Power Washing vs. Pressure Washing – Ultimate Guide

Published by: | Updated: January 21, 2023
JCS Refresh Power Washing vs Pressure Washing

Power washing and pressure washing sound alike and people often think they are interchangeable terms, but think again. 

This article will define the similarities, differences, definitions, characteristics, and pros and cons to help you understand what projects require pressure washing versus power washing.

Moreover, a frequently asked question section will summarize our thoughts and help you learn more about related areas.

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About The Author

Meet the expert behind this article. 



Co-owner & Service Director

Hey there, I’m Cody. 

A decade of residential and commercial pressure washing led me to start JCS Refresh. Now I can share my knowledge with folks like you. 

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Summary: Power washing vs. Pressure washing

Before we get too far, here’s a high-level overview of power washing vs. pressure washing.

Power Washing

Pressure Washing


  • Uses high heat and pressure to easily loosen and remove unwanted material from the surface

  • Saves time which helps reduce fatigue

  • Fewer detergents/chemicals needed


  • Widely available and more cost-effective

  • User-friendly and less maintenance

  • Lighter and easier to transport


  • Considerably larger and more expensive

  • Higher chance of damaging surfaces if not used properly

  • Heavy and more difficult to transport

  • Can be dangerous if used improperly


  • Requires more effort, time, and detergents/chemicals

  • May require a more powerful model to get same results as power washer

  • Can be dangerous if used improperly

Best For

Commercial projects

Best For

Residential projects

What is power washing? 

Power washing uses highly pressurized hot water to clean away algae, dirt, and other contaminants from surfaces. The high pressure and temperature acts as a great combination to remove years of grime and build-up.

With approximately 200-250 degrees of water forced onto the surface, power washing will easily handle grease and other stains.

Moreover, high heat helps kill off unwanted organic materials like moss and algae.

Power washing is ideal for situations with heavy-duty build up. But note that the high heat combined with extreme pressures opens more opportunities for damage and injury, so be careful!

JCS Refresh - power washing vs pressure washing - what is power washing

What is pressure washing? 

Pressure washers are similar to power washers but don’t use hot water. 

These machines have a colder average water temperature that helps clean dirt. The PSI (pounds per square inch) ranges from 1,300 to 4,400, perfect for your residential residence and even a few smaller commercial needs.

Pressure washers can be electric or gas-powered, and different nozzles are available for various applications. 

The downside is that the cold water does not remove tough stains on concrete as easily, which decreases effectiveness and increases time/effort against moss, mold, and other stuck materials or substances.

JCS Refresh - power washing vs pressure washing - what is pressure washing

Relevant characteristics

Below are some relevant characteristics between power washing and pressure washing. 

Here, we’ll examine PSI and GPM as they relate to each.

Power Washing

Pressure Washing


Appropriate power is mid-range with 2,500 to 3,500 PSI. This will is a suitable range of concrete, vinyl materials (with caution), boats, and many more. Also, it could clean tough stains. Refer below for the suitable range for your need:

  • Light: 500 to 600 PSI

  • Medium: 1,200-1,500 PSI

  • High: 3,000 PSI


2,500 to 4,000 PSI range is excellent. Advantageous for homeowners to work efficiently and meet some commercial needs. See below the suitable range for your need:

  • Light duty: 1,500-1900 PSI

  • Medium duty: 2,000-2,900 PSI

  • Heavy duty: 3,000 to 4,500 PSI


GPM can range from 2 to 8.

A good rating for large surfaces is in the 3 to 5 GPM range.


Can range from 2 to 8 GPM, with 3-4 GPM being the most common and efficient for a wide variety of uses.

Similarities and differences 

To learn about the similarities and differences between these machines, check out the information below.


See and distinguish the differences between these two machines.


In PSI, these devices have different ranges depending on the need. 

As power washing is for heavier-duty work, the appropriate range is between 2,000 to 3,200 PSI. This capacity is excellent for cleaning things from cars and boats to fencesdecks, and concrete.

On the other hand, pressure washing is suitable mainly for residential use with the right level of PSI. 

JCS Refresh - power washing vs pressure washing - PSI differences


GPM, or gallons per minute, refers to the amount of water that flows out of the machine

For large surfaces, power washers should be in the 3 to 5 GPM range, which will, of course, need to be increased with the intensity of different jobs.

In contrast, pressure washing has various ranges depending on the work. Many contractors prefer to focus on a higher GPM when choosing the best machine for the job.

Heating elements

The two machines use water for cleaning. But power washing uses a heating element to heat water, while pressure washing uses regular water with no heat.

Heavy-duty and commercial work is easier to complete when using hot water because it effectively loosens stubborn dirt and contamination. 

However, pressure washing does not use heat to complete tasks and is perfect for residential uses that don’t typically require hot water.


Here are some details regarding the similarities between the two.


The PSI rating of pressure and power washers will remain relatively similar from light-duty to heavy-duty.


With pressure and power washers, the higher GPM, the faster you can clean surfaces due to more water being used.

