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Choosing The Right PSI For A Pressure Washer

When you decide to use a pressure washer, it is important that you pay attention to the PSI or pounds per square inch. 

How do you choose the right PSI for a pressure washer? Water pressures are measured in pounds per square inch or PSI. You choose the right PSI based on how strong the chemical bond is between the surface and stain. The stronger bonds require more water pressure to remove the stain. The flow of water is measured through GPM or gallons per minute.

As you now know, the chemical bond between the stain and surface will help you decide which PSI you need. In addition, the type of project you are working on with the pressure washer makes a difference as to which PSI you will be using, as well. 

You can read the chart below to learn more about PSI and pressure washer projects. 

How Do You Choose the Right PSI for a Pressure Washer? 

Choosing the right PSI for a pressure washer can be tough. There are so many things you can use your pressure washer on. Here is a great chart you can use to follow through with the best PSI for your pressure washing projects:

ApplicationExtra Heavy Duty 3300 PSI + UpHeavy Duty 2900 – 3200 PSIMultiDuty 500 – 3000 PSI Gas + ElectricMedium Duty 2000 – 2800 PSILight Duty 1500 – 1900 PSI
Car/Truck

X

Patio Furniture

X
X
SidewalksXXXXX
StairsXXXXX
FencingXXXX
Deck/PatioXXXX
Garage FloorXXXX
DrivewayXXXX
SidingXXX

Stain RemovalXXX

Paint PrepXX


Second Story

X

Power Soaping

X

Water pressures are measured in pounds per square inch or PSI. You choose the right PSI based on how strong the chemical bond is between the surface and stain. The stronger bonds require more water pressure to remove the stain. The flow of water is measured through GPM or gallons per minute.

What Is a Good PSI for a Pressure Washer?

Finding the right PSI for a pressure washer can be tough. However, according to Consumer Reports, water pressure is measured through PSI or pounds per square inch. The gas-powered pressure washers generally are between 2000 – 2800 PSI and electric-powered pressure washers are generally between 1300 – 1700 PSI. 

You can use the above chart to figure out which PSI you will need for certain projects. 

What PSI is Needed to Work on Certain Projects? 

As you may have read above, there are many different projects where you can use a pressure washer. Some of the most common ways include the following:

  • Cleaning concrete driveways – 3000 PSI 
  • Cleaning vinyl – 1300 to 1600 PSI
  • Cleaning cars – 1200 to 1900 PSI 
  • BBQ grills – 1500 to 4000 PSI 
  • Bikes and scooters – 1500 PSI 
  • Decks and docks – 2600 to 4000 PSI 
  • Boats or ATVs – 3000 to 4000 PSI
  • Asphalt driveway – 3000 to 4000 PSI 
  • Paint stripping – 4000 PSI 

Now that you have a better idea of the PSI to use on certain projects, you can get working on them right away. 

There are also some other units in relation to pressure washers you might want to be aware of, as well. 

What Other Units for a Pressure Washer Might You Want to Be Aware Of?

There are 2 other units you should be aware of with pressure washers. These are the GPM (gallons per minute) and the CPU (cleaning power units). 

GPM or Gallons Per Minute

Gallons per minute is the measure for water volume delivered each minute from the pressure washer. If you want to know how quickly your pressure washer will clean and rinse debris away, the GPM is an important unit to know about

When first looking, you might consider the lower GPM pressure washers to be more effective. However, higher GPM is usually best. When you have a higher GPM, more water is coming out per minute, which means you complete your pressure washing job quicker. 

CPU or Cleaning Power Units

The CPU or cleaning power units is determined by multiplying the PSI by the GPM. The CPU is also known as effective cleaning units. The higher the CPU, the better the pressure washer would be

Now, that you know more about the units related to a pressure washer, you can decide whether you would like to buy your own pressure washer or just hire someone to do the project for you.

Should You Buy, Rent, or Hire Someone to Pressure Wash for You?

There is a lot of debate over whether someone should buy or rent a pressure washer or whether they should hire someone to do it for them. 

Some of the benefits of buying a pressure washer are the one-time cost and having it available whenever you need it. 

Some of the benefits of renting a pressure washer are it not taking up space when you don’t need it and not having to hire someone to do the job for you. 

Some of the benefits of hiring someone to pressure wash for you are not having to do the job yourself, saving yourself time, and saving energy. 

