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Picking A Pressure Washer – Gas vs. Electric

You may have come across a stain or grime that you can’t seem to clean by any means, so what to do now? Before giving up the cleaning process, you may want to consider using a pressure washer to clean the issue. They’re simple to use and can clean off any outdoor dirt or stains.

How do you pick the right pressure washer? There are two types of pressure washers: gas, and electric. They both serve different purposes. For tougher projects, you’ll want to use a gas pressure washer while for more delicate cleaning tasks, you’ll want to use an electric pressure washer. 

It also largely depends on how you plan to use the pressure washer as each type has advantages over the other. Pressure washers can help clean an assortment of outdoor furniture and equipment in a faster, more convenient fashion then scrubbing with a rag and soap.

How to Choose the Right Washer

A pressure washer is a machine which puts water under a lot of pressure to be used as a powerful sprayer. A pressure washer can help you clean the most stubborn of outdoor messes. Pressure washers come with different nozzles to adjust the angle of spray, and there are attachments which can be added to make cleaning easier.

There are two types of pressure washers, and they are very different from one another. The two types are gas pressure washers and electric pressure washers. They both try to achieve the same product, a pressurized spray of water, but they both achieve it by different methods and have slightly different results.

Gas powered

Gas powered pressure washers were the original design of washers and have owned the pressure washer market for many years. A gas pressure washer uses a small motor much like the one found in your lawnmower, which is designed to run the water pump.

Ethanol free gasoline is best to use, but many people also run their machines with regular unleaded. Gas washer pressures require a lot of upkeep, but the parts are easily interchangeable.

Advantages of gas pressure washers

The advantages of using a gas pressure washer are that they are completely mobile and that they have the highest pressure values. A washer powered by gas has a lot of good applications, but you need to consider how often you’re running it thus how often you need to refill it. 

There are a few things you might need to consider before buying a gas pressure washer. These are aspects such as:

  • Power
  • Noise
  • Cost
  • Maintenance

The amount of power you’ll need is important to factor in. Gas powered washers can produce twice as much PSI than electric washers. The average range of maximum pressure for a gas washer is between 2,000 and 4000 PSI, that’s a lot of pressure. Although the higher psi isn’t always necessary and can actually cause more harm than good. 

Gas pressure washers create a lot of noise. While they are running, they make constant noise from the motor. Some of these washers can get so loud that it’s advised to used protected ear gear.

Gas washers tend to run higher in price. This can be a big factor for a pressure washer buyer because you need to take into consideration the price. The machine itself is more expensive for a gas-powered washer starting anywhere from $200 and going up to $500+. The Gas-powered motor realizes solely on gasoline to run, so you must factor in the cost of gas every time the machine needs a refill.

A gas pressure washer needs maintenance from time to time since the motor runs constantly. There are several parts to a gas washer that can be replaced and taken out to be repaired. This is a separating factor from electric machines because they can be adjusted with different parts and repaired more easily. Gas pressure washers have greater longevity than electric.

Projects for gas pressure washers 

Gas pressure washers can be used for a handful of projects. It’s advised that you only use a gas pressure washer if you have incredibly tough cleaning projects. They should not be used on sensitive materials such as glass or paint unless you’re trying to remove it.

Some of the outdoor projects include:

Pressure washers are great for taking the paint off. The high pressure blasts the paint off surfaces, this is great if your planning to repaint. Just be careful, when using on wood, if you clean to close you can cut into the wood. Once the wood is destroyed, it’s more times than not unfixable. 

Since a pressure washer with high psi can remove paint, it may not be wise to use a gas pressure washer on a vehicle for cleaning purposes unless the pressure can be lowered significantly.

It’s a good idea to clean the exterior siding of your house once a year. The wintertime leaves behind a lot of dirt which can easily be washed off with a pressure washer. It’s important to start at a far distance then make your way closer so that don’t damage any of the sidings. Using a pressure washer to clean your siding will cut down the time it would take to scrub it with brushes and a hose.

