The latest pressure washers are powerful beasts that make quick work of cleaning the car, scrubbing the patio and decking, and more.
Did I say powerful? I meant super-powerful. Use the wrong tool for the wrong job and they can do more harm than good. A focused, high-pressure jet is perfect for blasting gunk off a cast-iron barbecue grill, but point it at the patio and you may find it takes a piece out of your concrete. Beware: I picked a too-powerful tool at one point in my testing and accidentally stripped a bit of paint off the car.
The latest models are all powerful enough, so don’t get too hung up on their specs. 120 bar of pressure is plenty. Instead there are three things to look for…
Pressure washers typically come with a trigger handle to which you attach a lance and then a choice of nozzles. The most common nozzles are a rotary one and a fan jet. Rotary nozzles create a wide, generous “make it rain” spray. Fan jet nozzles can be twisted to adjust the pressure and shape – everything from a powerful, focused beam of water to a gentle, wide, flat fan of water that’s perfect for cleaning cars and bikes.
Most mid-level and high-end pressure washers also come with a patio cleaner tool. These look like a vacuum cleaner head. They’re usually round but some have a pointy bit for edges and corners. There are bristles around the outside and then a pair of spinning water jets inside to blast the ground at close range. They’re usually adjustable – be sure to turn the pressure down for wooden decking.
All the pressure washers on test also boast a detergent tank which can be used for extra cleaning power. This is especially useful for washing the car.
Some pressure washers come with additional nozzles, lance extensions, brushes and more, but if yours doesn’t you can buy them as optional accessories.
Very few pressure washers let you manually vary the pressure. Instead they rely on the tools to do it for you. So use a focused jet for tough jobs and a wide fan for gentle washing. I was impressed, though, by the way the Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 P X-TRA lets you adjust cleaning power manually too.
Design and build
This is subjective, but I have two pet peeves with pressure washer design. The first is machines that are too tall and topple over when they’re tugged. I found the Vax Power Wash Complete 3 to be the worst culprit for this, while the Kärcher K7 Premium Full Control Home and Stihl RE 109 were the most stable.
My second peeve is accessory storage. Some models are better than others for stowing the supplied tools. This matters a lot, because you want everything on hand when you’re cleaning.
Note that, with pressure washers, the official manufacturer’s price is pretty meaningless. Even brand-new models have a street price that’s significantly lower than the RRP, so do shop around online and expect to spend around 20% less than the official price.
Vax Power Wash Complete 3
Review price: £199.99
- 180 bar max pressure
- 510 l/h max flow rate
- 8.8kg weight
What is the Vax Power Wash Complete 3?
The Vax Power Wash Complete 3 is a pressure washer with all mod cons. It comes not just with a trigger handle, two lances, three nozzles and a patio washer – all pretty standard issue – but also with two extra brushes: one for the car and another that’s multipurposed. It’s also bundled with two bags of detergent. You can pour these into a bottle or just mix them up with water in the bags themselves.
Assembly requires two screws. The machine’s design is tall and slim, so it takes up a bit less floor space than most. It’s tall enough that there’s no telescopic handle – the handle is just at the top of the machine. Despite the large number of tools, you can store everything onboard. You can even keep the patio washer attached when the lance is clipped to the machine.
The downside of the height is that the hose reel is high up. This becomes a problem when you give it a tug, with the machine toppling over far too easily. I also found the reel design to be poor, getting in a tangle all too easily.
One lance is for the three nozzles – power, turbo and fan jet – all of which work well. The other lance works with the patio cleaner and brushes. The patio cleaner is effective but unusually you can’t control its power.
The brushes are excellent, though, with the car one proving especially useful for working away dirt, with or without detergent. Use the brush with the lance and you have a long reach for quickly cleaning even the largest vehicles. I did think having two lances was daft, though. Why not have a single lance that’s compatible with all the tools? Or two lances that can be used together for a longer reach, like Kärcher’s pressure washers have?
Should I buy the Vax Power Wash Complete 3?
You get a lot of accessories for your money, but I found the hose reel issues too annoying. You’d be better off with a more compact design that doesn’t keep toppling over and tangling.
Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £170
At time of review the Vax Power Wash Complete 3 was available for £200
Stihl RE 109
Review price: £230
- 120 bar max pressure
- 440 l/h max flow rate
- 17.7kg weight
What is the Stihl RE 109?