Now that you are aware of the benefits of buying, renting, or hiring someone to pressure wash for you, you may want to know more about the types of pressure washers you can get. 

What Are the Types of Pressure Washers You Can Get? 

In addition to paying attention to the PSI that you will need for each project, you may also want to know more about the type of pressure washer you should get. You can get either gas-powered or electric-powered pressure washers

Both of the types of pressure washers required an uninterrupted, steady water supply or GPM (gallons per minute). For most home projects, many people find that using a pressure washer with 1300 to 2400 PSI is the best

Electric-Powered Pressure Washers 

Electric pressure washers being used for lighter cleaning jobs will need 1300 to 1400 PSI and need around 1 ½ GPM. You may want to know that electric-powered pressure washers are quieter and lighter than the gas-powered pressure washers. Most have tanks built-in for detergent use. 

In addition, with electric-powered pressure washers, you should always hook them up to an outlet with a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter). You should also only be using 12 or 14 gauge extension cords with them. 

Gas-Powered Pressure Washers

Many of the pressure washers you will find will be gas-powered. These deliver higher PSI, generally over 3000 PSI. However, with the gas-powered pressure washers, you will need a greater GPM. Generally, you will need around 2 to 3 GPM. 

Gas-powered pressure washers are better for bigger jobs. 

Now that you know a bit more about the 2 types of pressure washers, you may want to know a bit about the nozzles used on them. 

Are There Special Nozzles for Certain Pressure Washing Projects?

In some cases, there are special nozzles for certain pressure washing projects. The pressure washers that have under 2400 PSI will often have one adjustable spray nozzle that has between 0 and 60-degree fan patterns

There are some pressure washer brands that have both a turbo and a rotating nozzle. These are more effective than standard nozzles. 

The heavier-duty pressure washer units generally have 4 or 5 color-coded nozzle tips. These have wider, medium, or narrower fan patterns. The narrower patterns are for deeper stains.

This table from Lowes might help you to choose the best pressure washer nozzles, as well. 

DegreeColored NozzleSetting
0 degreeRed nozzleStrongest, concentrated
15 degreesYellow nozzleHeavy-duty cleaning
25 degreesGreen nozzleGeneral cleaning
40 degreesWhite nozzleVehicles, patio furniture, boats, and surfaces which could be damaged easily
65 degreesBlack nozzleLow-pressure for applying soap and cleaning solutions

Now that you know more about the types of nozzles you should use with a pressure washer, it may be time to know more about the ratings, as well. 

What Rating Pressure Washer Should You Use?

There are different ratings for pressure washers that will help you to pick the perfect pressure washer for each job. According to Lowes, these include the following:

  • Light-duty – Great for little jobs around your home (usually between 1300 and 1900 PSI at 2 GPM). Great for cleaning patios, small decks, vehicles, grills, and patio furniture.
  • Medium-duty – Great for shop and home use (usually between 2000 and 2800 PSI at 2 to 3 GPM). Great for cleaning fences, siding, driveways, and walkways.
  • Heavy-duty or Extra-heavy-duty – Great for commercial reasons (generally 2800 PSI and above at 3 to 4 GPM). Great for graffiti removal, paint stripping, washing multi-story homes.
  • Multi-duty – All-in-one pressure washer that you can adjust to your PSI and project-based needs 
  • Cold-water pressure washers – Only used for cold water, as hot water could damage them. Great for cleaning mildew, loose paint, dirt buildup, and cars.
  • Hot water pressure washers – Only used for hot water, as cold water could damage them. Great for cleaning farm and industrial products.

From here, there are some other terms related to pressure washers that you may want to know about. 

What Are Some Other Pressure Washer Terms You May Want to Know About? 

You have gotten a good idea about PSI and GPM. Now, you may want to know more about some other pressure washer terms. These include the following:

  • Amps (A) – power output for electric-powered pressure washers
  • Cubic centimeters (cc) – power output for gas-powered pressure washers 
  • Axial cam pump – located on many pressure washers made for homeowners, and it is for maintenance free operation
  • Triplex pump – located on many pressure washers made for industrial or commercial use, and it increases life expectancy and efficiency of the washer
  • Interchangeable nozzle – accessories that allow you to adjust the pressure and flow for your pressure washing job
  • Adjustable wand – accessory to help you change pressure and spray pattern 
  • Rotating nozzles – accessories that allow you to spray in circular motions

These are just some of the other terms you might want to know about in regards to a pressure washer. 

