The inventor Alfred Kärcher (1901–59) from Baden-Württemberg founded the company in 1935 in Stuttgart Bad-Cannstatt. Initially Kärcher specialised in the design of industrial submersible heating elements, i.e. in salt smelters which were heated with immersion heaters. After numerous experiments, a hardening furnace for alloys was produced, the so-called “Kärcher Salt-Bath Furnace”. Some 1,200 units were sold up to 1945. Karcher invented the first modern pressure washer, the DS 350 in 1950. The company’s main focus then switched to cleaning equipment for professional and private users. Since then, Kärcher has made lead in the design and development of pressure washers. The company’s product range was expanded and now covers the entire field of cleaning (sweepers, detergents, scrubber-driers, wet and dry vacuums, vacuum cleaners, battery-powered brooms, steam cleaners, dry ice blasting equipment, parts cleaners, water treatment systems, vehicle washes and wastewater recycling systems). Kärcher also offers pumps and watering systems.
In 1974 the corporate color was changed from blue to yellow. From that year, under the leadership of Alfred Kärcher’s widow Irene Kärcher, the company launched the HD 555, the first pressure washer for private users.
Today the family-owned company, which is based in Winnenden near Stuttgart, is represented in 160 countries with 100 subsidiaries all over the world, selling commercial cleaning equipment as well as cleaning equipment for the private consumer.
Kärcher owns the American brands of Landa, Hotsy, and Shark pressure washers, Cuda parts washers, Watermaze water treatment systems, and Windsor Kärcher Group floor cleaning systems, and Italian manufacturing company Hawk Pumps, or Woma Pumps in Germany. They are the primary supplier of cleaning systems to both NATO and the US Military.
The world market leader in cleaning technology, Kärcher employs more than 10,000 people worldwide. In 2017 the company posted sales revenues of €2.5 billion ($2.88 billion) and sold more than 13 million machines. Kärcher has 100 subsidiaries in 60 countries.