Kärcher is the Hoover of the jet washing world, its yellow products a familiar sight across suburbia for washing cars and driveways. Its new OC3 Portable Cleaner is a battery-powered portable outdoor cleaner that is ideal for cleaning dirty bikes after a race or ride, being small enough to fit in the car boot, or ideal for space-limited households.
It's really easy to use and get going. Pull it out of the box, remove the water tank by folding down the carry handle to remove the hose nozzle, fill the tank with water and you're ready to wash your bike.
It's all very neatly designed and well made and has proved to be rugged and durable during my time testing it – and that's included lots of throwing it in the back of the car and generally not being very kind to it.
The 4-litre water reservoir is topped up by a hole in the top with a large rubber flap. It's enough to give the bike a quick spritz over after a ride, handy if you have to put the bike in the back of the car. The tank is properly sealed, so if you are sticking it in the car there's no worry that the water is going to escape.
The 2.8m hose is plenty long enough for typical use – I didn't feel it needed to be longer. The nozzle comes with a flat head and isn't adjustable, but you can buy different heads that control the flow of water. A large plastic trigger button makes controlling the jet wash easy, and it's small and light in the hand.
It's not as powerful as a regular jet wash, but you shouldn't really use a jet wash on a bike; the powerful blast of water can potentially damage delicate bearings in the bottom bracket and headset, and other parts of the bike.
The OC3 has a low-pressure spray that is much more gentle on the bike, so there's no fear you'll be inadvertently blitzing the bearings, but it's still powerful enough to remove dirt and mud.
Kärcher claims a 15-minute run-time from the lithium-ion battery, but I got a little more than that in my testing. It might not seem like much but I found it was more than adequate for cleaning one bike thoroughly, and two bikes to a decent level of cleanliness, before the battery was anywhere near flat.
A charge takes about three hours and there's a light on the on/off button that lets you determine the status of the battery.
Unfortunately, there's no way of plugging the OC3 into the 12V socket in a car like you often can with other portable cleaners on the market. I was initially disappointed by this omission – I've used portable cleaners in the past and being able to plug them into the car is a bonus – but after much use I've found the battery run-time sufficient for my post-ride bike cleaning needs.
Clean and pretty
The OC3's spray works best on mud and grime that is still wet and fresh, so it's best to use it immediately after a ride before the grime has had a chance to dry and cement itself to the bike.
The 4-litre tank is enough for such a quick once-over, but for a more thorough clean you'll be running back to the tap to top up the reservoir. I needed several tanks of water to clean a particularly muddy adventure bike the other day. For more intensive bike cleans a bucket and brush are really necessary, using the Karcher as a first once over and to spray it clean afterwards.
I've been using the OC3 on a regular basis for the past few weeks, to clean off muck from test bikes after they've received a pasting on my local roads that are frequented by tractors.
Because the OC3 is small and light and easy to move about, and there's no power lead to worry about, it's really easy to get it set up minutes after a ride. You can keep it in the shed, garage or near the back door, or wherever you put the bike following a ride. And if you don't have any outdoor space and the bike needs to be clean before being allowed in the flat, you could easily give the bike a quick blast on the pavement...
It's also been handy for cyclo-cross racing, removing the worst of the mud from the bike and tyres before travelling home, as well as some adventure riding recently. It's also ideal for cleaning shoes, helmets and getting mud of cycle clothing before it goes anywhere near the washing machine.
It's really well made and comes with a two-year warranty, and there are loads of accessories you can buy including a bike box with brushes and cleaning products, a suction hose and cone jet nozzle, and even a pet cleaning brush.
It's not cheap though. You can get a Mobi V-15 portable bike washer for £75 if you shop around, but while the V-15 can be plugged into a car, there's no battery so it's not quite as portable or convenient as the Kärcher. If you don't have a car, the Kärcher OC3 is obviously better.
Blasts away mud without blasting away your bearings; a smart compact and portable battery-powered cleaner
road.cc test report
Make and model: Karcher OC3 Portable Cleaner
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Kärcher says: "The Kärcher pressure washer with lithium-ion battery and water tank for mobile application. Easy to transport and store. With flat stream for delicate surfaces.
"For anyone who needs a cleaning solution on the go: the compact and lightweight pressure washer from Kärcher. Thanks to the integrated lithium-ion battery and detachable water tank, you can, for example, clean your bike or dirty hiking boots even without an electrical or water supply connection. With a gentle but efficient low-pressure flat stream, the pressure washer is ideal for delicate surfaces. An LED display also signals when the battery is low or is being charged. Various accessory boxes are available for a wide range of application and extension options."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Pressure range Low pressure / Low pressure
Max. flow rate (l/min) max. 2
Weight without accessories (kg) 2.2
Dimensions (L – W – H) (mm) 277 x 234 x 201
Battery running time (min) 15
Battery charging time (min) 180
Integrated water filter
Water tank volume, 4 l
Spiral hose, 2.8 m
Flat jet nozzle
Battery charging cable
It's solidly built and capable of withstanding plenty of rough and tumble.
The pressure is high enough to remove fresh dirt, grime and mud without damaging bearings.
It's been very robust during my testing so far – but I'll look to update this after a long winter of testing.
Even with a full tank of water it's light enough to lift, and the carry handle makes it easy to move about.
The carry handle ensures it's easy to move around, and the spray nozzle has an ergonomic handle.
It's quite a big investment and certainly more expensive than a hosepipe, but if you have limited space or want a portable cleaner that can be used where there is no hosepipe, the OC3 is a good choice.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For getting the worst muck off a bike immediately after a ride, it's more than up to the job.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Easy to use, the hose packs away inside the cleaner so it's compact after use; the battery lasts long enough to clean a bike or two.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
You can't plug it into the car's 12V socket.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
If you want a really easy, compact and portable cleaner for washing your bike, whether at home after a ride, or in the car park after a ride/race, the Karcher OC3 is very well designed, easy to use, portable and the battery lasts long enough to clean a bike or two.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.