Whether you’re watering the garden, pressure washing your deck, or running through the sprinkler head on a hot summer day, a garden hose is a useful tool. When you shop for one, you’ll find plenty of styles, price points, and materials to choose from. Read on for things to keep in mind. But no matter which hose is best for your purposes, expect to pay $20 to $30 for a quality product. Buy a hose for half or a third of that price and you might as well buy another one in no time because cheap hoses don’t last.
Think about what you are going to use your hose for. Keep the lawn looking lush? Washing your car? Vegetable watering? Do you have space restrictions? These are the factors to consider when choosing a hose.
Made from several different materials (see material descriptions below), this round hose works well for many tasks, from watering plants and cleaning car hoses to spraying out a trash can. You can put a nozzle or a sprinkler. A 25-foot length is good for small gardens, but if you have a larger yard, get a 50-foot hose (or several). Hoses 75 and 100 feet long can be too heavy to handle easily, especially once the water runs through them, so it’s best to get several shorter hoses and join them together as needed to avoid having to carry a longer hose. For the same reason, avoid hoses with diameters larger than standard.
You lay this hose on the ground, preferably under a layer of mulch, rather than pointing the tip at things. Water seeps through its porous walls to irrigate the surrounding soil. Simply place it around the stems of plants so that the water goes directly to the roots. This type of hose prevents evaporation and can be more efficient by allowing you to direct water exactly to where it needs to go. It is perfect for vegetable gardens and ornamental gardens.
You can choose diameters and lengths, from 1/4 inch (usually part of a drip irrigation system, these can be cut to size) to 5/8 inch or more. Soaker hoses work best on level ground and in shorter lengths (1/4-inch soaker hose works effectively for about 100 feet, for example). A large diameter soaker hose requires good water pressure; otherwise, the water will not seep along the entire length. Larger diameters are not very flexible and can be difficult to handle. Leave them in the sun to soften, then place them in the garden, holding them in place with garden stakes.
This type of hose has small holes on one side that allow water to spurt out in a fine shower. A sprinkler hose is best for watering seeded lawns, young plants but you can also lay it down with holes to act as a soaker hose however because more water is flowing through, it will soak the soil more quickly than a soaker hose.
When empty, this type of hose folds up, but when water passes through it, it becomes round. Lightweight and self-draining, this hose takes up less storage space, but it does require a hose reel to do so. Unfortunately, you have to uncoil the entire hose before using it; otherwise, the water will not flow. Because lay flat hose is usually made of vinyl, it is easily punctured and bent. Doesn’t work well when pulled from corners; in fact, the hose should ideally be laid in a straight line. Layflat hoses are best reserved for homes where space is at a premium and the hose will be used infrequently.
Here’s another space-saving solution. This scrunchie hose expands up to three times its length when water passes through it. When empty of water, it shrinks back to its original size, dragging any accessories, such as sprinklers, with it. So, make sure you don’t have any fragile plants on the way!
Although they shrink and expand properly at first, over time they no longer shrink properly and are then difficult to roll or store. When left in the sun or used with high water pressure, they are prone to breaking because the inner tube is thin, very flexible, and not reinforced. But this is what makes them so light: About 1 pound only. If you are willing to store them out of the sun after each use and treat them gently, they are perfect for hand watering.
When not in use, this type of hose is coiled into a tight spiral. Most commonly sold in 25-foot and 50-foot lengths, they vary on the smaller side in terms of diameter, so they have low water pressure. Storage is tricky because they can’t be rolled up on hose reels, and they easily tangle when dumped into containers. Coiled hoses are best reserved for hand watering on small patios and balconies.
When it’s time to select the best hose for your industrial application, the chosen material will certainly make all the difference, according to experts from Flexaust. The most common hose materials are vinyl, polyurethane, stainless steel, and rubber. Material is your first indicator of quality in a hose.
Vinyl hoses cost less and are lightweight. Even when reinforced with a radial cord, however, they fold easily, are prone to cracks and fractures, and do not hold up for long.
Rubber Hoses cost more and weigh more, but are more flexible and resist cuts and abrasions. And they won’t break when left in the sun, so they have a longer shelf life.
Both vinyl and rubber construction hoses Combine the flexibility and durability of rubber with the lightweight of vinyl. Manufacturers can reinforce them with a series of layers or an outer mesh that protects against punctures.
Stainless steel hoses are the new kids in the yard. Highly durable, surprisingly lightweight, and designed to stay cool to the touch in hot summer temperatures, these hoses can cost considerably more than other materials. Beware of imitations, which may not be of good quality.
A good quality garden hose is strong, yet soft and flexible. Nylon or rayon reinforcing fabric placed between the inner and outer layers will help a hose resist kinking, splitting, and high levels of water pressure. Household hoses range from one to six layers: generally, the more layers, the better the quality and the longer the life of the hose.
If a PSI number is provided on the package, it tells you how much water pressure the hose can withstand before it bursts. If you plan to use a nozzle or sprayer, get a hose with a burst pressure greater than 350 psi. If you are going to use the hose to pressure wash, consult the owner’s manual; you may need an even higher psi.
Plasticizers used to flex hoses contain BPA, lead, and other chemicals that are not safe for ingestion, so you shouldn’t drink from a hose unless it’s designated boat, marine, or recreational. Those hoses are typically polyurethane or have coatings that keep drinking water safe for human and pet consumption.
Hoses are available with internal diameters between 1/2 and 1 inch, but 5/8 inch is standard. A 1/2-inch diameter hose may not have enough pressure for sprays and car washes. A hose with a diameter larger than 5/8-inch, on the other hand, can compensate for inconsistent water pressure caused by running a hose uphill.
You can buy hoses that are 25, 50, 75, and 100 feet long or longer. Your hose should be a few feet longer than the distance from the spigot you need to cover. If your hose is too short, you will pull on it, which can stretch and damage it; too long and it’s hard to handle. Keep in mind that water pressure decreases as hose length increases, which can affect nozzles and sprinkler heads.
Used interchangeably, fittings and couplings are the pieces at the ends of the hose that attach to spigots, nozzles and spray heads. Choose heavy-duty fittings made of cast brass, and check that the female end of the hose (the larger end that attaches to the water source) has a rubber grommet. How to identify cast brass? It is thicker than sheet metal and is usually octagonal, to allow the fitting to be tightened with a wrench.
Avoid plastic couplings and flimsy-looking lightweight fittings made of stamped metal – they are hard to screw into the spigot, won’t fit well, won’t last and will allow wasteful water to seep in. Plastic couplings crack easily and break when it’s against the sun, and can be crushed if stepped on.
Quality hoses have a 4 to 6-inch long plastic or rubber sleeve that extends below the female coupling. This collar protects against kinks and splits that commonly occur near the spigot.
To measure the quality of the hose, fold it tightly on itself and see if it springs back. If not, the quality is poor. Find a different hose.
These devices save you time when changing additional hoses, spray heads or nozzles. Instead of having to unscrew and screw them back on, simply install these components, then connect and disconnect fittings or other hoses. Install by screwing the female quick-fit connector to the end of the hose and the male connector to the fitting or second hose. You can buy an individual male or female sets or accessories.
Lightweight/light duty hoses are usually made of vinyl, with or without reinforcing mesh or multiple layers. Although they have a shorter shelf life, their price is lower. If you’re on a budget, have a small garden that requires only 50 feet of hose or less, doesn’t water often, and doesn’t use a nozzle or sprinkler, a lightweight hose is probably fine. On the other hand, if you’re likely to leave the hose in the sun, you could walk over it by mistake, and you’ll probably treat it more or less in various ways, go heavy duty or even industrial grade.