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How to Select a Pressure Washer

The pressure washer market has exploded recently with more options than ever before! To make your purchasing options less confusing, here’s a helpful checklist of factors to consider when selecting a pressure washer. If you have any questions or want help choosing a pressure washer, your knowledgeable White Cap team is ready to help. 

Consider This:



What you clean, how often, how dirty, and for how long each day are key factors in determining how much power you’ll need, accessibility, mobility, design, and PSI/GPM.

  • Will you use a pressure washer for small residential or industrial projects?
  • Use indoors or outdoors?

  • What kind of surfaces: concrete, masonry, metal, heavy-duty farm, or equipment for mining, oil, gas or construction jobs?

  • Will you remove mold/mildew off exteriors; grease, oil and grunge off equipment; peeling paint off concrete or metal surfaces?

  • Do you need to disinfect surfaces?

  • How often will you use a pressure washer - short periods during a day or all day, every day? 

If your answers include infrequent light residential pressure washing to clean decks, remove stains from concrete driveways and sidewalks, remove siding mildew, wash patio furniture, vehicles, and small equipment, then an electric cold water, direct drive pressure washer would be a great energy-efficient, cost-efficient choice. 

However, if you’ll use a pressure washer several hours a day, almost daily, and need to be able to move from site to site without worrying about electrical power sources, and plan on degreasing heavy-duty work and farm equipment, then look at our large selection of gas hot water, belt-driven pressure washers in a wide range of PSI and GPM. 

Be sure to ask your White Cap rep about how different multi-function nozzles, telescoping extension wands, environmentally-friendly cleaning solutions, and sand injectors can increase your cleaning power.

Temperature: Cold Water vs. Hot Water
Cold water pressure washers are good for removing dirt, peeling paint, graffiti, mold, mildew, cleaning sidewalks, concrete surface stains and dirt, patios, decks, even cars and RVs. Accessories such as high-pressure or rotating nozzles, sand injectors, gutter cleaning attachments, detergents, and extension wands may increase cleaning power and reach. 

Hot water is needed to clean grease and oil. Increasing water temperature by just 10 degrees can double the cleaning power, meaning less labor, more productivity, and the opportunity to build your business. Hot water pressure washers are often used indoors in food and beverage production facilities, restaurants, and health care facilities as well for outdoor applications.


Cleaning Unit

This is a measure of unit performance, or efficiency, so you can compare one unit to another. Cleaning units (CU) are calculated by multiplying PSI and GPM; the higher the CPU, the more ability a pressure washer has for more effective cleaning. 

For example, the 4000 PSI unit below cleans 50% faster than the 3200 PSI unit. But faster doesn’t necessarily mean better. Quality is determined by the type of pump: belt or direct drive.

3200 PSI x 2.4 GPM = 7680 Cleaning Units vs. 4000 PSI x 3.5 GPM = 14000 Cleaning Units.

Belt vs Direct Drive
Belt driven pressure washers are best for commercial and industrial jobs that require heavy-duty daily use. The belt connecting the engine to the high-pressure pump spins at a less RPM, reducing heat and vibration which reduces wear and tear on the internal pump parts, increasing the service life. 

Direct drive is the best solution for pressure washers used infrequently--less than 20 hours per week. The engine is directly connected to the pump, turning twice the RPM as a belt drive unit. Direct drive units are more compact, easy to transport, and less expensive.


Gas vs Electric
Will you always have access to electricity, or will you need to clean equipment at a construction site in a remote location? Will you use the pressure washer indoors or outdoors? Electric power washers are best for indoor or light outdoor jobs, infrequent use, are quieter than gas, don’t emit fumes, and usually require less maintenance. However, gas pressure washers are more powerful and clean 2-3x quicker, reducing labor while increasing productivity. They’re better suited for heavy-duty outdoor jobs, and offer the easy mobility that electric washers do not.

PSI – (Pounds per Square Inch) is the amount of cleaning pressure the machine produces.

GPM – (Gallons per Minute) is the amount of water flowing from the machine. 

Both measurements are equally important when considering a pressure washer. To clean, a pressure washer must have the pressure to “strip” away surface dirt, and the “flow” to move the dirt away with a rinsing action. 

A common misconception is that the higher the PSI, the better the washer. Not necessarily so. Many contractors consider GPM more important than PSI because they use detergents and chemical solutions to do the “cleaning.”
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