Power Washing vs. Pressure Washing: What's REALLY the Difference?

April 27, 2021

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While the two phrases are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between pressure washing and power washing. Knowing these differences ensures you schedule the right service for your home and commercial property, and why it’s best to leave this work to the pros!

exterior power washing company truck

Simply put, pressure washing is any technique that uses pressurized water, even a garden hose nozzle that creates a pressurized water stream. Power washing uses hot water, which helps dissolve oil, grease, sticky residues, adhesives, chemicals, and other stubborn stains.

While this is a simple explanation for the difference between pressure washing and power washing, it’s helpful to know a bit more about when and why these are chosen for exterior cleaning jobs, and when to avoid power washing in particular. You can then discuss your cleaning needs and options with a pressure washing contractor near you and ensure your property is always clean and pristine and in good condition!

Key Differences Between Pressure Washing and Power Washing

While water temperature is the main difference between pressure washing and power washing, there are some other factors to consider when it comes to choosing the best cleaning method for your property. Check out a few of those factors here so you can discuss these options with your power washing contractor.


Since power washing uses heated water, it often costs slightly more than standard pressure washing. Average pressure washing costs might run between $0.15 and $0.75 per square foot, so expect power washing to be at the high end of those costs.


Power washing equipment needs a heated coil and might work with a small storage tank that holds hot water ready for use. Heated water is typically used for oil, grease, stubborn stains, and thick dirt and grime, so most power washers are gas-powered rather than electric. Gas-powered equipment offers more pressure than electric machines, so these are heavier and more expensive but offer that added power needed for tough cleaning.

Chemicals or cleansers used

multiple colored cleaning chemical bottles

The chemicals or cleansers used during power washing vs. pressure washing is often dependent on what’s being cleaned rather than the equipment or water temperature itself. However, power washing is typically best for certain surfaces and stains, and these might require different detergents than you would use on lighter layers of dirt and mud.

Homeowners might also not realize that there is a difference between soap, detergent, and cleaning chemicals. Soaps use biodegradable materials so they’re an excellent choice for cleaning areas around your lawn or landscaping that might otherwise get damaged by harsher materials. However, soaps offer the least amount of cleaning power, so they’re used only for light layers of dirt and grime.

Detergents are stronger than soap so they’re used for thicker dirt and mud, but note that detergents are not biodegradable. In some cases, a power washing contractor will need to recycle the water used when cleaning with detergents rather than letting that water go down a drain.

Chemicals cleansers are best for specific stains that won’t respond to soap or detergents, such as rust or oil. Oxalic acid can remove corrosion stains while citric acid is best for degreasing. Bleach-based chemicals are also used for killing mold spores and other contaminants.

Surfaces cleaned

While power washing removes more dirt and grime than a standard cold water pressure washing, hot water is not safe for every surface around your property. Standard pressure washing is best for concrete, brick, wood, siding, and tiled areas, while power washing is best used to kill mold and mildew and for loosening stuck-on debris such as chewing gum.

Power washing is also used for oily and greasy stains, such as motor oil on driveways, and for dissolving adhesives and glue.


Pressure Washer Power Washer
Costs on average $0.15 to $0.75 per square foot:
· House exterior, $150 to $400
· Driveway, $150 to $250
· Deck, $250 to $450
· Fencing, $150 to $350
· Gutters, $100 to $300
Power washing costs are similar but will run to the high end of pressure washing costs
Equipment Lightweight, often electric-powered and offering only 1300 to 1700 PSI Heavy-duty, often gas-powered, and offering 2000 to 2800 or more PSI
Cleansers Over-the-counter soaps such as Krud Kutter and Simple Green Power washers use specialty chemicals for the surface to be cleaned, including:
· Oxalic acid for rust
· Citric acid for grease
· Bleach kill mold and sanitize
· Ammonia, for glass
· Sodium hypochlorite, for other stubborn stains
Surfaces Pressure washing is excellent for soft surfaces and materials such as wood, limestone, concrete, brick, and vinyl siding. Lightweight pressure washing is also best for smaller spaces that would otherwise create lots of splashing and splattering, such as gutters. Power washing is used to cut through thick dirt, mud, oil and grease, and mold, mildew, and algae. It can also be used for spot cleaning motor oil stains, chewing gum, and paint. Power washing also removes salt and salt stains as well as rust and corrosion.

What Is the Difference Between Power Washing and Soft Wash Cleaning?

Dirt at the wall

Soft wash pressure washing uses specialty detergents or cleansers designed to seep into lots of nooks and crannies, and then dissolve and soften thick dirt, mud, dust, storm debris, mold, and other residues. This detergent is applied and then allowed to sit for several minutes, so it can break down even the toughest residues.

After the detergent has been given a chance to work, your power washing contractor then uses a very low-pressure rinse, typically just stronger than a garden hose nozzle, to clean everything away. Soft wash cleaning is safer than standard power washing for roofing shingles and tiles, exterior glass, soft surfaces such as vinyl siding and limestone, and wood decks and fences.

Soft wash systems are also a great choice for cleaning paver stones and anything with aggregate, such as asphalt or tar and chip driveways. The lower pressure used for soft wash rinsing means less risk of dislodging those stones or pulling out the aggregate, so the material is clean and in good condition.

Is Power Washing Bad for Your House?


Power washing is bad for your house only when done incorrectly! Homeowners often try to tackle this job on their own, mistakenly assuming that they can simply rent a power washer and then clean their home’s outside surfaces as easily as they clean interior spaces.

