When PowerWash Simulator came out of Early Access, it became quite a hit amongst the team here at Eurogamer. I was curious to see whether I'd enjoy it too, so I cashed in the free month of Game Pass that came with my new PC to give it a try.
I enjoy it a lot. In the game's career mode, there is no pressure to finish a level quickly or efficiently and that's what I love about it. You can ignore the time and leave the hose running for as long as it takes you, and that's all part of the appeal. Bertie expertly summed it up in his review.: "This is not a game about rushing towards an end," he wrote. "This is a game about the sedate pleasures of repetitive work - a slower game about the satisfaction of a job well done. It's relaxing and calming, and that's a powerful quality."
But this inevitably got me wondering about the other end of the gameplay spectrum in PowerWash Simulator. Speed and efficiency, rather than leisure. True, you can already play the game's time-limited and water-limited modes, but they weren't as extreme as what I was imagining. I'm talking speedwashing. Was there anyone out there playing like that?
A quick Google search brought me to Speedrun.com, where leaderboards for the game indicated that, yes, there was a small but growing group of players committed to speedrunning PowerWash Simulator. After watching footage of runs on YouTube, I wanted to reach out to some of the people who are behind feats such as the one below, where the game's Fire Truck level gets cleared in less than two and half minutes.
(Warning: this can be a bit nauseating to watch, so you might want to not watch if you get motion sickness)
Here we can see the game's chief "wiggle-waggle" speedrunning technique, where you leave the washer on auto-spray whilst rapidly moving the cursor from side-to-side, switching nozzles if and when required.
From the official PowerWash Simulator Discord, I found a separate server that speedrunners had set up to discuss all things speedwashing - PowerWash Simulator Speedrunners. Here, players told me that they had been speedrunning the game for some time while it was in Early Access, long before its full release in July. One player, Fireball, said they started at version 0.9, but others like Altradil and Mr_Gnarlton began as early as 0.3 in July 2021.
There's now regular activity on the leaderboards at Speedrun.com, but moderator and speedrunner Taco Pinky told me it wasn't always like this.
"I posted my first run on 29th March  - it was a penny farthing speed run for 0.7," Taco Pinky said, remembering the long wait for a moderator to get his time checked. "Basically what moderators do is check to see if runs are legitimate runs and verify them," he continued. "But a month passed and [there was] no word from the mod team so I [went to] see what's up. Speedrun.com has a feature where you can see the last time a user logged in. And every single mod hadn't logged in [over] two months."
Taco Pinky then decided to also become a moderator themselves, because at that point the community was "almost dead".
"There were like 40 runs waiting to be verified. But ever since then the community has grown so much. There are 40 runs waiting to be verified right now in the span of three days," he laughed.
Over the course of the game's time in Early Access, strategies haven't changed that much - and you can see an example of a pro run from eiphaYstos which I linked above. The mechanics are so simple that there's little to exploit. Fireball and eiphaYstos both told me that soap was a powerful tool in 0.3, but was subsequently nerfed. The community has accepted that soap is essentially useless now, especially due to the new trident washer that was added in the full release, and there are plans to remove the category of no-soap speedruns on the leaderboards because of what little use it has whilst speedrunning.
An earlier exploit - now patched out - involved turning down the game's framerate to improve the efficacy of the washer, though this is now long-since removed from the game.
So, how can you become a pro speedrunner? Most speedrunners I spoke to cited the "wiggle-waggle" method described earlier, and recommended increasing mouse sensitivity to reduce wrist strain. From there, it's a case of trial and error, figuring out the optimal path to take, then discussing and comparing runs with each other.
Considering how some levels take speedrunners upwards of two hours, there's a lot of information to soak up.
The most astounding PowerWash Simulator record I've seen is from a user named cricter, who speedran the game's full career mode, over an eye-watering 21 hours. Yes, you read that right. For career mode, everything is included in your time. Time spent in menus, taking a break or doing real life things? It all counts. cricter said his run "had like an hour and a half of timeloss due to breaks and IRL stuff", which means that quicker times are possible. Still, 21 hours playing non-stop is an impressive achievement on its own.
"My arm was definitely not happy about doing the waggle for 21 hours," cricter told me when I asked about his speedrun. He's an experienced speedrunner, having done runs for Celeste, Super Meat Boy and Super Mario 64 previously. He admitted that he wasn't really thinking about strategy whilst he was playing because he hadn't practised much, and because completing career mode in one sitting was more of a challenge he'd decided to set for himself than a quicker speedrun of a single level.
"One of the reasons I decided to do this run was to fix my sleep schedule," cricter continued. "My college semester started today [8th August] and my sleep schedule was all over the place, so right after I woke up on Saturday at 4am I started playing until 1am on Sunday."
His one and a half hours of break time did not include any napping, cricter said, adding that he didn't have any plans to attempt another career mode run in the near future - unless his sleep schedule ever needed fixing again.
Ultimately, cricter hopes his attempt encourages other people to try it themselves, a sentiment that's present throughout the whole community. Other PowerWash Simulator fans Fireball and Futavega told me they want more people to get involved as they love competition for longer speedrun categories. Altradil said they would love to see people developing optimal routes for each level, as well as just more people joining the community in general.
Even developer FuturLab is impressed by the achievements of PowerWash Simulator fans - and by cricter's marathon playthrough in particular. "We've been blown away by the dedication of many speedrunners that have repeatedly taken up the mantle of cleaning dirt at supersonic speeds," senior community manager Joshua Brown told Eurogamer. "Also, that in the face of Early Access development they kept coming back even when tweaks meant each patch resulted in new leaderboards."
Futavega cited streamers and YouTubers as a huge influence in the speedrunning community's origins. They've recently noted that PowerWash Simulator is having a small resurgence amongst content creators, which they hope will inspire more people to join in. I too hope that PowerWash Simulator's speedrunning scene continues to grow. Despite the small number of mechanics to exploit, the community is dedicated to cultivating something extremely fitting - good clean fun.