JCS Refresh - power washing vs pressure washing - similarities

Both washers are dangerous, so safety precautions should be taken

At first glance, you might think that a stream of water could not harm someone. However, power and pressure washing can produce well over 2,000 PSI pressure from the wand’s end. Of course, this pressure could cause injury if sprayed directly at someone.

Treat these machines with caution and use them correctly to prevent injury. Otherwise, injuries can happen, especially when using a high PSI or a 0-degree nozzle.

What about soft washing? 

Soft washing might be another alternative for your cleaning needs. 

It uses low-pressure water and detergent mixture to clean exterior parts of the house safely. 

With the help of cleaning solutions, it aims to kill mold, mildew, moss, and bacteria more efficiently. Depending on the project, soft washing might be your next potential option.

Soft washing vs. Power washing vs. Pressure washing

Let’s take a closer look at these cleaning techniques and outline their pros and cons.

Soft Washing

Power Washing

Pressure Washing


  • Can wash a roof with little to no chance of damage

  • Less pressure prevents overspray, allowing detergent/chemical to dwell longer

  • Least labor intensive

  • Safer overall


  • User-friendly

  • Saves time, money, and energy

  • Prevents damage and repairs from the build-up of grime and debris

  • Good for large areas

  • Can be used with cleaner for a more thorough clean


  • Can clean associated spaces

  • Saves a lot of time in cleaning

  • Can improve your building’s curb appeal

  • Easy to use but with caution


  • Low pressure will have difficulty removing deep-rooted stains and organic matter

  • Not widely mass produced and may require building your own system

  • Systems quickly become expensive


  • Strips away paint or sealant

  • Damages the wood if not done correctly, which leads to warping and splitting

  • If not used properly, it can cause a flood to your homes and even damage your landscaping


  • Can be dangerous and cause injury if not handled properly

  • A powerful blast from this machine to some surfaces can easily cause damage

  • Doesn't use a professional quality cleanser

WAIT – here’s a good read to expand on this topic. 

Bottom line

To wrap up, finding a good combination of PSI and GPM from either a pressure washer or power washer is essential to your cleaning experience. 

Keep in mind that both use pressurized water to clean surfaces. Still, power washing differs since it uses a heating element to offer a higher cleaning potential.

When it comes to convenience, power washing is best for heavy-duty work because it uses both heat and pressure. A mid-range of 2,000 to 3,500 PSI and 3 to 5 GPM is preferred. 

On the other hand, pressure washing is appropriate for residential use. 

Just be sure to choose a model with a good range depending on the work you need to do, which will be relatively similar to that of a power washer.

JCS Refresh - power washing vs pressure washing - bottom line

In the end, it depends on what your cleaning needs are. 

If you’re doing lighter-duty work, grab a pressure washer; however, if you have tough grease or oil stains and large areas to deal with, you might consider opting for a power washer.

After reading this article, we hope you better understand the differences and uses of these two machines. 

Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the questions that often pop into the minds of individuals about power and pressure washing:

Can you pressure wash with just water?

Yes, water alone will generally get the job done. But it’s not the same without detergents/chemicals It is just like when you take a shower with just water vs. with soap and water. 

The detergents/chemicals will increase the effectiveness of your pressure washing and the longevity of cleanliness.

Remember: it could look clean, but grime and organic materials can remain embedded on the surface if appropriate chemicals aren’t used.


JCS Refresh - power washing vs pressure washing - FAQ

Will a power washer remove moss?

Of course! It is considered one of the fastest ways to remove moss from concrete surfaces. The range for this job is 2,000 to 3,500 PSI with two to four GPM.

What shouldn’t you do when power washing a house?

  1. Do not disregard safety precautions.
  2. Wear and use proper safety equipment.
  3. Don’t apply too much pressure.
  4. Don’t blast the corners of the house directly.
  5. Don’t use only water when cleaning.
  6. Do not ignore the electrical hazards.
  7. Don’t forget to consider the area’s size and do the cleaning without pre-planning and observation.

Is power washing a house worth it?


Power washing prevents damage, saves money, primes surfaces, and protects your family’s health. It is environmentally friendly, saves time, and restores curb appeal almost instantly – definitely worth a try. 

You may want to consider it for your next cleaning.

Can power washing damage concrete?

Yes, it can permanently damage your concrete. You need to know what you are doing on a specific job. Consult user manuals and specifications for your power washer before beginning a job.


(R. May 2021), Engineering Web, Can You Damage Concrete by Power Washing, accessed 13 October 2022, <https://www.enggweb.com/can-you-damage-concrete-by-power-washing/>

(B. McCallum September 2022), OhsoSpotless, What’s the Difference Between Power Washing vs. Pressure Washing, accessed 13 October 2022,<https://ohsospotless.com/power-washing-vs-pressure-washing/>

Shack and Shine, What is the Difference Between Power Washing vs. Pressure Washing, accessed 13 October 2022,<https://www.shackshine.com/power-washer-vs-pressure-washer/>

Upgraded Home, Is Pressure Washing A Driveway Illegal, accessed 13 October 2022,<https://upgradedhome.com/is-pressure-washing-a-driveway-illegal/>