However, incorrect power washing methods including using too much pressure or overly harsh cleansers can strip granules from roof shingles, dent siding, chip brick and concrete, shred window and door screens, and even shatter exterior glass! Leaving behind dried detergents means sticky residues that can attract more dirt and make your property look more rundown and dingy than before you decided to wash those outside surfaces.

Remember, too, that pressure washing contractors have liability insurance. In the rare instance that they might damage your property, their insurance policy will cover the cost of repairs. If you damage your property yourself, you will need to cover those repair costs out of your own pocket!

While DIY power washing is not recommended, professional pressure washing contractors ensure a safe yet effective clean that offers many benefits for your home and property, including:

  • Pressure washing cleans away dirt, mud, and other damp debris that hold moisture against exterior surfaces. That damp debris can soften brick and concrete as well as roofing shingles, leading to premature damage including cracking and chipping.
  • Cleaning away mold, mildew, and pollen clinging to exterior walls and a home’s roof improves outdoor air quality, for better breathing.
  • Gritty debris etches exterior surfaces, while power washing removes sand, silt, and other grit and grime.
  • Cleaning motor oil, grass clippings, and other such debris reduces the risk of permanent staining.
  • Algae, mold, and storm debris work their way under and around roof shingles, lifting them from the roof decking and increasing the risk of losing them in high winds or heavy storms.
  • Cleaning walkways and pool decks provide safe surfaces for foot traffic.
  • Removing mold and other debris from wood fences and decks reduces the risk of them splitting, cracking, and chipping, and keeps that mold from growing and spreading.
  • Regular pressure washing improves a home’s curb appeal instantly, often making it look brand new!

To find out more about how power washing can benefit your home and property, contact a pressure washing contractor near you.

How Often Should You Have Your House Pressure Washed?

Annual or semi-annual power washing is recommended for most homeowners, as this will remove damaging dirt and debris before it gets overly thick or begins to stain outside surfaces. Some homes definitely need annual washing or even more frequent power washing; for instance, if you live in the tropics or a desert area, your house might get coated with sand and silt regularly, and especially during a stormy season.

Homes in the tropics are also often covered in mold and mildew and need more consistent cleaning than houses in other areas. If you live near an airport or busy roadway, you might also notice soot and air pollution residues clinging to your home. In these cases, consider annual or twice-yearly pressure washing.

The Average Cost for Power Washing


Power washing costs vary greatly according to each contractor, levels of dirt and filth covering your property, if you need stain removal, and other such details. However, to give you a general idea of what you might spend for various power washing services on your property, note some average prices per HomeAdvisor:

  • Exterior house washing, one-story, $288; two-story, $400-$1400
  • Exterior house soft wash cleaning, $300-$900
  • Driveway, $150-$250
  • Deck, $250-$400
  • Fence, $150-$300
  • Gutters, $50-$300
  • Roofs, $0.50-$1.00 per square foot

Note that the average roof size for residential homes is about 1700 square feet, so most roof pressure washing costs range from $850 to $1700. As with all other prices, these are just averages; your estimated cost will vary according to your home’s size, location, and other such details.

Is It Worth Buying a Pressure Washer?


Since homeowners should avoid DIY pressure washing, you might wonder if it’s worth buying a pressure washer for your property. Investing in a low-power pressure washer can be beneficial, as it can help you clean items and surfaces your power washing contractor might not include, such as:

  • Trash cans
  • Patio furniture
  • Swing sets and other outdoor toy sets
  • Tools
  • Tire rims
  • Motor homes and ATVs
  • Boats and their trailers
  • Doghouses and kennels
  • Lawnmowers, snowblowers, snow shovels, and other lawn care equipment
  • Garage floors
  • Sheds, both inside and out
  • Grills, outdoor fire pits
  • Equipment used for a commercial business such as landscaping tools

A pressure washer can also help keep your property tidy between professional power washing visits. For example, you might use a pressure washer to clean a patio before entertaining or wash grass clippings off the side of a home after cutting the lawn.

You can also use your pressure washer for spot cleaning. For instance, if you notice chewing gum stuck to the porch floor or a motor oil stain on the driveway, you can use your pressure washer to make quick work of cleaning away those unsightly messes.

The Best Time of Year for Power Washing

There is no best time of year for power washing, although your pressure washing contractor obviously cannot clean away surfaces that are covered in snow and ice! The right time for your power washing will depend on the weather in your area; for example, after summer storms have moved through tropical areas, you might schedule pressure washing to remove sand, silt, and other gritty debris.

If you love to entertain and cook outdoors, you might schedule pressure washing before you open the patio or deck to company, so it’s clean and pristine, and ready for visitors. You might schedule another pressure washing after the season is over, to remove lingering smoke and cooking residues from the deck or patio and outside walls.

power washing houseIn areas with heavy snowfall, you might consider power washing in the spring, to remove snow-clearing salt and other such residues from the pavement and where it might have splattered onto exterior walls. If you have a pool, you might consider power washing right before you open it for the season, so you know the pool deck is safe for foot traffic and the outdoor area is clean and ready for use.

Orlando Pressure Washing Experts is happy to offer this information to our readers and we hope it helped you to better understand the difference between pressure washing and power washing, as well as soft wash systems. If you’re looking for expert pressure washing in Orlando or surrounding cities, give us a call. We offer over 20 years of industry experience and guarantee all our cleaning services to last. We also offer full-service power washing, including exterior wall washing, roof washing, gutter cleaning, paver cleaning and sealing, driveway power washing, and much more. To get started with your FREE quote, call us today!

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