Is a pressure washer essential? Why the Karcher K4 changed my mind…

May 29th, 2015
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I had never even thought of getting a pressure washer. Can’t a hose and/or bucket do the job just as well? So I was even slightly alarmed when Karcher approached me to review some of their products as part of their Super Blogger programme.  But our terrace had started to look grubby and cluttered, and I thought that reviewing the Karcher K4 pressure washer would give me the impetus to get it sorted.

Our terrace before

This is our terrace at the end of the winter – a bit of a dumping ground. Table filthy, paving filthy…clutter everywhere

Karcher before

Other side of the terrace – not as cluttered but still rather dull and grubby

The K4 arrived in its smart yellow livery, and I got Mr Middle-size to help me with unpacking it and reading the instructions. He doesn’t enjoy gardening, but nor does he trust me with any sort of machinery. He pronounced the K4 as ‘good solid German engineering.’ His degree is in engineering, so this is a compliment.

Middlesized Garden Karcher blogger

This photograph by Lisa Valder sums up my general approach to machinery and technology – I like sitting back admiring the K4 while Mr Middle-size reads the instructions…

He checked which parts went where (it all fitted together very simply, but I always prefer someone else to do it for the first time, then show me.) Meanwhile I read a pictorial leaflet showing drawings of people cleaning things around their home and garden with the K4. I had always assumed that pressure washers were for cars and driveways, and, by extension, terraces. These cartoon characters were cleaning their garden furniture, their windows, their parasols, wheelbarrows, swimming pool, steps, paths, benches… Some were using special attachments – a full blast power jet can’t be directed at every surface – but otherwise a whole new world of sparkling cleanliness beckoned.

Using K4 pressure washer

First you have to sweep the terrace thoroughly, then Mr Middle-size put the K4 through its paces before allowing me anywhere near it…although it’s a fairly straightforward ‘plug it in, click in the bottle of detergent at the back and switch on’ technology.

Not everyone agrees that gardens should be squeaky-clean. Untouched corners with overgrown plants and abandoned logs, or thickets of climbers, are essential for wildlife. With declining native bird and bee populations, we middle-sized gardeners have a real role to play as the guardians of mini-sanctuaries. But when it comes to the places where we sit – patios, terraces and decks, there’s no doubt that clean and tidy makes whatever you’ve got look so much better. I’ve spent many years working with the talented stylist Liz Bauwens and top photographer Simon Brown on the books we’ve done together(the latest is Upcycled Chic). I’m always struck by the cleanliness and tidiness of the stylish rooms we photograph – even if the style is distressed, cluttered or eclectic, people who have lovely houses clearly work hard to keep everything clean and in order. Perhaps cleanliness is not only next to godliness, but also to stylish-ness…

Tables to be cleaned by the pressure washer

We had two tables to clean – one teak and one granite. We always wiped or scrubbed them before we ate on them, but there had been a build up of lichen – and during the winter they hadn’t been cleaned at all.

using Karcher K4 accessories

We used the left hand T350 attachment for spreading the detergent over the terrace – it fits to the end of the main power wand and has a gentle scrubbing motion. The smaller WB60 Soft Wash brush above is the fitting used for table tops and more fragile surfaces. We have to admit to using the main pressure hose on our teak table top at one point – which the instructions advise you not to do – so far the table seems absolutely fine, but I’d hate to recommend it to anyone else…

Using a new piece of equipment for the first time is always time-consuming – reading the instructions, setting it up etcetera…but once we actually started cleaning, it really was very much faster than using hoses, buckets and scrubbing brushes – and much cleaner, too. It was also so easy that Mr M decided to leave me in charge and get back to his emails. The instructions warned us to beware of ‘recoil’ immediately after switching it on. However, I’m not particularly strong and had no problems at all with recoil when I switched on. I then got so fascinated by watching how the lichen and general dirt was being stripped off the terrace paving stones in seconds that I completely forgot to take any notice of where the water was spraying after that. I soaked myself, the windows, the garden gate and even…I shudder to admit this…the extension plug. Very dangerous.

Terrace after K4

We re-arranged the furniture once the terrace and furniture had dried out (just a couple of hours in decent weather). We’re really pleased with the result.

Mr M came down to find it looking like the scene from ‘Paddington’, where Paddington Bear uses the ‘facilities’ for the first time. Muttering that he should never have left me alone with a piece of machinery, he showed me how to reduce the pressure so that I could use the K4 to spray the mud I’d spattered everywhere quickly off the windows and doors. The extension plug was then whisked inside for safety and I had a shower. I will be using the K4 more sensibly next time.

Terrace afterwards

The other side of the terrace…Benji is a bit surprised at so much cleanliness..

Our daughter was surprised to see that we had a pressure washer. She has a degree in environmental sciences and works in what could broadly be called ‘the green sector’, so immediately asked whether it used more water than a hose. However Karcher say that it actually uses less water than an ordinary garden hose doing the same job – presumably because it does the job so much faster. There are also ‘ecological models’, which save 20% on water and energy consumption.

Our terrace Karcher-ed

Another view of table and terrace after being Karcher-ed. This photograph was taken two months after the clean-up, so I think that we would only need to use the K4 once or twice a year to keep the terrace looking good.

I’m won over to pressure washers now – easy to use, quick and effective. I’ve had a number of requests from friends wanting to borrow my K4 to Karcher their own terraces – I almost feel a slight reluctance to let it out of my sight.