Power washing and pressure washing may sound almost identical, but there actually is a difference. Depending on your needs, one option may be better than the other. So, how do you know which service is best for your cleaning task?

Let’s break down the major differences between power washing and pressure washing.



Although power washing and pressure washing have a lot in common, the main difference between the two cleaning methods is that power washing uses hot water and pressure washing does not. Pressure washers pull in water at ambient temperature and output it at nearly the same temperature. Technically, the water will be heated slightly as it goes through the high pressure pump but it is completely negligible in terms of any cleaning benefit.

Power washers on the other hand can raise the temperature of water up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Power washers are just pressure washers with the added step of sending the water through a boiler. Adding heat to the water may sound like a subtle change, but it can have a huge impact in terms of the cleaning power for certain applications. Have you ever tried to clean greasy dishes in cold water? Sure, using some dish soap or aggressive scrubbing might help but the caked on food grease isn’t going anywhere. Now think about the same scenario with near steaming hot water in your kitchen sink: the grease doesn’t stand a chance.

The exact same analogy can be applied to pressure washing with cold water versus power washing with hot water. Let’s take a look at a few of the key benefits of power washing with hot water.


  • The heat generated from power washers is much better at cutting through heavily soiled surfaces. One common application of this is built up oil stains in fast food restaurant drive throughs. Even at the highest pressure settings, a cold water pressure washer will struggle to remove the caked on oil and grease. 
  • Power washers are great for commercial work. All conditions equal, a power washer is able to clean faster than a standard pressure washer on almost all hard surfaces. This makes them a popular choice for cleaning contractors. 
  • Hot water can actually kill organic growth like algae or pesky weeds. Cold water washing will leave most surfaces looking new, but never actually solve the root problem. High temperature washing is the only water-based way to guarantee that annoying growth won’t return anytime soon. 


Make no mistake, power washing is not a one-size fits all solution for exterior cleaning. There are some drawbacks:


  • Power washing is more likely to cause damage to more fragile surfaces. Although it really shines when used on concrete, the hot water in combination with the high pressure can be too much for some delicate surfaces. This is why it’s important to choose a professional service provider. 
  • Operating cost is a major drawback. In order to get the water heated up to near boiling temperatures, an expensive heating element is required. These heaters are often maintenance intensive and require diesel fuel for operation.
  • Purchasing power washing equipment is outright expensive, and can be significantly more than a similar cold water washer. It can be hard to justify the additional cost of a hot water unit when the same results can be achieved for much cheaper. 


In general, a standard pressure washer is going to cover 90 percent of all use cases for residential cleaning. Whether it be cleaning a concrete driveway, brick pavers, or applying cleaning solutions to the side of a vinyl house with low pressure, there’s not going to be any significant benefit to choosing a power washer. 


Power washers are reserved mainly for commercial work and heavy duty cleaning applications such as restaurant dumpster pads. Aside from that extremely stubborn grease stain in the middle of the driveway, there’s not much use for power washing in residential applications. 


When in doubt, a local professional pressure washing service should always be contacted. They will have the expertise and knowledge to pick the best cleaning type for your application.

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