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

Pressure Washer vs. Power Washer

Pressure Washer vs. Power Washer

Many people use the terms pressure washer and power washer interchangeably, but these two tools are not the same. Even though they serve the same function, pressure washers use cold water while power washers use hot water. This may sound like a subtle difference, but the water temperature has a huge impact on cleaning ability.

In short, you should opt for a power washer if you need to cut through a lot of grease and grime. On the other hand, a pressure washer is great for various messes that aren’t as heavy. To find out more about these two products, read on.

In this comparison article, we give an overview of pressure washers, power washers, and help you decide which one you should get. Without further ado, let’s cut through the confusion concerning these two tools.

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Overview of Pressure Washers

Pressure washers are a super handy tool for cutting through a variety of messes. By using cold water and pressurized force, pressure washers can clean up a lot of dirt and debris from concrete, stone, and other difficult surfaces. With so many pressure washers on the market, you are likely to find one that matches your exact specifications and budget.

man using Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 High Pressure Washer

How They Work

Most pressure washers utilize pressurized force to project cold water very forcefully onto the dirty surface. As the water is projected onto the surface, it can clean away algae, dirt, mud, dust, and various other substances. We say “most pressure washers” because some machines use hot water, but these are generally commercial-grade behemoths that few homeowners would want or need.

Because of the cold temperature of this water, pressure washers can only move grease and grime; it cannot dissolve the grease. For this reason, pressure washers are great for simply removing dirt and other bigger substances. If you’re not dealing with the grease and grime of an auto shop, you don’t really need anything else.

There are a lot of different pressure washers on the market, and they often come with different features like nozzle heads. Nozzle heads are an incredibly beneficial part of pressure washers because they can allow you to control how forcefully the water hits the surfaces.


Since pressure washers come with nozzles and other features, they have an increased variability. This means you can use a pressure washer on hard surfaces like concrete, but you can also use it to clean off softer materials like wood or clothing without damaging them.

This variability of the water stream makes pressure washers an excellent option for versatile use. Just about anyone could benefit from this tool.


The price of pressure washers varies greatly. No matter if you are on a tight budget or have a high price point, you’re likely to find a pressure washer that fits the bill. Of course, opting for a super cheap option is often ineffective. At the same time, you don’t have to get the most expensive model either.

Best For

Pressure washers are best for removing dirt, debris, light mud, and dust off the surface of various materials, particularly outdoors. Cold water pressure washers are not suitable for jobs with heavy grease or grime (e.g. commercial kitchens, auto shops, etc.). Since most pressure washers only use cold water, they cannot dissolve the grease.


  • Versatile
  • Large price range
  • Many features and nozzle heads
  • More affordable
  • Not suitable for dissolving grease

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Overview of Power Washers

In many ways, power washers (sometimes called hot water pressure washers) are like pressure washers in that they offer great cleaning services for a variety of services.

However, the difference between a pressure washer and a power washer is the temperature of the water used within the system. While pressure washers use cold water, power washers use hot water.

man using Northstar Electric Wet Steam Cleaner and Hot Water Commercial Pressure Power Washer

How They Work

From the pressurized perspective, power washers are just like pressure washers in that they use pressurized water to clean dust, dirt, and mud off of many surfaces.

In addition to the pressurized system, power washers also have a heating element within their build. This heating element heats the water to a scorching temperature to adequately dissolve grease and grime.

Together, the pressurized and heating elements within a power washer allow the water to clean off almost any surface, including those coated in thick grease and other hard-to-clean materials.


Power washers offer less variability than pressure washers. Since this tool can cut through grease, it is no wonder that it is often too powerful for softer materials like wood and fabric. Thus, power washers are primarily only used on hard surfaces that are coated with grease and grime.

Depending on the model you get, some will be more powerful than others. On the more professional end of the spectrum, power washers will get well over 200 degrees Fahrenheit so they can adequately remove almost any grease. Less professional options will still be able to dissolve grease, but they often won’t cut through large quantities of it.


Like pressure washers, power washers come in an extensive price range, but they are often more expensive than pressure washers. Some power washers are so expensive that they’re the same price as a new car.

Part of the reason that power washers are more expensive is that they have nearly twice the number of parts because of the heating element. More than that, power washers can be incredibly large, resulting in even more materials.

Best For

Power washers are adequately named because they are powerful enough to cut through almost any type of grease. This tool is best for cleaning off hard surfaces that are covered in super thick or dense materials. You do not want to use power washers on soft materials or items that are just lightly soiled.


  • Cuts through grease and other dense materials
  • Large price range
  • Suitable for commercial use
  • Too powerful for soft materials
  • More expensive

divider 6 Which Should You Get?

Whether you get a pressure washer or a power washer depends on the type of material you intend to be cleaning. As a rule of thumb, you should get a power washer if you want to cut through a lot of grease and grime, but you should get a pressure washer if you have lighter or versatile cleaning needs.

If you aren’t sure what you will be cleaning, it is best to go with a pressure washer. Most home purposes are satisfied with the power of the pressure washer. Selecting the pressure washer over the power washer means that you will be able to clean more materials and save money, too.

On the other hand, you should select a power washer for commercial use. A commercial cleaning services tool will need to have more power to cut through the maximum amount of grease. The power washer will give you the full amount of power for all commercial purposes.

Factors to Consider

For the most part, the factors you need to consider when buying a pressure washer or power washer are generally the same since they serve the same purpose. Here are factors to consider when selecting either the pressure or power washer:

Horsepower (HP)

The horsepower tells you how much pressure and volume your washer can produce at one time. The higher the horsepower, the more powerful your washer is. Look at the horsepower to make sure you select a washer that is powerful enough for cleaning purposes.

Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI)

More important than the horsepower, though, is the pounds per square inch rating. This rating tells you how much pressure is extracted in pounds per square inch. It is this rating that tells you the actual cleaning force of the power or pressure washer. The higher the PSI rating, the more powerful the washer.

Gallons Per Minute (GPM)

The gallons per minute rating tells you the water volume of the model. In other words, it tells you how much water escapes the pressure washer in gallons per minute.

Cleaning Power Units (CPU)

As the name suggests, the cleaning power unit tells you how effectively the washer can clean. This rating is determined by multiplying the GPM by the PSI. Once again, the higher the rating, the more effective the washer is for cleaning.


In addition to the ratings, you also need to look at the durability of your model. Pressure washers and power washers can be a good expense. Make sure you’re making a wise purchase by getting one that will last you a long time.


Since there are so many pressure and power washers on the market, you should consider the price of the model you buy. You should be able to find a model that matches your budget and is still effective and powerful.

Temperature (Power Washer Only)

If you have your heart set on a power washer, you also need to consider the water temperature. More professional models will heat the water at a higher temperature. Select a water temperature that best fits your intended uses.

This factor does not matter if you are looking for a pressure washer since you do not intend to dissolve grease in the 1st place.

Related Reading

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Both pressure washers and power washers are designed to clean off services like patios, concrete, and stone. You should opt for a pressure washer for more versatile use, but you will want a power washer if you plan to cut through grease and grime.

The main determiner of which one you should get is simply whether or not you are cleaning off grease. The increased temperature within the power washer means it can dissolve grease, whereas the pressure washer can only move it around.


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