The terms power washing and pressure washing are often used interchangeably. That makes sense, since they are very nearly the same thing. The only real difference is heat. Then there’s steam cleaning, which uses heat, but not pressure.
In this post, we look at the differences and similarities between pressure washing, power washing, and steam cleaning, as well as which solution is best for different types of jobs. View our gallery of images from some of our projects.
What Are Power Washing and Pressure Washing?
Before we talk about the difference, let’s quickly describe the similarities.
Both power and pressure washing use highly pressurized water to remove dirt, debris, and other unwanted substances from a hard surface. Walkways, parking lots, building and property walls, heavy equipment, and more benefit from the application of a pressure or power washer.
How much pressure qualifies as “highly pressurized?”
The level of force behind the water differs according to the machine and the job. Water leaves a pressure washer at anywhere between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds per square inch (psi). For reference, water leaves your garden hose at 50 psi.
The operator also chooses the type of nozzle best suited for the job. The number refers to the angle of the spray as it leaves the hose. Typically, choices are:
- 0 degrees: Creates a pinpoint spray for the toughest cleaning jobs, as well as for cleaning second stories without using a ladder. This nozzle can cause serious injury and should only be used by professionals.
- 15 degrees: To use on concrete and similar surfaces for heavy-duty cleaning, such as stripping paint or grease.
- 25 degrees: General cleaning on walkways, patios, and outdoor furniture.
- 40 degrees: Used on surfaces that are easily damaged, such as stucco and siding. May also be used on vehicles.
What Is the Difference between Pressure Washing and Power Washing?
Although both methods blast away dirt and debris with highly pressurized water, power washing adds the element of heat.
The power washer includes an element that heats the water to a high temperature, typically between 150 and 200 degrees. The combination of hot water and high pressure blasts away the really tough stuff: mold, mildew, chewing gum, grease, and more. Think of it like washing dishes with cold water versus hot.
When do you want to use power washing?
Power washing is ideal when you have a very large job, as in area to be cleaned. It’s also preferred when you need to blast away tough stains, such as what you typically see on parking lots and walkways. But, the combination of super-hot water and pressurized water can damage surfaces. Stick to power washing concrete and similar materials when using the power washer.
If the job isn’t too big, doesn’t feature hard-to-clean dirt, or has a surface softer than concrete, stick with pressure washing.
Pressure and Power Washing Are Dangerous!
It cannot be overstated that these machines can be extremely dangerous. Not only can you destroy the surface you’re attempting to clean, you can hurt yourself. What’s more, those injuries can cause enormous issues beyond the cuts and lacerations that may seem minor. That’s because the same pressure that blasts away dirt sends the water (and other things) deep into your tissues. Patients have developed infections within the underlying muscle that actually require surgery to repair. Over 6,000 people went to the hospital with pressure washer injuries in 2014 alone.
If you aren’t terribly squeamish, Google “pressure washing injuries” to see just how much damage one of these machines can do. We’d provide the links, but we don’t want to have to label this post NSFW.
What Is Steam Cleaning?
As the name implies, steam cleaning uses steam. Unlike pressure and power washers, pressurized water plays no role in this cleaning tool.
Steam cleaners heat water to between 200 and 300 degrees. At that temperature, the water vaporizes into steam, which creates an extremely hygienic cleaning method. That’s because water at such a high temperature disinfects surfaces quickly and then leaves them dry. There’s no slick surface left behind, or water to attract bacteria and other germs. And, since steam cleaning disinfects the surface, there’s no need to use toxic cleaning agents.
Steam cleaning is particularly popular in hospitals, restaurants, kitchens, and any other type of environment where you need to eradicate germs as well as dirt while eliminating exposure to common cleaning products.
These cleaners are also popular for extreme deep cleaning. The steam penetrates porous surfaces, such as the grout between tiles, and lifts trapped dirt to the surface. From there, you can just wipe it away.
If you have a tough job that requires a powerful solution, contact Dakota Power Washing today. We’ll discuss your options and give you a free estimate.