The Best Electric Pressure for Washing Cars with a Foam Gun

For a long time I have been watching both amateur and professional detailers post pictures of their car covered in a thick layer of foam and been jealous of their results – my basic Gilmour Foam Gun that connects to a regular hose spits out plenty of soap, but did not achieve anywhere near the same results. These professionals achieving the super foamy “covered in snow” washes were using special foam guns (also referred to as foam lance, or foam cannons), and not just a basic sprayer like the Gilmour gun. Wanting to achieve similar results, but not wanting the bulk and hassle of a gas-powered pressure washer, I started by buying an $80 electric pressure washer by Greenworks and saw a big upgrade in the amount of foam I saw over a regular garden hose attachment, but still nothing like what the pros use.

Alas, I stumbled upon the world of electric pressure washers to see what upgrades are available. I started by using a smaller orfice and better soap, and that helped improve the output but still wasn’t *quite* there. The problem is that most foam lances require a minimum of ~2 gallons per minute (GPM) for optimal results, and while most “budget” electric pressure washers cannot meet that standard and the smaller orfice is a “hack” to try to mimic that similar pressure and water/soap ratio. The pros like Obsessed Garage recommended going with pressure washer setups that cost $800-$2K, and that seemed like too much money to get a little more foam – so for a while, I kept this setup and all was fine.

The Ultimate At-Home Setup: Active 2.0 with Upgrades

This all changed about a year ago Active introduced their Active 2.0 electric pressure washer that is specifically designed to be optimal for washing cars and has a 1.9 GPM rating, making it PERFECT for the job without breaking the bank on a professional-grade pressure washer. The Active 2.0 pressure washer did come with its own foam/soap adapter, but to give my experiment the best chance of succeeding I also picked up a Chemical Guys TORQ Professional Foam Cannon and a gallon of their specially formulated Honeydew Snow Foam Cleanser, which set me back another $99. I’ve been using this setup for over a year now, and continue to be super pleased and impressed with the results – so I’ve updated this post to reflect the latest & greatest gear and recommendations.

You can pick up my current/recommended setup  on Amazon here:

Thanks to Amazon Prime, my new toys arrived in a little under two days, and it was time to see if this would all work. The foam cannon instructions advise to use 1-3 ounces of soap, which is difficult to gauge, so I just put about about a finger width of soap in the bottle and fired it up…over time I’ve gotten better at tinkering with the ratio, and dare I say I’ve often had too much foam where the car was almost difficult to wipe down with all of the residue clinging to the car…some of the pros diligently measure out the foam each time, but generally I think you can just eyeball it until you find the right ratio that works for you.

Active 2.0 with 50 ft hose, stubby wand, and quick connects

Electric Pressure Washer Comparison

Option 1: Greenworks (budget) pressure washer:

Option 2: Greenworks with upgraded orface:

Option 3: Active 2.0 pressure washer

Electric Pressure Washer vs 2 Bucket Method

As a longtime follower of the two bucket method of cleaning a car, I discovered this foam cannon really minimizes if not eliminates completely the need for a wash mit in the first place for basic washes. I decided to skip using a mit and just see how clean the car would be after. I sprayed on the foam, waited ~5 minutes for the foam to do its work, then pressure washed it off…low and behold, the car looked spotless! Had all of this bucket filling and mit-scrubbing madness been a mistake? This was both easier AND quicker.

Thinking maybe I was just lucky since my car was already pretty clean by most people’s standards (and coated with CarPro Reload sealant), I tried it out on my wife’s car next. Her black Ford Focus hadn’t been washed in ~2 months, and it really showed. I refilled the foam cannon with a decent amount of soap (my first attempt ran out of suds about 80% of the way through), sprayed the car in foam and waited about 5 minutes like before, then sprayed everything off – and once again the car looked just as clean as the two bucket method I had been employing previously. Amazing!

If the car really is soiled, I still recommend using a microfiber to wash it – but the trick is to use as little pressure as possible. You want to agitate the dirt, but you don’t need to rub it off…just loosen it. For the wheels, you should still pre-treat using a dedicated wheel cleaner, followed by a wheel brush, and then you can use the foam cannon as your finishing step.