The Stihl RE 109 is a mid-priced pressure washer that’s compact, with excellent on-board tool storage and plenty of power. It doesn’t come with a patio cleaner, but these can be picked up as an accessory for less than £50.
Assembly is pretty quick, with just four screws to do up. The design is compact and well thought out. There’s no hose reel, but there is ample space to stow the hose, power cable and detergent container at the back. There is also space to hold attachments.
It comes with a trigger handle, a lance and two nozzles (rotary and fan jet). The design is simple and efficient, with nothing you don’t need. The button for the telescopic handle is chunky and colourful, which makes it easy to find.
I found the size to be excellent, and lightweight enough to pull or carry around with ease. It’s not the most powerful washer you can buy, but there’s enough power for all the jobs I tried it on. While the pressure isn’t adjustable on the unit itself, it can be altered via the fan jet nozzle. The fan jet’s most gentle setting was great for washing down the car without fear of damage, while its strongest setting did a great job of blasting mud from inside the car’s wheel arches.
Should I buy the Stihl RE 109?
The RE 109 is small but perfectly formed. If you don’t need a patio washer then this is a great, compact machine that has ample power and is very well designed. If you do want a patio washer, it’s still worth considering – you can pick up the necessary accessory at a price that still makes the Stihl competitive.
Bosch AQT 45-14X
Review price: £279.99
- 140 bar max pressure
- 450 l/h max flow rate
- 22kg weight
What is the Bosch AQT 45-14X?
The Bosch AQT 45-14X is quite literally a heavyweight pressure washer. It doesn’t look huge, but it’s dense. Pull up its telescopic handle to wheel it around and you’re reminded of pulling a suitcase through the airport, with the creeping realisation that you’re going to get charged for excess baggage.
There’s no assembly required and you get plenty of tools. It comes with a trigger handle, lance, two nozzles, and two more nozzles that are on their own lances. There’s a detergent tank at the back and a reel for the hose, but nowhere to stow the power cable.
It also comes with a patio washer which I found effective, if a bit disappointing on edges and corners. The design has a point at the front, so it’s tempting to assume that it should be good at corners, but it seems to be no more effective than a round patio washer.
There’s enough space to store the lances on board, but not the patio washer. There’s also easily accessible space at the back to stow the nozzles, although I found attaching them there to be problematic. You’re supposed to clip the nozzles into place, but this takes a lot of force. Too much force.
The two nozzles with lances are a rotary power wash and an adjustable fan jet nozzle. Both were good for washing the car, but beware the power of the fan jet nozzle before you set it to maximum. I went from washing the car to taking off a bit of paintwork. Admittedly it was only touch-up paint that was over a rust spot, but it was still a heart-in-mouth moment.
The two smaller nozzles are a flat spray, which was good at lifting algae from brickwork without being powerful enough to damage the mortar, plus a 90° nozzle that I just couldn’t find a decent use for. It’s billed as being ideal for hard-to-reach places like wheel arches and guttering. At the end of a lance, it demonstrates the sheer power of this pressure washer – turn it on and the lance really tries to fly in the opposite direction to the water jet.
Should I buy the Bosch AQT 45-14X?
This is a strong pressure washer for strong people, thanks to its weight and ability to strip paint if you’re not careful. But there are better models available for the same price.
At time of review the Bosch AQT 45-14X was available for £279.99.
Kärcher K4 Full Control Home
Review price: £279.99
- 130 bar max pressure
- 420 l/h max flow rate
- 11.4kg weight (without accessories)
What is the Kärcher K4 Full Control Home?
The Kärcher K4 Full Control Home is a solidly built and powerful pressure washer with plenty of accessories. It comes with a trigger handle, a patio cleaner, a lance with an extension that doubles its length, and two nozzles: rotary and fan jet. It’s also supplied with a bottle of stone detergent that slots neatly into a space at the top of the machine.
Assembly is quite a faff, with various plastic bits to fit using six screws, and you need to read the instructions to understand where to stick them. It feels like too much effort and I resented it. This isn’t Ikea flatpack; you’ve just spent a significant amount of money on a pressure washer and now you’re helping to assemble it.