Now that you know more about these terms, you may want some tips on buying a pressure washer.

What Are the Top Things to Think About When Buying a Pressure Washer?

Before you choose to buy a pressure washer, there are some things you should think about.

Gas or Electric 

These are 2 different types of pressure washers. Strength and speed are the main differences between these two. Gas-powered are generally stronger and louder. Electric-powered are generally quieter with less power. Electric-powered pressure washers are generally better for smaller jobs, and gas-powered pressure washers are better for larger jobs. 

Most homeowners prefer the electric-powered pressure washers because they are quieter. However, for those who have larger jobs that need to be done, the gas-powered pressure washers are going to be the better option. 

Hot Water or Cold Water 

You can get either hot water or cold water pressure washers. The cold water pressure washers aren’t as complicated as the hot water pressure washers. In addition, you will find that the cold water options are better for portability. The cold water pressure washers need more pressure, 

The hot water pressure washers are better at cleaning because of the hot water. The hot water pressure washers are better for farm or industrial use, as well. 

As a homeowner, generally the cold water pressure washers are more efficient. 

Warranty Options

There are many different types of warranties available. You should always read the fine print on warranties to assure what the warranty covers. You should know about the time frame the warranty covers. You should also know information about the pump and the engine related to the warranty

If you have a warranty, you will also want to know how to get service under warranty. The following questions are things you might ask:

  • Does it have to be done at an authorized repair center? 
  • Do you have to take it to get it worked on? 
  • Is there only certain services which will be covered? 

Power Options 

When getting a pressure washer, you should pay attention to 3 things – the PSI (pounds per square inch) and the GPM (gallons per minute). It can be tough to figure out which pressure washer is the best for your project if you don’t also determine the CU (cleaning units). 

If the CU isn’t on the package, you should multiply the PSI and the GPM

Portability 

You should also care about the portability of the pressure washer. Can you wheel it around easily? If so, this is a good pressure washer for you. 

Did you know there are also pressure washers with higher PSI ratings? 

Are There Pressure Washers with Higher PSI Ratings? 

Yes, there are higher PSI ratings for pressure washers.

  • Under 5000 PSI – low-pressure water cleaning 
  • 5000 to 10000 PSI – high-pressure washer cleaning
  • 10000 to 25000 PSI – high-pressure water jetting 
  • 25000+ PSI – ultra-high pressure water jetting 

These are used in commercial and industrial environments. They should not be used on regular household pressure washing jobs. 

Now, that you know there are higher PSI rated pressure washers, you may want to know which one is used the most. 

Which PSI Pressure Washer is Most Used?

Many people want to get what others are getting for home projects. The question is – what is the pressure washer PSI that is most used? This would be the 3000 PSI. However, keep in mind if you get an adjustable PSI, you can change the PSI to your project needs. 

Is 2000 PSI Pressure Washer Enough for My Home Projects? 

Many of the electric-powered pressure washers will give out 1300 to 1700 PSI and 1.5 GPM. However, most experts will recommend that you use between 2000 to 3000 PSI with a minimum of 2.5 GPM for most larger home projects

So, for smaller home projects, yes 2000 PSI is plenty. For larger projects, you may need a bit more PSI. 

Is PSI or GPM More Important When Choosing a Pressure Washer? 

When you are picking out a pressure washer to buy, the PSI and the GPM are the same, when it comes to the level of importance. PSI is the pressure amount produced while the GPM is the water flow amount. You need to pay attention to both these numbers when you pick a pressure washer to buy or rent. 

Can You Use a Stronger PSI Pressure Washer for Smaller Jobs?

While it is always recommended, that you use the PSI ratings mentioned above, there are some instances when you can use a stronger PSI pressure washer for smaller jobs. You won’t want to go more than 1 or 2 ratings up. In addition, you will want to stand further away from the product or material you are washing. 

What Tough Stains Can a Powerful PSI Pressure Washer Remove?

If you have a gas-powered pressure washer, you can count on it removing many different types of tough stains. Some of the tough stains you can remove include the following: 

  • Caked-on mud
  • Mold
  • Hard bubble-gum
  • Dried bird droppings
  • Graffiti

These are just some of the tough stains you can remove with a gas-powered, higher PSI pressure washer. 