Chemical Guys TORQ Foam Cannon w/adjustable spray pattern

So my $300 experiment turned out to be a great success. My compact and fairly low PSI & GPM electric washer was able to achieve plenty of pressure to get the job done without being a nuance or requiring any fossil fuels, and the Active 2.0 took things to the next level. Beyond just a new toy, the benefits of this setup are a long list, too:

  • No scrubbing = no risk of marring your paint
  • Less time to wash
  • Much less water used
  • Easy clean-up
  • No buckets needed
  • Pressure washer can be used for other things (patio, driveway, etc.)
  • Easier to clean hard to reach areas (wheel wells, undercarriage, etc.)
  • No need to scrub wheels or use harsher chemicals to eliminate brake dust
  • Professional level results
  • Cool “snow foam” pictures for Instagram
After a few minutes of sitting, the foam still clings to the car

Pressure Washer Upgrades for Washing Cars

If you already have a pressure washer and want to take things to the next level, here is the gear you should consider:

  • A longer hose – I recommend this 50 ft option from Uberflex. The standard hose isn’t long enough to get all of the way around the car, and you don’t want to the hose to be rubbing up against the pain when you stretch it as that will only mar the paint further.
  • Quick connects – this just helps hook up your pressure washer easier, reducing the amount of setup time you’ll need so that you can spend more time with the actual washing. I used these, but they’re all the same as long as you have the right size for your fittings.
  • A good hose to go from the spicket to your pressure washer – avoid the cheap, collapsable kind as that can give less water flow to the pressure washer, limiting its GPM. I bought this one from Giraffe Tools. 
  • A stubby gun with a swivel – this just helps you move around quicker, and have a little less stain on your hand.
  • Good soap, microfibers, wheel brushes, and other detailing supplies – check out this post for my mega-list of recommended products and supplies, as well as where to buy them.

From there, a cool storage rack can be nice – I’ve seen people wall mount these to keep them off the ground and out of the way. You can also pick up a pressure washer hose reel to keep everything neat & tidy when not in use, but they’re rather spendy at $100 for something that won’t actual improve the quality of the wash, so personally I haven’t opted for that.

TL;DR Summary

While I’m sure a gas-powered pressure washer would achieve even better results, the electric pressure washer achieves at least 80% of the results and is only about 20% of the cost. For the amateur detailer like myself that has limited space and budget, it’s a perfect solution. If you don’t have any outlets or space, a Gilmour Foam Gun & Two Bucket method is fine too, but if you want to step it up a notch without breaking the bank, then an electric pressure washer and Chemical Guns or MJCC foam gun/lance is a great solution.

Got any tips for a newbie at using a foam cannon? Have a favorite soap?

Give me some pointers in the comments!

Nick Roshon

Nick has been an Audi owner and fanatic for the last 10 years, and started Nick's Car Blog in 2009 to share DIYs and pictures of his A4. Currently he drives a 2012 Audi TT-RS, and has previously owned a B7 S4, B7 A4, and an 82 Audi Coupe (GT) LeMons race car. In his day job, Nick is a digital marketer and lives in San Diego, CA, USA.


  1. Hi Nick,

    You may or may not remember me, but you helped me out immeasurably a few years ago in replacing a couple of turn signal lights on my 2008 S4 Avant. Your blog about the foam cannon is perfect for me.

    I replaced the Audi with a 718 Boxster last fall when they first appeared. I absolutely love the car and I, too, bought an electric pressure washer, primarily to clean the wheels (damn brake dust). I also have a gas pressure washer, but I felt it put out too much pressure and I was afraid of damaging the paint, fittings, etc. The Karchear (sp) electric model (lower pressure) I have works beautifully for the wheels.

    Up until reading this blog, I was a bucket and mit guy for the surface washing portion, I live in Fort Lauderdale and washing a car in the summer is really a pain in the a** as it is so humid and ugly. That, with the frequent rain, makes putting off washing my car relatively easy. I do so until the wheels get so ugly with brake dust build-up that I can’t stand it. As you may imagine, this article on the foam cannon is a true god-send. Until today, I’d never even heard of them. But if you’re satisfied with the results, knowing how picky you are with your cars, I’m going to get one of these cannons to go with my electric washer ASAP. Obviously, I need to be careful with the convertible top, but this does seem to be my salvation.

    As always, thank you for sharing your insights via your blog. Absolutely fabulous!