Also there’s no reel for the pressure hose, so storing the hose and power cable is a bit hit-and-miss. On the plus side, this makes the machine compact and stable, with a low centre of gravity. But again you’re left thinking: “Have I somehow bought a budget model? I paid good money for this!”
However, it’s performance that really counts and the Kärcher doesn’t disappoint. Its patio washer has the best design and performance in its class. The head is articulated really well, so it’s manoeuvrable like a vacuum cleaner. There’s a knob on top of the patio cleaner to adjust the power, and the fan jet nozzle is adjustable too.
On the trigger handle, there’s an illuminated display to indicate power. It’s tempting to think this is a control and tap it, but it’s not. Instead, it simply indicates how powerful the water is, with icons to indicate the appropriate power for various jobs, based on the tool you’re using and any adjustment on the tool,
Should I buy the Kärcher K4 Full Control Home?
I was frustrated by a few points that felt cheapskate for a not-especially-cheap product. But Kärcher is known for its quality pressure washers and the K4 Full Control Home doesn’t disappoint. The build quality and performance are superb.
Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £228
At time of review the Kärcher K4 Full Control Home was available for £329.99
Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 P X-TRA
What is the Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 P X-TRA?
The Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 P X-TRA is a pressure washer with a neat trick up its sleeve: you can adjust the pressure. A pair of buttons built into the trigger handle, called the PowerGrip, lets you select between seven power settings. It offers greater control than you get from with most rivals.
It’s also unusual in having a water inlet that’s rated for handling anything up to 60°C, whereas most pressure washers allow 40° max. As with the Kärcher K7 Premium Full Control Home, this means you can use it with your hot tap – although not that many people have outdoor hot taps.
Aside from that, the design is pretty typical, with a trigger handle, lance, patio cleaner and two nozzles: rotary and fan jet. There’s ample on-board storage and a detergent tank on the back.
The patio cleaner is good and effective and has its own power knob on top too. So between this and the variable pressure, you really have a high degree of control over the cleaning strength.
The nozzles were effective too and, thanks to the power controls, it was easy to adapt them to different cleaning tasks without fear of damaging delicate stuff. This reduced the need to change tools as I changed tasks.
Should I buy the Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 P X-TRA?
It’s powerful and, crucially, you can control that power. That makes this ridiculously named pressure washer versatile and easy to use. You have all the accessories you need and none that you don’t.
At time of review the Nilfisk D-PG 140.4-9 P X-TRA was available for £289.99
Kärcher K7 Premium Full Control Home
Review price: £569.99
- 160 bar max pressure
- 600 l/h max flow rate
- 18.3kg weight (without accessories)
What is the Kärcher K7 Premium Full Control Home?
The Kärcher K7 Premium Full Control Home is a top-of-the-range pressure washer. The design is similar to the Kärcher K4 Full Control Home, but it’s bigger and heavier. And, unlike with the K4, there’s no self-assembly required.
It’s more powerful than the K4, but it also has a few additional features. First, there’s its impressive hose reel. Most manufactures put these on top, near the handle, but the problem with that is that yanking the hose makes the machine topple over. By positioning the hose reel lower down, the K7 is instantly more stable than most.
The second noticeable difference is the improved patio washer. It has a pointy front for getting into edges and corners, and there are two big buttons on top that you can tap with your foot – one for normal patio washing and the other for a concentrated jet at the front corner. Impressive. The patio washer also has a knob to vary cleaning power. I found that even its lightest setting was very effective.
Finally, you can use it with water at anything up to 60°C, whereas most pressure washers top out at 40°. This means, in theory, that you can use it with your hot tap. In practice, not many people have outdoor hot taps.
Apart from these three points, the design is very similar to the K4’s. It comes with a similar array of accessories, and it also has an illuminated power indicator on the trigger handle. My only design criticism is that there’s nowhere dedicated to storing the power cable. You could bundle the cable into the net at the back, but I was using that to store tools.
The one thing I love most about both Kärcher models is that they each come with two lances which can be joined together to create a double-length lance. This extra reach is sometimes invaluable.
Should I buy the Kärcher K7 Premium Full Control Home?
The K7 is undoubtedly the best pressure washer I’ve tested. However, it’s impossible to justify it costing twice as much as the Kärcher K4, and so it loses a star purely in terms of value for money.
At time of review the AKG N60 was available for £569.99.