What Is the Difference Between Pressure Washing and Power Washing?

If you’re looking to clean the exterior of your home, you might have come across the terms “pressure washing” and “power washing.” While they might seem interchangeable at first glance, there are distinct differences between the two methods. As experts in the field, Bartlett Power Washing is here to demystify these terms and help you understand which method is best suited for your cleaning needs.

Understanding Pressure Washing

Pressure washing involves using a high-pressure water spray to remove dirt, grime, mold, mildew, and other contaminants from surfaces. This method relies solely on the force of the water to clean surfaces, making it highly effective for a variety of cleaning tasks.

Key Features of Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is characterized by the use of unheated water under high pressure. The water pressure can be adjusted to suit different surfaces and cleaning requirements. Typically, residential pressure washers generate pressures between 1,300 to 2,400 PSI (pounds per square inch), while commercial units can reach pressures up to 3,000 PSI or more.

Common Uses for Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is ideal for surfaces that can withstand the force of high-pressure water. Common applications include:

  • Driveways and Sidewalks: Effective at removing oil stains, tire marks, and general grime.
  • Decks and Patios: Removes dirt, algae, and mildew, restoring the look of wood or composite materials.
  • Siding: Cleans vinyl, brick, and stucco exteriors by blasting away dirt and mold.
  • Fences: Ideal for cleaning wooden, vinyl, and metal fences, removing algae and grime buildup.

Understanding Power Washing

Power washing, on the other hand, is a cleaning method that incorporates heated water. Like pressure washing, it uses high-pressure water spray but adds the element of heat to enhance the cleaning process. The heated water makes power washing particularly effective at removing tough stains, grease, and grime.

Key Features of Power Washing

The primary distinction of power washing is the use of hot water, which typically ranges from 140°F to 311°F. The combination of high pressure and hot water makes it an excellent choice for tackling more stubborn dirt and grime that pressure washing alone might not be able to remove.

Common Uses for Power Washing

Power washing is often reserved for more heavy-duty cleaning tasks due to the added cleaning power of heated water. Common applications include:

  • Grease and Oil Stains: Highly effective at removing stubborn stains from driveways, garages, and industrial areas.
  • Gum Removal: Great for removing chewing gum from sidewalks and other surfaces.
  • Mold and Mildew: The hot water can kill mold and mildew more effectively than cold water.
  • Commercial and Industrial Cleaning: Often used in commercial and industrial settings where deep cleaning is required.

Comparing Pressure Washing and Power Washing

Now that we’ve defined both methods, let’s compare them to understand their unique advantages and limitations.


  • Pressure Washing: Excellent for general cleaning tasks and surfaces that can withstand high pressure. It’s effective at removing loose dirt, mold, mildew, and grime.
  • Power Washing: More effective for tough stains and grime due to the combination of high pressure and hot water. The heat helps to break down and remove stubborn substances like grease and oil.

Cost and Equipment

  • Pressure Washing: Generally more affordable due to the simpler equipment. Residential pressure washers are readily available and can be rented or purchased at a lower cost.
  • Power Washing: Typically more expensive because of the additional components required to heat the water. The equipment is more complex and often used by professional cleaning services.

Surface Suitability

  • Pressure Washing: Suitable for a wide range of surfaces including decks, patios, siding, fences, and driveways. Care must be taken to adjust the pressure to avoid damaging delicate surfaces.
  • Power Washing: Best for surfaces that can handle intense cleaning. Ideal for commercial spaces, concrete areas, and surfaces with heavy grease or oil buildup. It’s not recommended for delicate surfaces that can be damaged by heat.

Environmental Impact

  • Pressure Washing: Uses unheated water, which can be more environmentally friendly as it requires less energy. However, the high-pressure water can still cause runoff issues if not managed properly.
  • Power Washing: Uses more energy to heat the water, which can have a higher environmental impact. The hot water can also lead to greater runoff and potential contamination if not handled correctly.

Choosing the Right Method for Your Needs

Deciding between pressure washing and power washing depends on several factors, including the type of surface, the extent of the dirt or grime, and your specific cleaning goals.

