With the frequency with which these two names are used interchangeably, it’s no wonder many people confuse them as the same thing. And the fact that pressure washers and power washers are very similar in their use and operation certainly doesn’t help.
However, despite the common misconception, there are some distinct differences between the two products, which greatly affect how they work and what they can be used for. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial before you actually decide on buying either one (they’re not cheap appliances after all); otherwise, you’d be stuck with a tool that’s too weak for the kind of work you want from it, or far too powerful for your needs.
But before we can discuss whether or not a pressure washer or a power washer is better for cleaning, we need to first define what each product is:
What is a Pressure Washer?
A pressure washer is an appliance that sprays water at a high pressure (in the ranges of 2000 to 3000 PSI for normal household appliances) to remove loose paint, mold, grime, dust, mud, chewing gum and dirt from surfaces and objects. Although they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes (bigger ones being more powerful in general), they mostly resemble vacuum cleaners in shape and the way they’re used, a rod extending from a tank on wheels that can be used to aim and spray water.
What is a Power Washer?
A power washer is much like a pressure washer in almost all aspects like shape, operation, and function. Like a pressure washer, it too sprays water at a high pressure out of a spray nozzle to clean dirt, grime, mold, etc. off of surfaces and objects. The key difference between a pressure washer and power washer, however, is that a power washer mixes in a heating element in its build, meaning the water it sprays out is both high in temperature as well as pressure.
The added benefit of heat along with the high pressure greatly adds to the cleaning power a power washer can offer. Just as it is easier to clean greasy pans under a hot water tap, it is easier to coax mold and grime off of surfaces when you’re blasting it with a stream of very hot, high pressured water. A power washer can make quick work of any cleaning job it’s presented with, outperforming a pressure washer in terms of cleanliness nearly every time; it’s called a “power” washer for a reason after all.
So, a power washer is always a better choice than a pressure washer?
Well, not necessarily.
Despite a power washer being a clear winner when it comes to, well, power, it is not always a better choice than a pressure washer, nor is it always a practical option. This is because the added power from the heating element does end up costing you, with there always being a significant price difference between a power washer and a pressure washer that offers the same water pressure.
However, even if the price were a moot point, a power washer can simply be too powerful for your needs. And a pressure washer may only use room-temperature or cold water, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad at cleaning. Considering your use, a power washer may just be overkill, and could even end up harming or ruining the surface you wanted to clean with the scalding temperatures at which the water pours out of it.
So, whether you need a pressure washer or a power washer is an entirely subjective matter, since it depends heavily on what you need a washer for. Here are some general cases where you might find one that works better than the other:
When to use a Pressure Washer?
A pressure washer is great for using around the house and inside it since it only sprays items with high pressured water, which is really all the materials here can handle without taking some severe damage. A pressure washer is great for using on the floors and surfaces like brick, masonry, and ceramic tiles since it’s less harsh than power washers and, therefore, less likely to damage them. Pressure washers are especially ideal for small outdoor tasks like cleaning your car or giving your patio a quick spray to clean it off every once in a while.
When to use a Power Washer?
A power washer would be more suitable to use in a commercial environment, or in homes with extra-large patios and outdoor space (it is a bad idea to use a power washer inside your house). Sticking to harder, tougher surfaces like concrete and stone is the way to go when using a power washer, or you’re bound to damage the surface. A power washer is especially effective when being used to clean your driveways after a long period of time, since the heat from the spray helps the dirt loosen much faster, letting you clean up in a much shorter time.
Maintenance and Usage
As far as usage is concerned, there isn’t much of a difference in how power washers and pressure washers are used. Both require a steady connection to a water source through a connecting hose (in the majority of models at least) and are available in both electric and gasoline-powered versions, though the electric versions are much better.
For a more detailed guide on how to use a pressure washer (and by extension, a power washer), click here.
Though it goes without saying that a power washer is much more dangerous than a pressure washer (scalding hot water sprays, hello?), the potential dangers associated with misusing a pressure washer are just as serious. If you’re not careful, you could end up seriously hurting yourself and even those around you, often with lasting injuries.
However, aside from the added danger of accidental exposure to hot water, the safety concerns with using a power washer and pressure washer are the same. Click here to learn more.