The Stihl RE 129 Plus is a powerful pressure washer that quickly gets the job done, and we designate it our best in test. It cleans most things with panache. There's practically no noticeable difference compared to other pressure washers with slightly higher pressure levels. It cleans alloy wheels and decking as effectively as cars and façades. The handle is comfortable and gives very few vibrations. The RE 129 Plus is equipped with an ergonomic, high quality hose. We measured it as being a little shorter than the specification, but it's still long enough to get around the car or wash a largeish façade. The hose has a slightly fabric feel and follows your movements extremely well. Above all, it doesn't get tangled.
The separate cable hanger with built-in hose reel is a welcome addition, with smart control during retraction. The fact that the hose reel is on the top also makes it simple to roll the hose in and out. The Stihl RE 129 Plus is something of a monster, and it's heavy to move around. At the same time it's also robust, stable and hard to tip over. The weight is actually only a disadvantage when lifting or constantly moving it. The design is generally appealing. The large wheels mean that it rolls smoothly over different types of surface, and nozzles can quickly be connected and changed.
Nilfisk C-PG 130.2-8 PCDI X-TRA is a handy, compact pressure washer. It's not the most powerful model on the market, but given its neat size and weight it outperforms our expectations. It's undoubtedly capable of basic tasks such as keeping the car clean, washing the façade of your house or cleaning the patio. You can also easily set the pressure using buttons on the handle. The ample hose length means that you can easily clean the whole car without having to move the machine. The hose is semi-rigid, but still follows the user's movements well even in colder weather. This is important because the machine doesn't weigh very much, which means that it easily tips over if you jerk the hose when it's fully extended. Fortunately, the hose length and flexibility means that this doesn't happen very often.
The C-PG 130.2 includes a number of accessories. In addition to the spray and rotary nozzle, you also get a patio accessory and a dosing nozzle. The latter can be used for things like car shampoo, degreaser and soft soap. The pressure washer also includes a drain hose for flushing out blockages and a hose for collecting water from a water butt. Changing the nozzles and connecting other accessories is very quick and easy. It's also possible to store the majority of accessories on the machine, and it has a hose reel on the top. Its comfortable handle, minimal vibrations and moderate noise level makes the C-PG 130.2 pleasant to use. It may initially feel a little plasticky, but you soon forget this given all the included accessories and ease-of-use. The neat size of the C-PG 130.2 also makes it easy to pack up and store out of the way when not in use.
The Nilfisk E145.3-10H X-TRA is a substantial pressure washer with a good hose. The thickness and textile-like material of the hose – together with the pressure washer's carefully considered design – make the entire construction feel substantial. You can store nozzles which aren't in use and they're easy to change. The hose is on a hose reel on the top of the pressure washer and easily goes all the way around a car. The positioning is advantageous as it means the hose unrolls smoothly when you pull on it. At the same time, the high weight of the machine means that the E145.3-10H X-TRA remains solidly on the ground during use. Despite this weight, the pressure washer is easy to manoeuvre. As long as you aren't after a pressure washer that you can carry up onto the roof, the weight isn't a problem.
Nilfisk have been clever in their placement of the dosing container. This is located on the nozzle, which means that you can constantly keep track of how much detergent you have left. And it's also easy to regulate the quantity. The fact that the container is an accessory included with the pressure washer is another clear plus. The E145.3-10H X-TRA has only one flaw, and this becomes apparent when you're using it at full power. It produces extremely powerful vibrations and a very loud noise. Even if you aren't normally sensitive to this, after just a few minutes the pistol can hurt your hand from the vibrations caused by the high pressure. At the same time, the washing result isn't any better than comparable models in the same price class, which makes these disadvantages even more evident. Apart from this, however, the Nilfisk E145.3-10H X-TRA is a high performance and affordable pressure washer.
