How Pressure Washers Work

by RobertKeith

Pressure washers work as you would probably expect—they blast stubborn stains clean with pressurized water at about 75 times more pressure than what a water hose uses.

Pressure washers work as you would probably expect—they blast stubborn stains clean with pressurized water at about 75 times more pressure than what a water hose uses. Though commonly used for cleaning tough, grimy surfaces, pressure washers can also be commonly set to use lower pressures for more delicate jobs.

There are typically five main parts to pressure washers: the motor or engine, water pump, water inlet, hose, and cleaning attachments.

The Motor or Engine

The motor/engine works as you would expect. It supplies power to the unit and allows for the pumping and pressurization of water. There are two basic kinds of pressure washer: electric and gas. Electric pressure washers plug into your home’s existing power outlets and are typically quiet with neighbor-friendly noise levels. Gas, on the other hand, are typically more medium to high-end, cost more, and are driven by gasoline engines. The most common reasons to choose gas over electric are both what you are cleaning, as well as budget, noise level, and portability. Obviously, the gas-driven pressure washer is going to be much more portable, so if you must venture to remote areas, it is preferred over electric. Visit Consumer Reports for more information on deciding between the two.

Man do a Pressure Washing on Timber
Man do a Pressure Washing on Timber

There are two main technical terms to be concerned with when researching pressure washers (and the engines that drive them): PSI, and GPM. PSI (which stands for pounds per square inch), is the water pressure output measured in pounds per square inch. PSI is basically the rating that tells you how well it’s going to clean the surface you apply it to—the tougher the job, the higher the PSI you will need.

GPM stands for gallons per minute. It is the amount of water that is delivered to the spray gun per minute. When you’re looking at big jobs, you will need to be concerned with the amount of water you have available. This is increasingly more important when you’re working in remote areas without access to readily available water.

The Pump

The water pump is the main driving force of a modern pressure washing unit. It’s driven by the engine or motor and functions much how manual pumps work. The motor pulls the pump back and forth in a repetitive motion, and in turn, pulls the water in from the inlet and pushes it back out of the hose attachment that results in a high-pressure stream.

The Water Inlet

The water inlet is simply a hose that connects the pressure washer to the water reservoir. Additionally, filters are usually used to keep small particles from entering and damaging the main pressure washing assembly. Besides clogging up the unit, it’s possible that these fine pieces of debris will come out the other end at extremely high speeds and possibly damage the surface you are working on.

The Hose

Pressure washers aren’t of much use if you’re not able to deliver the water to whatever you’re cleaning in an effective and flexible way. These high-pressure water hoses are built far beyond the durability of what you would find in a typical garden hose. These hoses are built using wire mesh that strengthens the integrity of the hose. Additionally, they are reinforced with two or more layers of ultra-tough plastic. Pressure washer hoses typically are required to be rated three times higher than its corresponding pressure washer. For instance, if you have a 1500 PSI pressure washer, it’s recommended that you pair it with a corresponding hose of at least 4500 PSI. Additionally, these water hoses come in a variety of lengths depending on the job you need to tackle.

Cleaning Attachments

Various cleaning attachments exist for pressure washer use, including wands, guns, and lances, and these all vary based on what you’ll be cleaning. Driveway cleaning, for instance, requires an oscillating brush that allows for scrubbing. Simple jet streams require a simple trigger gun. You might think that external power is required for these moving parts. In fact, the unit’s high-pressure water flow allows for powering any rotating of wands or other attachments that might be necessary. For a list of all attachments available, visit Amazon.

In Conclusion

Pressure washers are powerful machines that turn any tough cleaning job into a much simpler task. Though seemingly complicated, you have seen that they are quite simple machines that incorporate five parts. The motor, that drives the unit; the pump that is the heart of the machine; the water inlet that you can attach your water source to; the hose, an ultra-durable wire mesh hose; and various cleaning attachments allowing you to get any tough job done with flexibility. Get a free washing quote here.

Updated: 05/20/2018, RobertKeith
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