 2021

How to clean your car with a pressure washer

Tips to help you wash your car quickly and safely with a pressure washer. We also reveal the best models for cleaning your car.
Jade Harding
Pressure washer car 484155

Using a pressure washer to clean your car is easier than hand washing, and it uses less water than a hosepipe. 

But do it wrong and you could end up chipping the paintwork, ruining your tyres or soaking the interior. 

Watch our video below to find out how to clean your car effectively. Or keep scrolling to find out the best pressure washers for the job.


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Video: how to clean your car with a pressure washer

How to pressure wash your car

1. Rinse off the top layer of grit and grime

If you're using a machine with a variable jet spray, adjust it to a spray of approximately 5-8cm wide. 

You want the spray to be strong enough to clean the car but not to damage the paintwork. 

You will need to use a slightly wider and less powerful setting for the windows, lights and other fragile areas.

2. Apply a detergent

Set the pressure-washer nozzle to the widest and least powerful setting - or remove it altogether - to coat the entire car in a layer of detergent. 

Let it work its magic for a few moments, but don't let it dry or you'll be left with blemishes that will have to be buffed out later.

3. Loosen the most stubborn dirt and grease

Use an attachable car brush to make the job quicker. 

If you're using the same one to clean the wheels and wheel arches, as well as the paintwork, do the wheel areas last.

When cleaning the wheels or wheel arches there's more chance of the brush picking up small stones and grit, and you don't want to be rubbing these against the paint. 

Rinse the brush thoroughly once you've finished using it to make sure all grit is removed.

4. Rinse the car off with a high-pressure jet setting

Again, using a slightly stronger setting for the paint than the glass areas.

If you don't have a variable nozzle to adjust the power and width of the spray, just stand further away from the car - one metre should be a safe distance to prevent any damage.

Need a new pressure washer? Head straight to our round-up of the best pressure washers

Useful pressure washer features for car cleaning

  • Long hose: at least five metres long, so you don't have to move it around the car. 
  • Wheels: will make it easier if you do need to move the pressure washer. 
  • Variable jet nozzle settings: will make it much safer to clean different parts of the car without causing any damage.
  • Nozzle attachments: that allow you to change the direction of the spray. An angled nozzle can direct water upwards so you can clean inside the wheel arches.
  • An attachable foamer bottle: this is easier to use than a container that you have to carry around with you.

Visit our pressure washer reviews to find out what features each pressure washer offers.

Pressure washer attachments

Dos and don'ts for cleaning your car with a pressure washer

Do

  • Point the nozzle at the ground for the initial burst of water when you turn it on.
  • Pressure wash the car on concrete rather than gravel to avoid the possibility of stones hitting the paintwork.
  • Close the windows properly and check the interior of your car after spraying for leaks.

Don't

  • Spray too close to the paintwork or directly at panel gaps for too long.
  • Let detergent dry. It will cause blemishes, which can be a pain to get rid of.
  • Use a strong spray on areas where paint is chipped or on old tyres. 
  • Use a rotary (or tornado) nozzle attachment.
  • Spray the engine bay. 

Best pressure washers for cleaning your car

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.

  • 79%
    £239.00

    This excellent Best Buy pressure washer quickly and effortlessly cleans cars, and it comes with a nine-metre hose long enough to run around a caravan. If you can afford it, and often need to use a pressure washer, this model deserves a spot on your shortlist. A car brush head is sold as an optional extra.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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  • 79%
    £380.52

    This speedy pressure washer is ideal if you have a large, mucky patio to deal with. The patio cleaner attachment, included in the price, produces excellent results. This pressure washer is easy to use and has a good range of different jet strengths.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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  • 78%
    £419.23

    This high-scoring pressure washer is particularly speedy and boasts thorough cleaning power. It’s easy to assemble out of the box, and comes with a variable fan nozzle suitable for cleaning cars. A car brush head is sold as an optional extra.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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  • 78%
    £432.00

    This Best Buy is very fast, has good cleaning power and is easy to use. It is a great choice for people who want to invest in a powerful, good-quality product because they have a large area or tough muck to clean. The Power Grip function works really well to reduce the pressure so that this machine can clean delicate surfaces gently.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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  • 78%
    £300.00

    This pressure washer has a nine-metre hose (great for cleaning a large vehicle) and an unusual function that lets you select seven different spray strengths using buttons in the handle. It's powerful when it needs to be, but also has a more delicate fan option. A car brush head is sold separately.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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Not found the right product for you? Browse all our pressure washer reviews.