Cleaning stained bricks can be a hassle and a lot of methods don’t seem to have any results. Using a pressure washer is a great way to get your stained bricks clean. Be sure that you do any patchwork with the mortar at least one week before attempting to clean your bricks that way they’ve cemented into place.

Using a pressure washer to clean a garage door or floor is another great use for the gas washer. If the pressure washer you’re using to clean with doesn’t have a reservoir that can mix with detergents, then you just need to mix the soap in a bucket and apply to the door and floor, then spray clean with the washer.

Much like helping clean brick, a gas pressure washer can help remove any stains from your driveway. A pressure washer can even help get rid of oil stains. Concrete is a little more fragile than brick, so be mindful not to shred your driveway into little bits.

Electricity powered

The newer version of pressure washers, electric models can serve different purposes than a gas washer. Rather than having the motor running the entire time, as gas powered, the electric pressure washers motor only runs when the trigger is pulled. 

Electric pressure washers don’t require as much upkeep as gas and its total purchasing price and the cost to run it are significantly lower. These washers are better served with light cleaning tasks or projects that work with delicate materials.

The reasons to use electric pressure washers

Electric pressure washers may be limited by the range of their cord (which can be easily fixed with an extension cord), but they can be run more often which makes them good for commercial and personal use. They are a much lower price than gas pressure washers and make less noise. 

It’s okay that electric pressure washers don’t get as high of a PSI as gas washers, because a lot of materials that you may want to clean are more sensitive or fragile and don’t need to be cleaned with incredibly high pressure. There are adapters that can be purchased to make the psi higher on your pressure washer as well.

Projects for an electric pressure washer

Though you could use an electric pressure washer for all the same projects, you use a gas-powered washer, there as some projects which are recommended with the use of an electric pressure washer.

Many of these cleaning projects demand a lower psi:

  • Grills
  • Outdoor Furniture 
  • Spiderwebs and Insect Nests
  • Cars and Boats
  • Outdoor tools (Including lawnmowers)
  • Garbage Cans
  • Decks and Patios

Grills get grimy with carbon and grease build-up. They can be cleaned easily with an electric pressure washer. This defeats the hassle of any scraping that would be required to clean the grill. If you’re a rigorous griller, then it’s recommended you clean your grill frequently.

Outdoor furniture gets left behind to gather dirt outside and take damage from the sun and water. This dirt comes off in a breeze under a little pressure. Outdoor furniture can be made to look brand new when cleaned with a pressure washer.

A pressure washer is a great tool at combatting spiderwebs and insect nests in hard to reach places. Spider webs can be easily blown away, but hard to reach, so the washer eliminates any hassles. Be careful not to spray any nest filled with swarming insects as there may be changes of being bitten or stung.

Though you need to be incredibly careful not to cause any damage, an electric pressure washer is great for cleaning cars and boats. This can drastically cut down the time needed to clean your car since it operates faster than a regular garden hose. Use the lowest pressure setting possible so that you don’t cause any damage to the delicate paint of your vehicle.

Pressure washers are useful for cleaning outdoor tools, especially lawnmowers. Using tools outside means they’re going to get dirty quickly. If your lawnmower is building up old grass near the blade, you can just turn it over and clean it away with the pressure washer. Be sure to do this in an area where you don’t have to worry about all the grass spraying off.

A lot of people struggle to get the smell out of their garbage cans, but a pressure washer will help eliminate the odor. Maintaining a constant routine of cleaning your garbage will help it from getting overly odorous.

Since the electric pressure washer uses less pressure than a gas model, they can be handy when cleaning your decks or patios. Much like cleaning a vehicle, it’s important to use the lowest pressure setting and start from far away.

Which One Is Better?

To say that one is better than the other might not be the best way to put it. Each pressure washer is better suited for particular situations. Some people may find they like the easy convention of electric washers while others want the raw power given by gasoline powered washers.

Some find that an electrical washer isn’t as useful since they are limited by their cords range, whereas a gas washer you can run anywhere. However, the cost to run the gas pressure washer is higher since you need to regularly fill the tank and change out the oil.