Now that you know more about the basics of pressure washing, you should learn about some tips for keeping pressure washing safe. 

What are the Best Tips for Keeping Pressure Washing Safe? 

Pressure washing can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. There are some tips that can help keep pressure washing safe. These tips include the following: 

  • Laying tarps over plants and utilities around your home
  • Don’t pressure wash homes built before 1977 without having them checked for lead first 
  • Never spray the wand directly onto the siding (this pushes dirt into your siding rather than off it) 
  • 45-degree angles are often best when pressure washing a home
  • No matter what you are pressure washing, do smaller areas at a time
  • Never spray windows with a pressure washer (this could break them)

Now, that you have some tips for keeping pressure washing safe, you may want to know about a few cautions you should take, as well. 

What Cautions Should You Take When Using a Pressure Washer?

There are some cautions you should take when using a pressure washer. Some of these cautions include the following: 

  • Never point your pressure washer at pets or people (this could cut through the skin)
  • Wearing safety goggles is always recommended when using a pressure washer
  • Don’t stand on a ladder when using a pressure washer (the force could knock you off balance)
  • Stay at least 6 feet away when you spray around electrical outlets or power lines
  • Before taking off the hoses, turn the machine and water off and squeeze the trigger to get the excess water out
  • Turn on the safety lock when you aren’t using the pressure washer

Now, that you are aware of some of the cautions you should take when using a pressure washer, you might want to know about some tips you should use to prepare before using your pressure washer.

What Should You Do to Prepare Before Using Your Pressure Washer? 

There are some other tips that can help you to prepare before using your pressure washer. These tips include the following: 

  • Turn off all the outdoor electrical outlets 
  • Avoid higher-voltage areas like the air conditioner
  • Wear waterproof goggles, gloves, and clothes 
  • If you see any holes or cracks, these need to be repaired before pressure washing that area
  • Soak the siding with water from the top to the bottom
  • Test an area out of the way to make sure you aren’t going to damage the brick at a certain PSI
  • Put in the detergent and spray from the bottom upward (let sit for around 5 to 10 minutes) and do small sections, so it doesn’t dry
  • Use a brush on areas that are really stained 
  • Now, pressure wash from the top downward 

If you are pressure washing brick, you can apply a layer of brick and mortar sealant. If you are hiring someone to do this job for you, you can ask them to apply this for you, as well. 

There are some expert tips that might help you when pressure washing your home, too. 

What Are Some Expert Tips to Pressure Washing Your Home?

There are also some tips from the experts for pressure washing your home. These tips include the following: 

  • Safety should always come first (cover outlets, use tarps, wear appropriate clothing, etc.)
  • Use the right PSI for the job you are completing 
  • Protect bushes and shrubs that may be damaged from the pressure washer 
  • If you have moldy areas on your home, pre-treat these with water and bleach before pressure washing your home
  • Always test the pressure washer on an out-of-the-way area ahead of time
  • Point the pressure washer slightly downward to avoid causing damage 

These are just some of the best tips by experts that might help you out when working on a pressure washing job. 

Does the Diameter of the Spray Hose Matter? 

Generally, you will find the hoses on the pressure washers are ¼ inch for PSI 2700 and less. For the medium hoses, you will find 5/16 inch. These are good for 2700 to 3400 PSI. The most common and largest hoses are ⅜ inch. 

The diameter of the hose makes a difference when it comes to the life expectancy, efficiency, and ultimate functioning of the pressure washer. You will want to make sure the hose is well taken care of and you use the proper hose on the correct pressure washer. 

Final Thoughts 

Choosing the right PSI for a pressure washer can be tough. There is a lot of information to know regarding the types of pressure washers, units, other terms related to pressure washers, the type of project, and the right PSi, and more. 

When it comes to pressure washing, the project should be taken seriously. There are some dangers involved in using a pressure washer, as you have read about above. You must take these cautions and tips seriously if you want to protect yourself, others in the area, bushes, trees, and other things in the area. 

You can use the guide above to help you develop a PSI rating level for each pressure washing job you do from here on out. The chart you saw above is a great starting point for all pressure washing jobs around the home. There are also commercial and industrial pressure washing projects that require higher PSI ratings. These pressure washers aren’t going to be used in residential settings. 

Whether you choose to buy or rent a pressure washer or hire someone to do the pressure washing job for you, you now have a better idea of how to get your pressure washing jobs finished. 

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