Who Invented the Pressure Washer?

By Power Tools

February 6, 2021

Pressure washing is a process of removing dirt from your home’s roof, edges, and other surfaces by using a high-pressure water spray.

When dirt accumulates in your house, its aesthetic value diminishes, be it the exterior walls, corridors, or other surfaces. A high-pressure washer has made life easier for millions of people who want to keep their place beautiful.

The high-pressure washer’s global market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3% in the next few years [1].

Brief History of the Invention Of Pressure Washer

Oil on the floor

In 1926, during the height of the prohibition days in America, Frank Woldert II invented the first steam pressure washer. He was an employee of a Pennsylvanian producer of gas-fired water heaters and boilers and was actively involved in moonshining at the time.

Cleaning with pressure washer

He accidentally invented the pressure washer while working on making whisky in his garage on a whiskey still. He found that whenever the steam, forced at high pressure through a hose, hit the garage floor, it would move the grease and grime.

While he understood that steam alone was not enough to take out the grease, only displace it, he decided to create equipment that used wet steam along with other chemicals that would be able to do high-pressure cleaning.

The Steam Jenny

To take his invention forward, Frank began searching for pump castings to create a mass-producible hose. Pump casting is a process where parts of the pump are designed and cast by different metals. He then collaborated with Homestead Valve company to develop what he called was a “Hypressure Vapor Spray Generator.”

A casual meeting with an advertising man at Homestead valves changed the course of history when he advised that they should change the name to “High-Pressure Jenny.” The name stuck and became a very popular device in the 1930s.

Pump Technology

Pump innovations continued to take place over the years. And so did the pressure washer designs.

The most important advancement in pressure washing came during the 1960s. Cat pumps invented a uniflow design piston pump. It lasted ten times longer than the other pumps. It could reach pressure up to 1000 psi.

There was increased demand for high-pressure pumps in 1975. Cat Pumps came out with a pump having a capability of 3000 psi. This is still an industry standard for pressure washers until today.

In 1950, Alfred Karcher invented a hot water high-pressure washer that became a popular tool.

Types of Pressure Washer

Today, there are various types of pressure washers used for different purposes.

A Photo of Electric Pressure Washer

Hot Water Pressure Washers

A hot water pressure washer can reach a temperature over 300°F. They clean more efficiently at this temperature. It helps remove oil and grease from surfaces. The hot pressure washer helps to clean using very few chemicals.

The hot pressure washer kills mold and germs at a high-efficiency rate. The hot water evaporates quickly when it comes out of a hot pressure washer. This hot water pressure washer is useful to kill germs. It is a great choice for the automotive industry. It helps wash off grease and oil much quickly.

Cold Water Pressure Washer

The cold water pressure washer is a good choice for homeowners. The water temperature is 140°F. This temperature is safe to use at home. These are a good option for commercial use as well.

The two basic types of cold-water pressure washer are:

  • Gas-Powered Cold-Water Pressure Washer. The gas-powered cold water pressure washer is often used for outdoor purposes where there is no electricity. They produce gas fumes. You cannot use them in a closed environment.
  • Electric-Powered Cold-Water Pressure Washer. Before getting an electric power cold-water pressure washer, make sure it can handle the voltage. Most of this washer runs on 120-volt electricity. They are useful for cleaning vehicles, windows, and painted surfaces.

Styles Of Pressure Washer

  • With Wheels. Most pressure water today comes with wheels for convenient use. You can move the pressure washer wherever it is needed.
  • Standing Unit. Some pressure washers come without wheels. These washers are easy to tote around. The pressure washers come with a handle that you can grab onto. You can easily pick them up and carry them along. These types of pressure washers don’t weigh much as well and feature a compact design.

Parts Of Pressure Washer

A pressure washer is less sophisticated than it sounds. It’s a water pump powered by an electric motor. The washer takes water from the tap. Then the pump accelerates water at high pressure. The water flows from the hose at speed through the trigger gun.
The main parts of the pressure washer are:

  • Water Inlet. It is a hose that connects the pressure washer to the water supply. It is a filter in the inlet. It stops dirt and debris from entering the washer and blocking up the process. If debris enters the washer, it will damage the machine.
  • Electric Motor Or Gas Engine. The smaller pressure washers run on the electric supply. Gas engines power the bigger models. The power of the engine is around 3-5Kw or 3.5-5.5 HP. The engines are similar to the ones used in lawnmowers. Gas engines are great for outdoor purposes where there is no electricity available. The motor is designed to power the water pump.
  • Water Pump. The water pump is the main component of a pressure washer. It’s similar to a manually operated groundwater pump. The Only difference is that it is operated at high speed by an electric motor instead of hands. When the engine pulls the pump in one way, it sucks water from the tap. When it pushes the pump from another way, the water flows out in high pressure. Water pumps are designed to handle water flow of around 1-2 gallons per minute.
  • High-Pressure Hose. It is a tube that runs out from the washer to the cleaning attachment you are using. The high-pressure hose is reinforced with a wire mesh. It has two layers of high-density plastic. It is advised to use a higher-pressure rating than the pump used in the pressure washer. If the washer came with a hose, then there is nothing to worry about.
    The safety margin of the pressure washer hose is 300%. Like if your washer is rated at 2000 psi. The hose should withstand the pressure of at least 6000 psi.
  • Cleaning Attachment. Depending on what you are cleaning, you can change your cleaning attachment. You can switch from a trigger gun to a sinning spray. You can also switch to a rotating brush to scrub your vehicle. These powered attachments work by the force of water flowing through them.

How Pressure Washers Get Things Cleaner?

The pressure washer uses water as an integral part to clean. The water has electrical polarity. One end is positively charged. The other end is negatively charged. This helps them stick to things all by themselves.

The same thing works with pressure jets. When you add pressure washer detergents, its cleaning capacity increases, it breaks the gauge and grease. The water easily flushes all away.

A photo of a car being washed

For more stubborn stains and dirt, the pressure washer works great. The pressure washer uses high pressure of water. It is passed through a narrow outlet. It breaks the toughest of dust and dirt.

The best part is, water is the main cleaning agent. It does not harm any surface. It’s better to read the manual and instructions before starting.

How Does A Pressure Washer Work?

  • First, the detergent flows to the container through the hose.
  • Then the water flows through the filtered hose. The filtered hose is attached with the tap.
  • Start the washer with the help of an electric or diesel-powered engine.
  • The water pump draws in detergent and water. It mixes them. The water gets heated to 50° to 70* temperature.
  • Finally, the water flows out in speed through the hose and cleaning attachment. The narrow nozzle increases the pressure of the water jet even more.

The pressure washer works more efficiently than normal pressure pipe cleaning. It uses less than 80% water. This is more economical if your water is metered.

Use Of Pressure Washer

The pressure washer is used for various things.

  • Used To Clean Outdoor Play Structure. An outdoor play area for your kids often builds up dirt. You need to clean it up. Scrubbing with soap and water is a time taking process. The pressure washer allows for cleaning the play area in very little time.
  • Cleans Lawn Mower. You can clean your lawnmower using a pressure washer. Just spray the mower after you are done mowing. Set the pressure washer to a low temperature. So it doesn’t damage the paint of the mower. Always clean your mower before storing it up.
  • Cleans Vehicles. If your car, truck, or van gets dirty often, a pressure washer is a perfect way to remove the dirt. Spray down on the car before soaping it up. It will loosen the debris. Set the pressure washer to a low temperature to avoid damaging the paint. Once soaped up, use a pressure washer to clean it.
  • Cleans Walkway. The pressure washer works great for cleaning brick and paver stones. It is perfect for removing excess dirt and debris from stones.
  • Clean Awnings. If you have awnings around your house or office, the pressure washer is perfect for keeping it clean. A high-pressure water jet works great. Scrub it down with soap using a long brush. Then rinse it off with a pressure washer.


Today, a pressure washer is a multi-billion dollar company worldwide. There have been several advancements in pressure pumps over the years.

From the High-pressure Jenny to an HD 555, the pressure washer results from various inventors with different visions. But in the end, it is a great way to clean driveways, sidewalks, or home exteriors.


[1] Global Market Of Pressure Washer