How to Properly Use a Pressure Washer

Pressures washers clean so many things effectively, but with the high pressures, it’s important to use them properly so that you don’t cause any damage to what you’re cleaning or cause harm to yourself nor any others. While running these machines are simple, it’s easy to forget how much force can come out of the other end. 

To operate a pressure washer correctly, you should follow these steps:

  1. Prime Washer
  2. Check Nozzle
  3. Test
  4. Start Cleaning

Once you get the pressure washer running, let it run for a moment for gas washers to prime the machine. An electric washer doesn’t need to be primed in the same fashion. Priming the machine helps the motor get to the proper idling speed before you run it for pressure.

Check to make sure you have the correct nozzle. It’s always good to check and make sure you’re using the proper nozzle for the task at hand. This is a simple way to avoid any issues later. Make sure that your sprayer handle is stabilized and there is no way for the trigger to be squeezed while you’re switching the nozzles.

It’s a good idea to test your washer before you start cleaning. Do a few sprays into the open air before you begin cleaning any surfaces. This allows you to ensure that you have the psi set to where you need it and that there is no issue with the washer or nozzle.

When you start spraying, it’s critical to start from far away then move closer. It’s best to start 18 inches away and never get any closer than 6 inches away from any surface. This allows you to see if that material your cleaning handles the pressure well without doing irreversible damage.

What not to do with a pressure washer

It’s important to never run a pressure washer on the skin. The high pressure can cause damage to the skin and serious harm. Never spray at anyone else or any animals, even from a distance.

When using a pressure washer, you don’t want to pull the trigger when the nozzle is within 6 inches of the cleaning surface. If you use the pressure washer too close to the surface, the initial blast of pressure can cause severe damage to what it is you’re cleaning.

Although pressure washers can be fun to use and can handle a lot of cleaning tasks. Some outdoor cleaning projects will just require old elbow grease rather than a pressure washer. It’s not a good idea to use a pressure washer when cleaning glass because the pressure can cause the glass to break or it can cause damage to the window seals, potentially leaking inside.

The Downside of Pressure Washers

Pressure washers are incredibly versatile, but there are downsides to the pressurized sprayers. Along with improper handling, these are some of the issues you may run into when working with a washer:

  • Excessive Water Use
  • Noise
  • Debris and Dirt Splatter 

The most notable downside to using a pressure washer is that they use excessive amounts of water. Pressure washers use a lot of water to reach the pressure needed. This can be an issue for anyone living where they have water restrictions such as California.  

The extra water can pool up underneath you while your cleaning and cause water damage to anything below. If your cleaning over plants or anything else delicate, you can use a tarp to drape over them to shield them for the water.

Many pressure washers are incredibly noisy while you’re using them. Especially gas pressure washers since they are constantly running. Some washers reach up to 90 DB. Electric pressure washers don’t have this issue as much as gas powered since their motor only runs when the spray is held down.

When your cleaning with a pressure washer, the dirt that your blasting off objects can spray into all directions. This can cause the mess to jump from what your cleaning to surface near it. There is also an increased risk of creating debris that can fly off and become a hazard or cause damage to things around you. one way to try and avoid this is the same method as protecting plants, cover any objects you want to keep unaffected by the spray with a tarp.

DIY Pressure Washers

If you’re into building your own machinery or equipment, then there are DIY projects out there to create your own pressure washer. Most DIY pressure washers are just self-made attachments which you can add to the end of any common garden hose, but if you have the mechanical skill required, you can buy the individual components that make up a pressure washer and piece them together. 

If you require a high amount of pressure, such as 2,000 psi or higher, than it’s not recommended to use a homemade washer and instead purchase or rent a gas pressure washer. It can be dangerous working with high pressure, so making your own pressure washer isn’t a beginner’s project.

Understanding Nozzle Heads

Pressure Washer Nozzles

There are several different nozzle heads which fit onto your pressure washer. Each nozzle sprays at different angles. These different angles can adjust the distribution of the water pressure. Each of these nozzles can be used for specific projects to prevent damage and provide the best results. 

