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What Hose Should I Use For My Pressure Washer?

We used to have a terrible old pressure washer that was always playing up so you couldn’t wash the car or the decking. I scrapped it last year and bought a new Karcher which has faired much better, and that’s because it comes with a durable hose.

So what is the best type of hose for a home pressure washer?

The strongest pressure washer hoses are made of 1/4″ steel-braided polyurethane and are designed to handle water pressure up to 3000 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Let’s dig down into this topic in more detail, and discover why pressure washers need specialist hoses, and why your garden hose may not be up to the job (kind of)…

What’s The Best Pressure Washer Hose Material?

The best (and therefore most expensive) material for a pressure washer hose is polyurethane (PU), because it’s both tough and flexible. A PU hose with steel braiding, coated in bendable plastic is the A-lister of pressure washer hoses. This is the type that professional tradespeople will use.

Next, there’s the rubber hose. This isn’t quite as good as steel braided PU,  but it’s a bit cheaper, and it’s certainly flexible. The downside of a rubber pressure washer hose is that it can leave marks on the surface, which is a bit counterproductive while you’re cleaning. That’s one of the reasons that pros choose the plastic-coated PU hose.

Finally, the cheapest option, PVC. This is tough, so the pressure’s not a problem, but it’s not very flexible. This can make pressure washing a frustrating job as your hose refuses to move with you. However, if you don’t use a pressure washer that often or just clean small surfaces, PVC is a perfectly adequate material.

Should I Use a 1/4-Inch, 3/8-Inch or 5/16-Inch Pressure Washer Hose?

To know what diameter hose to choose, you’ll need to know which size your particular pressure washer uses. There are three diameters to choose from:

  • ¼ inch: this is the most common diameter hose for domestic pressure washers. They generally take up to 3,000 psi (pounds per square inch), but please what your machine’s psi is first.
  • 5/16 inch: less common and mostly used with gas-powered pressure washers. They can handle 2,700 psi to 3,600 psi.
  • ⅜ inch: the thickest hose is normally used commercially, because these tough hoses can take up to 10,000 psi.

Check your instruction manual or take a look at your current hose to work out which one of these three you need. It’s probably going to be the ¼-inch diameter hose, but it’s always best to check.

If you’re new to the world of pressure washing (and boy you’re in for some fun: it’s just he most satisfying way to clean your deck or patio), you may have not attached a hope to a washer before. This short film shows you how to connect a hose to the pressure washer.

Can You Use Any Water Hose With a Pressure Washer?

The surprising answer is yes, you can. However, using a regular hose with our pressure washer comes with strict conditions.

Firstly, you can use a regular hose between the faucet and the pressure washer but not between the pressure washer and the spray gun. The pressure might be too much for your regular hose, leading to a sudden explosion, a burst hose, water everywhere, and possibly a damaged pressure washer.

Secondly, you might be able to use a regular hose for the actual washing, provided the pressure washer is running at its minimum psi. In order to be able to do this, you’ll need to know what that minimum psi is, and also what psi your hose is designed to take.

Can I Use a Regular Garden Hose For a Pressure Washer? (If So What Size?)

You can use a regular hose with your pressure washer, but this is typically between the faucet (indoor or outdoor) and the washer.

It’s not a good idea to use your regular hose for the other end of the operation, between the machine and the spray gun. This is because most standard hoses can take a psi of around 70 to 150. So, fine to supply the water to your pressure washer, but not so fine when it blasts out the other end.

Professional garden hoses are a bit tougher and can handle about 500 psi, but that still isn’t enough. Don’t compromise when it comes to choosing the right hose for your pressure washer. If you need a long length of hose, use an extendable hose pipe between the faucet and the washer, which should give you plenty of hose.

To connect the hose from the faucet to the pressure washer, you might need to buy a connector for the washer end. Your manual should be able to tell you what sort you need, or it may even come with the machine.

Does Hose Type Affect Water Pressure?

The type of hose you choose will affect the performance of the pressure washer, and also how easy it is to use. The hose length can have a direct effect on the water pressure (and we’ll take a closer look at hose length in just a moment).

As we discussed earlier, you can use a regular hose pipe to feed water into the pressure washer, but it won’t handle the pressure that comes out of the other side. This is a definite no.

A cheaper PVC pressure washer hose can handle pressure up to around 3,000 psi (please check your individual hose pipe and machine’s instructions); however, because it isn’t flexible it can develop kinks, which prevent the pressurized water from passing through easily.

If you can, go for a more flexible type of pressure washer hose, such as one made from rubber or steel-braided PU.

Hose pipe length has a direct effect on the water pressure, so when it comes to choosing a high-pressure hose, less is more. However, this shouldn’t impact the average domestic user much, unless you’re lucky enough to have a huge yard.

This is because you lose about 5 psi per 100 feet of hose pipe. While this may have an impact upon, say, the fire department hoses, it won’t really affect a domestic pressure washer. Your pressure washer hose is probably only 50 feet long, so any drop in psi will be negligible.

What is the Best Hose Length For a Pressure Washer?

If you’re buying a hose pipe for a domestic pressure washer, around 50 feet is good. Any longer than that is probably too large for your yard, and it will just become unwieldy to use. 

If you’re cleaning a smallish space, go for a 25-foot pressure washer hose, which will be super-easy to maneuver and long enough for most simple cleaning jobs.

Most commercial users go for 100 feet-long hose pipes for their pressure washers, which makes their set-up more versatile.

Look at material as well as length, and in the end, this will have more impact on how effective your pressure washer hose is. If you can, go for the pro-grade polyurethane pressure washer use, as its flexibility makes it easier to use at any length. The cheaper PVC versions are a lot stiffer, so you’ll find that even a shorter length is harder to handle.

And of course, when you’re purchasing your hose, check diameter as well as length: does your pressure washer take ¼ inch, 5/16 inch or ⅜ inch diameter hose pipes?

pressure washer hose
What’s The Best Pressure Washer Hose?

Does a Longer Pressure Washer Hose Reduce Pressure?

Yes, a longer pressure washer hose will reduce water pressure, but only marginally. In fact, the amount is so small compared with the output of the pressure washer, that it’s really not something you need to worry about.

The typical pressure washer hose will lose about 5 psi for every 100 feet in length. This means that a standard professional pressure washer hose will lose pressure of around 5 psi in total. However, that’s 5 psi out of a possible 10,000 psi, and nobody is going to notice this slight drop.

If this has convinced you to get a longer hose, think again. Long hose pipes present more problems for the user than a slight drop in pressure.

The longer a hose pipe gets, the harder it is to use. It’s heavier, more likely to get stuck around corners and obstacles, and it can take a long time for the water to reach the spray gun. 

Is your garden on an incline? Pushing the water uphill can lead to a noticeable slowing and even a drop in pressure, which is worse when the water has a longer length of hose to travel through. Of course, this may be unavoidable if you’re working with an upwards slope, but it’s definitely something to be prepared for.

Have you set yourself a generous budget for your new pressure washer hose? You’re better off spending it on a top-quality, robust, and flexible shorter hose than on an extra 50 feet.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >