The Evolution of Pressure Washers: 1926-2022

Last Updated on November 10, 2021

The evolution of pressure washers: From the beginning to modern-day

When it comes to cleaning with optimum cleaning and efficiency, everybody knows that pressure washers are the weapon of choice! These devices have been helping people return their properties to their former glory for decades now, and it’s sometimes hard to imagine a world without them. 

It’s crazy to think that many years ago, pressure washers didn’t exist – thank god they were invented! If you’ve ever wondered about how they came about, read on – we’ll be taking a look at the evolution of pressure washers, from the beginning to the modern day. 

It’s always important to be grateful for the things that help us throughout our day-to-day lives, so spend some time with us learning about the history of our favourite pressure washers, how they have been innovated upon over the years, and the future that they hold!

The Beginning of the Pressure Washer

evolution of pressure washers

When do you think pressure washers first came about? Many people assume it would be the ’60s or the ’70s, but believe it or not, they can actually be traced all the way back to 1926! This was all down to a man named Frank W. Ofeldt II, a man living in Pennsylvania producing gas-fired boilers and heaters.

Amazingly, Ofeldt didn’t actually mean to invent this technology – it was actually a complete accident. He was once working on another project when he discovered by chance that steam forced through a small hose at high pressure provided an excellent way for him to clean up the grimey oil on his garage floor. Now that’s what I call a happy accident!

After seeing how effective this accidental invention was, Ofeldt began trying to create a cleaning contraption that would provide this wet steam (in combination with cleaning chemicals) to provide this cleaning method on demand. We salute Ofeldt II for his contribution to society, but it didn’t quite stop there!

Innovations on the Pressure Washer

There is certainly no denying that Ofeldt invented the concept of the pressure washer, but as you can probably imagine, it wasn’t even close to what we have today. It was massive, clunky, and required a huge amount of maintenance, not to mention the fact that it was hardly affordable to the average Joe.

This all began to change in the ’60s, with the key catalyst being the uniflow design piston pumps developed by Cat Pumps. These lasted around 10 times longer than existing pumps required to build up steam pressure, ultimately resulting in technology that allowed pressure washers to deliver a PSI of 1000! 

That may not sound like a lot these days, but at the time it was huge, but Cat Pumps saw a market for not just higher pressure devices, but devices that could be mass-produced for the huge demand at the time.

Sleeve type piston pumps were invented by Cat Pumps around 1975 which provided immense pressure of up to 3000 PSI, with the Cat Pump model 524 soon facilitating this pressure to be used within petrol-powered washers.

Car Washers and Pressure Washers

Drive-through car washes may not be the first thing that you think about when you consider pressure washers, but they actually have a lot to do with the innovation that led to the pressure washers we use today.

Cat Pumps began to realize that they needed to adopt ceramic plunger pump technology to push the industry forward in the ’80s, and this technology was currently being used in drive-through car wash establishments!

Applying this piston technology to pressure washers resulted in yet another increase in PSI capabilities, a higher RPM of the pistons, and a more economical design that was cheaper and easier to use.

Some of the earliest pressure washers examples using this technology include the Cat Pumps Model 651 and the Model 1051, both available around 1985.

These really weren’t that far off of the typical gas and electric powered pressure washers that we see today, but they were still a lot less affordable, powerful and more clunky.

Around this point, Italian pump manufacturers began to form partnerships with American pressure washer designers, and this gave birth to Hypro pressure washers that used ceramic pumps to improve safety, cost efficiency and reduce size. 

The Present 

modern day pressure washer

Well, that just about brings us up to the ‘90s – thanks to innovations in piston and pump technologies, pressure washer companies were finally able to produce devices that were safe, affordable, easy to use, and most importantly powerful!

However, you might have noticed that pressure washers are a little bit more exciting than this these days – there’s been tons of innovation in recent years.

If you buy a pressure washer in 2021, you’ll have all sorts of options available – there are lightweight pressure washers that can be powered by petrol or electricity, pressure washers that have a ridiculous range of attachments specifically designed for many purposes, and even battery-powered pressure washers!

That’s right, you can now buy pressure washers that can be charged up just like your smartphone, removing the frustrating restrictions that come with cabled pressure washers. 

We really do feel lucky to have all of this amazing technology – the industry has come a long way thanks to the collaborative efforts of engineers, and it all started with our friend Frank W. Ofeldt II. Cheers to you mate!

The Future

You might be wondering, “is that it for pressure washer evolution”? If you ask us, we’d say absolutely not! We can already see tons of innovation coming, and some of it’s already here.

The main thing that we can see increasing in popularity is ‘smart’ pressure washers. This is where a pressure washer can be linked to your smartphone or computer. 

This could have tons of implications for the future – perhaps pressure washing will be autonomous like self-driving cars, or perhaps they will give us artificial intelligence-powered advice to help us optimize our pressure washing technique! 

One thing is for sure though – the engineers behind pressure washers are a passionate bunch, and we have no doubt that they’ve got some tricks up their sleeves for the future of the industry. 

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