  • Red Nozzle
  • Yellow Nozzle
  • Green Nozzle
  • White Nozzle
  • Black Nozzle

The red nozzles are zero-degree nozzles which provided a single concentrated jet stream with all the force at a single blast. This would be best for tough stains and cleaning driveways and brick. You must be incredibly careful when using these nozzles as the high concentration of psi can damage even the hardest of substances.

Yellow nozzles are for stripping and have a 15-degree angle spray. This nozzle is best for preparing something before painting. Serves a good purpose for the same cleaning needs as the red nozzle if you want to have less chance of damage.

A green nozzle is for light stripping and for general cleaning purposes. The green nozzles have a 25-degree spray which creates a large area of spraying. This is ideal for most of your pressure cleaning needs.

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Spraying out a 40-degree angle, a white nozzle is great for the gentlest of projects. This would be a great nozzle to use on any outdoor furniture. 

Black nozzles serve the purpose of soaking and soaping. They have a 65-degree nozzle which is ideal for applying soaps and detergents to surfaces. It gives just enough pressure that you can still reach those hard to get to places.

Attachments for Pressure Washers

Outside of the standard nozzles, there are several attachments for pressure washers. Not all pressure washers can adjust to use different attachments, but most can or have specially designed attachments for that specific model. These attachments help turn your pressure washer into a swiss army knife for cleaning everything outdoors.

Some of the most popular attachments are:

  • Surface Cleaners
  • Brushes
  • Turbo Nozzles
  • Wands and Lances
  • Foamers
  • Brooms

Surface cleaners are among the most popular attachments for pressure washers. A surface washer helps to clean flat surfaces by distributing the sprays surface area. The higher the surface cleaner’s psi, the more expensive they get. Surface cleaners are a great help for driveways, garages, or really any flat surface.

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A great attachment for a washer is a brush. A brush adds extra scrubbing power against tough grimes and dirt that won’t budge. Many of the brushes come with rotating heads to give even more cleaning potential to the equation. This cuts out the time of using two separate tools by combing it into one.

If you aren’t getting a high enough pressure out of your pressure washer, then you can attach a turbo nozzle. Some turbo nozzles can reach up to 3000 PSI and can blast through the toughest of grimes and cleaning difficulties. Many turbo nozzles rotate to give it the extra pressure.

You may need to add an extension to your washer so that you can reach those hard to get places. Wand and lances are designed just for that. Many of these attachments are extendable so you can adjust the height you need.

Foamers are great attachments which allow for you to mix detergents or soaps to your spray. This is a good way to spread the cleaning agent over the entire surface while cleaning at the same time, then you can just switch it off and rinse away the cleaner.

Brooms distribute the water out of two to three spray heads and have a wide brush so you can perform lighter cleaning jobs on surfaces. This attachment is the combination of a brush and a surface cleaner.

Safety Measures When Using a Pressure Washer

Whether the pressure washer your using is electric or gas, it is important to take safety measure so that you don’t cause any harm to yourself, others, or the machine. Always be sure to wear protective eyewear in case any debris breaks off from what you’re cleaning. 

When using an electric pressure washer make sure not to spray your source of electricity. This can cause your machine and the outlet to short and potentially cause worse damage. This also brings along the risk of electrocution and fire hazards.

Tips for Pressure Washing

There are a few tips and tricks you’ll want to know before you start using a pressure washer to clean anything. If you follow these tips it will help you save time:

  • Presoak
  • Hot Water
  • Wood

Before you start cleaning a surface, presoak it with your cleaning agent, a detergent or soap. By presoaking, you allow for the chemicals to loosen any dirt or grime. This will help you save on cleaning time and allow you to use less overall chemicals.

It is better to use hot or warm water when washing rather than cold water. Hot water dissolves soluble chemicals easier, so the chemicals will work better and not break down as quickly.

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on August 30, 2019.

When you’re cleaning wood, it’s best to start from at least 18 inches away from the surface and use a green nozzle. The green nozzles help prevent you from accidentally cutting or tearing any of the wood. Softer woods are much more fragile others and this should be noted when cleaning wood.