    Robert Brown
    Fort Lauderdale, FL

  2. Great review. One of my friends with a couple Porsches has been doing some research on this particular subject for the past month, and after your review, he is going to look at purchasing that particular pressure washer you have recommended. One thing to note is that he already has been researching the foam cannon, and found this budget version that has some great reviews:

  3. Interesting! I saw that one, but it explicitly says a minimum of 2.0 GPM water flow, so I skipped it knowing this electric pressure washer is only 1.2 GPM. The Chemical Guys lance didn’t have an explicit minimum rating, and claims to “work with any foam lance” so I thought I’d give it a shot, especially since Chemical Guys is a pretty well known company. I’d be curious to try the other one, it’s definitely a better value if it works.

  4. Awesome, great to hear from you Robert – and very cool you’re still subscribing to my blog even though you’ve moved up to Porsche! Yeah, I think you’ll be very happy with this solution. I think the Karcher pressure washers require a special adapter, but otherwise this should work great for you.

  5. What is the adapter that you got to put on the end of your power washer wand to connect to the foam cannon?

  6. I enjoy reading your blog. I just bought a black 2008 S4 and like some others had never heard of a foam gun for cleaning a car. I always thought pressure washers would ruin the surface of the paint (I even do wheels by hand) but that does not seem to be your experience and you are at least as picky as I am. Maybe a video of you doing this would be helpful! Anyway, thanks!

  7. Hey Doyle – yeah, it’s safe…I wouldn’t do something super high pressure and super close to the paint, especially if your paint is chipping or rusting, but for modern cars like yours that have been cared for well it’s no risk at all. This pressure washer is no stronger than the coin operated ones you see around town, give or take. I don’t have any videos, but you can check some out on YouTube that others do 🙂

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience. How loud is the pressure washer? I’m trying to find a solution for early morning and don’t want to wake the neighbors.

  9. Yeah, it’s got a high pitched whine. It’s not as loud as a gas powered pressure washer, but I wouldn’t call it quiet either. I can’t hear my stereo over it so I wear Airpods when I pressure wash to be able to listen to audio.

  10. Ah, so I might be stuck with the Gilmour for the early mornings or difference might be worth it to wash the cars in the early evening.

  11. Hi Nick,
    Nice review, same thing here, I own an electric pressure washer (only 1.2 gpm) because I’m afraid a gas model would be too much to clean the car.
    I’m waiting for my foam cannon to arrive to know if it will do it and I’m glad to see it’s working for you.
    To get the foam slightly thicker, you can change the orifice nozzle from 1.25mm to 1.1mm, a cheap mod easy to do.
    Enjoy the car washing!

  12. Know this is a late response, as its now August of 2021, but a couple comments here. First, nice car. lol. But the photo doesn’t appear to show thick foam. Looks pretty runny, IMO. I have an inexpensive 1600 psi Ryobi, and the foam seems a little thicker than yours but still not quite where I’d like it. I think one of the biggest changes you can make first is to change the orifice in the foam canon to a smaller one. This allows less water to come through, giving the soap a higher percentage, and therefore more foam. – plenty of reviews on YouTube. Then i would suggest to get a soap that is specifically designed for foam canons, as they will usually foam better. And lastly, I would then up the pressure a bit if your space and budget allow. Although I have a house in L.A., I also have limited space as well, and as much as i would love the pressure of a gas one, I just don’t think I want to deal with the cons that come with it, so I am looking for that perfect balance between size, pressure, and price. I don’t know how much the actual foam canon has to do with it, as I don’t have enough experience with them. I think more expensive ones are probably just more durable with better parts? Maybe you or others have more feedback at this time on what has worked for you. And lastly, I have a 2016 BMW now, which has been impressively reliable so far, but dam do I miss my Audi. I had a 2007 S6 with the V10 motor. That car was a nightmare with regards to being in the shop for repairs, and ultimate reason I sold it, but dam did I love that car. It’s still my favorite car I’ve ever had. The raw power mixed with the luxury it had inside was just awesome. My seats in the Bimmer suck in comparison. And the sound of that motor! Had several people come to me and ask about it. But I digress. 🙁 Thanks for the post.

  13. Hey Robert – totally agree with your comments. I upgraded to a smaller orfice and that did make a nice difference. There are better electric pressure washers out there, just be prepared to spend about 2X the price of this one…so far, I’m still happy with mine. Could be better, but more than gets the job done!

  14. Yes, I use it weekly on my cars and have never lost paint. The only exception would be if your car already has paint damage / clear coat failure and the paint is chipping off already, in which case this could make it worse.

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