The Kärcher K5 Full Control is a powerful machine that easily removes dirt from both wood and metal. It's just as easy to clean your patio as it is your dirty alloy wheels. Everything from stickers to old paint residues quickly disappears. The K5 is an upmarket version of its smaller sibling, the K4. It has slightly higher water pressure, which produces a better effect. The hose is a couple of metres longer, which definitely improves user-friendliness and means you have to move the machine much less often, for example when washing the car. At the same time the hose is quite stiff, especially in cold conditions, which makes it fiddly to handle. Situations often occur where it's easier to move the pressure washer than it is to roll out more hose.
Given the price class, the number of included accessories feels rather stingy. There are only two nozzles in the standard packet and no special accessories for car washing, attaching cleaning products or patio cleaning. However, the machine is well equipped to deal with such accessories. There are places to store nozzles which are not currently in use, and changing between them is a quick process. The included rotary nozzle is very effective, but creates vibrations which can be unpleasant if you use it for a long time. This problem doesn't occur with the fan jet nozzle. Otherwise the machine is both attractive and well designed. The telescopic handle makes the Kärcher K5 easy to move while also being easy to store. On the nozzle there's an LED display that shows the pressure, although this is somewhat unnecessary as you can feel what the pressure is as you use it. Given Kärcher's strong brand and the price tag, we expected more of the K5 Premium Full Control pressure washer
However, the Kärcher K4's wheels are very good. There are quite substantial and make it easy to move because it can be rolled without problems across even difficult surfaces. The spray pressure is regulated by rotating the spray pipe. An LED display on the handle shows the current pressure, which is undoubtedly impressive but not very much practical use. The included accessories consist of just two nozzles. We would have liked to have also seen a dosing nozzle or a patio cleaning nozzle included. The machine is stable and easy to store as a result of the hose reel and telescopic handle. If you aren't going to use your pressure washer for washing the car, but for smaller jobs such as cleaning the barbecue and outdoor furniture, the Kärcher K4 Full Control is perfectly adequate.
Useful things to know about pressure washers
When you decide to buy a pressure washer, there’s a whole load of things you should think about before deciding which one to go for. You need to think about your needs, and also understand how a pressure washer works and what functions are essential. Then you can avoid buying a pressure washer that doesn’t do what you want. When you have the right information, it's easier to choose a couple of models and compare them.
Below is a list of the most important parameters to bear in mind when choosing a pressure washer.
Water pressure is measured in bar and is important because it’s a key factor in how well your pressure washer carries out its tasks. The higher the water pressure, the higher the speed (and therefore the higher the kinetic energy) the water will have when it encounters the surface to be cleaned, and the greater the power the surface will be subjected to. And of course the greater the power the surface is subjected to, the more powerful the cleaning effect. In other words, it’s important that the water pressure is sufficiently high for the pressure washer to be able to cope with the tasks you bought it for.
In general, budget models have a water pressure of less than 120 bar, while premium models have at least 140 bar, and often more. And in between there is a wide range of models in the medium segment.
One standard function is a nozzle or function to adjust the pressure. On the simpler models, the pressure is adjusted by rotating the nozzle and restricting the water flow. You can compare this with a hose pipe where you pinch the end to get a stronger jet, while at the same time less water comes out. It works the same way if you rotate the nozzle of a pressure washer to reduce the pressure – the hole becomes bigger, which results in lower pressure but a larger quantity of water.
On slightly more advanced models, the pressure is instead adjusted via buttons, and on some models you can read the pressure on a display on the handle. There are even models where you can adjust both pressure and flow remotely.
The water flow in a pressure washer is normally measured in litres per hour. This gives you a good idea of how much water is used up per session. Together with the water pressure, the water flow determines the intensity of the water hitting the surface. The greater the intensity, the more drops of water hit the surface and the quicker it is cleaned.
Budget models often have a flow of approx. 300-350 litres per hour, while premium models usually have a flow of 450-500 litres per hour.
