How Do Pressure Washers Work?

If you love to have your home and outdoor areas sparkling clean, buying a pressure washer might be the best decision you ever make. But how do pressure washers work?

Pressure washers might seem intimidating to the inexperienced— but they’re powerful, efficient, and surprisingly enough, pressure waters actually use 80% less water than a regular hose. Where soap, water and elbow grease have failed, a pressure washer may do the trick. These powerful tools use jets of water under immense pressure (around 1,200 to 3,300 pounds per square inch, or PSI). Pressure waters are definitely too high-powered for regular indoor cleaning, but they’re perfect for garages, patios, driveways, outdoor furniture, grills and the exterior of your house.

Why a pressure washer?

If you’ve never actually used a pressure washer, you may be wondering how clean it can actually get things. After all, it’s just water, right?

Though we typically think of soap or harsh chemicals when it comes to cleaning, water is actually an amazing cleaning agent. Water molecules have electrical polarity, meaning that they have a tendency to stick to things (like dirt and grime). The addition of soap or detergent helps water become even more effective by breaking down the grease and dirt it comes into contact with, and the additional force and friction provided by a pressure washer takes it to another level. Since it’s “just” water, a pressure washer won’t damage most surfaces — but when in doubt, read the instruction manual and do a test patch first in an inconspicuous spot.

How do pressure washers work?

So how do pressure washers work, exactly?

Step by step, here’s a look at how a pressure washer functions:

  1. Detergent flows through one hose from an attached tank.
  2. Cold water flows in through a different hose from a tap, getting filtered on the way.
  3. The washer is powered by an electric motor or gas engine (or in some cases, a battery).
  4. A water pump sucks in the water and detergent, mixing them together and (at least with most pressure washers) heating up the water.
  5. The soapy water is squirted out through the hose and attached nozzle via the pump (and whatever attachment is fixed onto it), cleaning whatever you aim the washer at with high pressure. Most pressure waters are adjustable so you can tailor the strength of the spray to whatever you’re cleaning.

What can you clean with a pressure washer?

Now that you understand exactly how a pressure washer works, your mind may be spinning thinking of all the uses for it. (Just make sure to read the instruction manual, because a pressure washer can damage even a concrete floor if used improperly.)

Here are some of the things a pressure washer is commonly used to clean:

  • Cleaning cars, motorbikes, caravans, boats and bicycles
  • Cleaning patios, fences, garden walls, pathways, driveways and house facades
  • Removing algae and moss from roofs, brickwork and gutters
  • Cleaning backyard items including garden tools, outdoor furniture and barbecue grills
  • Hygienic cleaning of animal pens and equipment

Additionally, there are all kinds of pressure washer accessories on the market intended to help you clean certain items.

Pressure washer safety tips

Now you know the answer to the question “How do pressure washers work?”, but you also need to know how to use this equipment safely.

Always heed the following safety tips:

  • Always read the instruction manual and any included safety warnings.
  • Never use a zero-degree nozzle.
  • Wear safety goggles, work gloves, closed-toe shoes and long pants.
  • Never point the spray at people or animals.
  • Keep your hands away from the washer spray (remember: it’s highly pressurized!).
  • Never use a pressure washer while you’re standing on a ladder, because it’s easy to lose your balance.

Ready to buy a pressure washer?

Now that you’ve discovered the answer to the question “How do pressure washers work?”, are you ready to invest in one for your own home?

You’ll want to consider several things before buying, including what you intend to clean with it and how much you want to spend. Check out our Best Pressure Washer Reviews of 2020 to guide you through the process of buying a pressure washer.

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