If you're confused as to what the difference is between power washing and pressure washing, don't worry – you’re not the only one. Both terms are often used interchangeably, and even professionals sometimes get them muddled up.
Let’s look at both pressure washing and power washing, go through some pros and cons, and find out which one you should be using.
On this page
- Pressure washing
- Power washing
- Pressure washing vs. power washing: should you DIY or hire a pro?
- Do you need a pressure washer or a power washer?
What is pressure washing?
A pressure washer is something you are likely more familiar with and may have even used before. It is a tool that uses pressurized water to clean outdoor surfaces such as driveways and walkways.
A pressure washer involves an electric or gas-powered motor powering a water pump. Once hooked up to a garden hose, the pump then accelerates the water through the specialty hose. The water is then exerted from the nozzle at high pressure.
Uses for pressure washing
Pressure washing is a great option for cleaning up your home’s exterior and other outdoor surfaces, such as driveways, walls, decking, or patio furniture. You are also able to use a pressure washer a bit more freely as using cold water means you do not need to worry about heat damage.
While a pressure washer does not have the cleaning capabilities of a power washer it can still be useful in removing buildups of dirt, mud, dust, and debris. So, if your driveway or sidewalks need general cleaning, then a pressure washer will be up for the job.
Pros and cons of pressure washing
- Pressure washers are generally less expensive than power washers to buy, rent, or hire a professional. This is mainly due to the additional heating element that a power washer requires and the fact that power washers are considered a commercial or industrial option.
- Pressure washers are far more versatile and flexible than power washers. Due to a pressure washer using cold water and having a range of different settings, they can be used for various jobs or on more delicate surfaces.
- A pressure washer requires far less water to do its job than a power washer. This is because the water is blasted out at such high pressure that less water is required.
- Not as effective a cleaning method as a power washer. While a pressure washer can remove most unwanted surface layers, it will struggle with more stubborn layers such as moss or oil.
- While you avoid the risk of causing heat damage, a pressure washer can still cause damage to some surfaces due to high-pressure water.
How much does pressure washing cost?
There are a few different options to pressure wash your home, each with a different price tag. You have the choice of either buying a pressure washer yourself, renting one, or hiring a professional to do the job for you.
If you are considering buying your own pressure washer, you should expect to pay between $150 to $500 for a new pressure washer. To rent one will cost between $25 and $100 per day. As for hiring a professional, the cost can range depending on the size and difficulty of the job. Most professionals will charge between $50 to $150 per hour.
What is power washing?
Like a pressure washer, a power washer is typically used for cleaning outdoor surfaces. The main difference with a power washer is that it uses hot pressurized water to blast away any debris or stains, making it more of a heavy-duty option.
This combination of heated water and pressure means it can take on even the most difficult surface stains. A power washer will likely get the job done, whether it is an oil stain on your driveway or mold on your outdoor patio.
Uses for power washing
A power washer is best used for cleaning large hard surfaces or for removing stains where a pressure washer will fail. You will often see a power washer used in commercial settings such as in a restaurant kitchen to get rid of grease stains, or in a car yard to remove oil stains.
There are also occasions when a power washer could be useful at home. If you have a particularly hard-to-remove stain on your large concrete driveway then a power washer could definitely come in handy. Just be sure that the pressure washer is not being used on any delicate surfaces as damage can be caused.
Pros and cons of power washing
- A power washer using hot water works far better at removing tough layers of grime, dirt, mold, and mildew. This is because hot water works better at breaking up the grease or mold particles and washing them away.
- Power washers push out more water than their counterpart and can cover a larger surface area. This makes it great for large areas like driveways and can even perform well on commercial jobs.
- A power washer is far less versatile than a pressure washer. Completing smaller residential jobs with a power washer is often seen as overkill and can sometimes do more harm than good.
- With a power washer combining both power and heat, it can cause damage to softer materials and surfaces. Because of this, power washers should really only be used on tough exterior surfaces such as cement or concrete.
- Whether buying or renting, a power washer will likely be more expensive than a pressure washer. This is mainly due to the additional heating element that it requires.
How much does power washing cost?
The same three options you have with a pressure washer of buying, renting, or hiring a professional are also available with a power washer. You will also find that some options are far more cost-effective than others.
Buying a new power washer can cost upwards of $1,000, largely due to most models being designed for commercial or professional use. With the higher purchase cost, you also have a higher rental cost of around $150 per day.
When it comes to hiring a professional to power wash your home, you should expect to pay between $50 and $150 per hour. However, remember that power washing will often come with a minimum charge which can bump up smaller jobs too well above this rate.
Pressure washing vs. power washing: should you DIY or hire a pro?
For most homeowners, both pressure washing and power washing will be well within your wheelhouse. Both tasks are relatively straightforward and require very little preparation. For most units, it will be as simple as plugging them in, hooking up the hose, squeezing the lever, and you are on your way.
Of course, there are a few cautions when taking on a DIY pressure or power washing job. It can cause damage if used on the wrong surface and its high-pressure blast can lead to serious injury if misused.
If you are not confident with your DIY abilities, that’s fine. Hiring professional pressure washing services is very affordable, and you'll have peace of mind that the job will be done right.
Do you need a pressure washer or a power washer?
The right tool for the job will depend on the surface you intend to clean and the stain or debris you’re trying to remove. For example, if you’re trying to remove a large oil stain from a concrete driveway, you will have the best chance with a power washer. Whereas if you’re just cleaning a buildup of dust and dirt off your deck, a pressure washer will do just fine.
If you’re still unsure what tool you should use, a good way to go about it is by starting with a soft wash. This is where you use a pressure washer on its lowest setting. If that doesn’t work, you can move to use the pressure washer on its regular setting. Then, if all else fails, you can give power washing a go.