Providing that the water pressure is sufficiently high, the water flow multiplied by the water pressure determines, at least theoretically, the cleaning effect of the pressure washer. And the better the cleaning effect, the larger the area you can clean in a given period of time. The cleaning effect should therefore be the primary parameter when you buy a pressure washer. Unfortunately, you can’t really determine the cleaning effect simply by multiplying the stated values for water flow and water pressure – it has to be evaluated by actually using the pressure washer. But higher pressure and flow often go hand-in-hand with a better cleaning effect. Similarly, the cleaning effect can’t be determined by the motor power of the machine, even though a higher power usually also means a better cleaning effect.
For an average homeowner, a pressure of around 130 bar and a flow of around 450 litres an hour is often sufficient for the broad range of tasks around a domestic home. It should also be possible to reduce the pressure for tasks requiring less brute force, such as washing your decking.
Domestic pressure washers generally have electric motors that you connect to a normal earthed wall outlet. The motor drives the internal pump that increases the water pressure. In general, a higher motor power means higher water pressure and a bigger water flow. Often it’s important to turn on the water to the pressure washer before starting the motor. Otherwise the pump can create a vacuum, which can damage the machine.
The hose is an important component, both in terms of length and material. The hose should be sufficiently long, but also sufficiently flexible. A short, stiff hose makes the work more of an effort and takes more time. Common hose problems include it continuing to coil up during use after being stored for a while and the pressure washer tipping over every time you try to extend the hose.
Ergonomics play a major role in pressure washer handles. They must be comfortable to hold for long periods. You must also be able to stand upright and still be able to clean things like patio tiles from close up. The modern standard is a telescopic handle, which means that you can maintain a distance of about 20 cm from the surface you’re standing on without having to stoop over. However, in some situations a shorter handle is better – such as when you’re standing on a ladder cleaning something very close to you. Another important factor is how easy it is to attach and remove accessories from handle. The current standard is a straightforward click in/click out function.
The design is above all important from a user perspective. How stable is the pressure washer? How easy is it to store out of the way when it’s not in use? Is it possible to hang accessories and nozzles on the pressure washer itself when they aren’t in use?
Pressure washers make a fair amount of noise, and more powerful models are usually louder. The higher the noise level, the worse it is for your hearing and comfort levels. However, noise levels don’t usually vary greatly for pressure washers intended for domestic use. Pressure washers are generally so noisy that some type of hearing protection should be worn. If you follow this recommendation, it is less important how noisy the pressure washer is.
The motor power and water pressure and flow settings determine the energy consumption. A pressure washer which is ineffective doesn’t simply mean that you spend more time on cleaning tasks, but also that you consume more energy. Even though a more powerful model consumes more energy per second, it can still be more energy-efficient if it works sufficiently quickly.
Guarantees on pressure washers are often divided between the machine itself and the sprayer equipment. Note that damage due to freezing is not normally covered by the manufacturer’s guarantee. You should therefore make sure you store the pressure washer where it will never be exposed to temperatures below zero.
Alternative water sources
Some manufacturers and models support the use of an alternative water source. This can be practical if you have access to free water from a well or from collected rainwater, and is particularly important if you live in an area where you have to be sparing with water.
The number of accessories included with the machine varies widely, and more expensive pressure washers tend to include more accessories.
The big manufacturers normally include a nozzle with a rinsing effect for more delicate tasks and a rotating nozzle with a “cutting” effect for tasks where more power is required. For example, you don’t want to have water penetrate into the façade of your house or risk causing splinters on your decking by using too high a water pressure.
Some manufacturers include a foam nozzle intended for fitting at the very end of the spray attachment. This means that cleaning products are at the very end of the flow and don’t go through the machine. You then avoid the inconvenience of cleaning products remaining in the machine after it has been used.
The major manufacturers also have a wide range of other accessories to purchase separately. These include packets for cleaning vehicles and different types of brushes and handles.