Assessing Your Cleaning Needs

Start by evaluating the surfaces you need to clean and the type of dirt or stains present. For routine cleaning of driveways, sidewalks, and siding, pressure washing is usually sufficient. However, if you’re dealing with tough grease stains, gum, or significant mold and mildew, power washing might be the better choice.

Considering the Surface Material

Different materials respond differently to pressure and heat. For example:

  • Wood: Pressure washing is generally safer for wood surfaces like decks and fences. Power washing might be too harsh and can damage the wood fibers.
  • Concrete: Both methods can be effective, but power washing is particularly good for grease and oil stains on concrete surfaces.
  • Vinyl Siding: Pressure washing is suitable for vinyl siding, but care must be taken to avoid high pressure that could crack or warp the material.
  • Brick and Stone: Both methods can be used, but power washing can provide a deeper clean for heavily soiled brick and stone surfaces.

Professional vs. DIY: What’s Best for You?

Both pressure washing and power washing can be done as DIY projects, but there are significant benefits to hiring professionals, especially for larger or more complex jobs.

Benefits of Hiring Professionals

  • Expertise: Professionals have the knowledge and experience to choose the right method and settings for each surface, ensuring effective and safe cleaning.
  • Equipment: Professional-grade equipment can deliver better results and handle more demanding cleaning tasks.
  • Efficiency: Hiring professionals saves time and effort, allowing you to focus on other tasks while ensuring your home is thoroughly cleaned.
  • Safety: Pressure and power washing can be dangerous if not done correctly. Professionals are trained to handle the equipment safely, reducing the risk of injury or damage to your property.

When to DIY

DIY pressure washing can be a cost-effective solution for smaller, less demanding tasks. If you have experience with the equipment and are comfortable adjusting the pressure settings, you can achieve good results. However, always exercise caution and follow safety guidelines to avoid accidents and damage.

Maintenance Tips for Long-Lasting Results

Regular maintenance is key to keeping your home’s exterior clean and in good condition. Whether you choose pressure washing or power washing, here are some tips to ensure long-lasting results.

Regular Cleaning Schedule

Establish a regular cleaning schedule based on the specific needs of your home. Annual pressure washing is often sufficient for most surfaces, but areas with heavy use or exposure to the elements might require more frequent cleaning.

Protective Coatings

Applying protective coatings to surfaces after cleaning can help prolong the results. For example, sealing your deck or driveway after pressure washing can prevent dirt and stains from penetrating the surface, making future cleanings easier.

Monitor for Damage

Regularly inspect your home’s exterior for signs of damage, such as cracks in the siding, peeling paint, or loose shingles. Addressing these issues promptly can prevent further damage and reduce the need for intensive cleaning.


What is the difference between pressure washing and power washing?

The main difference is that power washing uses heated water, which can be more effective for removing tough stains and grime. Pressure washing uses unheated water and is suitable for general cleaning tasks.

Can pressure washing or power washing damage my home’s exterior?

Yes, both methods can cause damage if not done correctly. It’s important to use the appropriate pressure settings and techniques for each surface to avoid harm.

Is it better to hire professionals for pressure washing or power washing?

Hiring professionals is often the best option for safe and effective cleaning. They have the expertise, equipment, and experience to handle a wide range of surfaces without causing damage.

Can I pressure wash or power wash my roof?

It’s generally not recommended to pressure wash or power wash your roof, as the high pressure can damage shingles and other roofing materials. Soft washing is a safer alternative for roof cleaning.

How often should I pressure wash or power wash my home?

Most homes benefit from annual pressure washing, but the frequency can vary based on factors such as the climate, location, and level of dirt and grime.

What are some alternatives to pressure washing and power washing?

Soft washing, hand scrubbing, and using chemical cleaners are alternative methods that can be used for cleaning delicate surfaces or specific stains.

Choose Bartlett Power Washing for Expert Cleaning Services

Understanding the difference between pressure washing and power washing is crucial for maintaining your home’s exterior. Whether you need a gentle clean or a powerful deep cleaning, Bartlett Power Washing has the expertise to provide safe and effective services. Contact us today to request a quote and experience the difference professional pressure and power washing can make for your home.

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