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Pressure Washer vs. Power Washer: What’s the Difference?

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Pressure Washer vs. Power Washer Pressure washing and power washing are terms often used interchangeably. Both methods aim to achieve the same result: a clean surface. These types of machines are preferred when the garden hose won’t suffice. Cleaning hard surfaces like concrete, brick, masonry, siding, fencing, and vehicles can require more than water alone.

Pressure washers and power washers are not the same, as there are a few distinguishing factors, such as cost and heat. While both machines are designed to deliver water at a high pressure, the addition of heat fights oil, grease, and grime to a much greater extent.

Pressure Washers

Greenworks GPW1602

Pressure Washer, Credit: Greenworks GPW1602, Amazon

In general, pressure washers use cold water. You’ll often these listed as cold-water pressure washers. They rely solely on pressurized force and are readily available to buyers, making them a practical and popular choice. They range in price and size to fit most budgets and available storage space for residential and commercial use. These units are easier to maintain than their hot-water counterparts.

The force from a cold-water pressure washer may be enough to remove dirt, dust, debris, and light mud from hard surfaces such as concrete, brick, masonry, and metal. These units have a nozzle that allows variability in the water stream. Whether you need a solid stream or the gentler approach of a spray, adjustments can suit the surface at hand. Due to their variability, these units can also work well on softer surfaces, like decks, wood siding, fences, or even your child’s sports uniform, without causing damage. However, these units are not as effective on oil and grease.

Pros
Cons
  • Doesn’t remove oil and grease
  • Can damage delicate surfaces

Power Washers

NorthStar Electric

Power Washer, Credit: NorthStar Electric, Amazon

You may see these referred to as hot-water pressure washers. They are bulkier than pressure washers and range in size and cost. On the affordable end of the spectrum, these can weigh up to 400 pounds with a size to match, making storage space an important factor. As a high-end comparison, an industrial version could bear a price tag of a new sedan, may easily weigh one ton, and must be transported on a dedicated trailer with a 400-gallon water tank. High-end power washers are typically utilized by professional cleaning companies for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings and facilities.

The obvious difference between pressure and power washers is heat. A power washer is an amped-up pressure washer with the addition of a heating element. Without going into a chemistry lesson on molecular structure, heated water over 200-degrees Fahrenheit can dissolve grease and oil easily. High heat combined with pressurized water and detergent can wipe out grease and oil completely, resulting in a spotless surface. Coldwater will move grease and oil around but won’t dissolve it. Power washers are more efficient with large commercial and industrial projects, especially if sanitization is required. However, due to the heating element and complex design, they also require more maintenance.

Pros
  • Adjustable water temperature
  • Removes grease
  • Suitable for large, commercial and industrial areas
  • Heavy duty
  • Sanitizes
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Bulky
  • High maintenance
  • Can damage soft surfaces

Which One Do You Need?

A pressure washer is a good choice for removing dust, dirt, grime, mud, and mildew on vehicles, houses, sidewalks, driveways, and decks. Pay attention to the pressure per square inch (PSI) and the gallons per minute (GPM) indicated on any model you’re considering. The higher the PSI, the quicker the work. Additionally, the higher the GPMs, the better the cleaning power.

There are many different models to choose from based on your needs and budget, making a pressure washer ideal for homeowners and small business owners. You can also add accessories, such as brushes, nozzles, extensions, injectors, and detergents.

A power washer is a better choice for handling projects involving oil and grease. Keep in mind that using one on soft surfaces and to some degree, hard surfaces, could cause damage, so it’s best if used by a seasoned professional. For the enthusiastic do-it-yourselfer, renting a power washer for a large home project is more budget-friendly than purchasing one. However, proceed with caution, as you don’t want to risk getting hurt or causing damage to the surface or the machine.

Conclusion

Deciding between a pressure washer and a power washer is a matter of the job at hand, user knowledge, budget, and available storage space. Given the investment, you’ll need to weigh the price against the project.

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!