A pressure washer – also known as a power washer or jet washer – can be an invaluable tool for cleaning your bike. A well-aimed jet of water will shift even the most stubborn of caked-on muck from your frame and components, so it’s a great tool for keeping your pride and joy in immaculate condition, especially when space dictates that it be stored indoors.
Meanwhile a portable pressure washer is ideal for removing fresh mud and grime post-ride, so your bike and wheels are clean enough to be stowed in your car or van without destroying the interior. However there are risks associated with pressure-washing your bike, as a powerful jet of water aimed in the wrong place can inadvertently strip grease and oil from bearings and seals, or even worse cause damage to decals or frames.
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Read on to find out more about the different types of pressure washer on the market, and to find out which one is right for you.
When it comes to cleaning bikes and sporting equipment, you aren’t going to need a plethora of attachments or features so the choice boils down to a domestic washer (i.e. of the electric type commonly used for home and car cleaning, as opposed to a petrol-driven professional unit) or a portable washer.
• Domestic washer: If you only wish to clean your bike at home you can use your common-or-garden domestic power washer, but this does have some limitations. In the first instance, the risk of using too-high pressure is great – some domestic power washers may have a flow rate of up to 2000Psi (pounds per square inch), which may be ideal for stripping the dirt from your decking, but can remove lubricants from vital bike parts or even damage decals or frames. Secondly, most domestic pressure washers will require a fixed power source (mains) and water supply (garden hose) so are not portable. There are some advantages to this type, the main one of course being that you can use it for domestic tasks, while some models will enable detergent to be added to the water for additional cleaning power.
• Portable washer: For anyone that wants to clean bikes or other sporting equipment by the trailside – and protect the inside or their car of van – a portable pressure washer is the answer. Washers of this type use a 12v power connector so they can be run from your car’s battery (using the cigarette lighter) and may also have a rechargeable battery, making them truly mobile. A portable pressure washer will also have an integrated water tank rather than a hose connection, and will typically feature pressure output much lower than that of a domestic or professional washer, a maximum of around 130Psi being standard. This is more than enough pressure to shift even the most stubborn muck from your bike, but not so much as to risk damage to delicate parts.
• Power source: Most portable have a 12v connection but a rechargeable battery will give you even more freedom.
• Water tank capacity: A tank capacity of around 15l will give you more than enough water to roughly clean up to three bikes, or to get one completely immaculate.
• Hoses and fittings: Hoses and power leads must be of ample length to enable you plenty of room to work. If you find that you are limited you may be able to replace parts – e.g. a longer hose.
• Size and weight: A compact and lightweight unit will offer maximum portability, while some models even have shoulder straps for convenience.
Note: Whether you are using a domestic or portable washer it’s important to be careful with the jet spray. Lubricated bike parts – such as hubs, chains, freewheels and even fork seals – do not take kindly to being targeted by a high-pressure water jet, and you could very easily strip the grease out of your bearings, or worse. Take especial care when cleaning these areas and use the lowest-pressure setting or alternatively, a sponge or soft-bristled brush and some bike cleaner.