Power Point

by Katie Lee

Power washing vs. pressure washing — do you know the difference?

By Carol L. Carey

Following a recent survey of people entering a local store, it was found the average person answers “yes” to the question: “Is pressure washing and power washing the same thing?” However, ask that of a professional in the industry, and you are sure to get a totally different answer! As retail and restaurant facility professionals tasked with taking care of all aspects of building maintenance and repairs, it is important to understand the differences and what to expect, along with the rules and regulations regarding cleaning our business. Doing the research makes you a wise and informed customer, and able to make the determination on what service you need — and when.

Power washing and pressure washing are commonly assumed to be the same thing because they both use water to achieve the results desired, but are they the same? Let’s review them a little:

A power washer, as the name indicates, is recognized for providing powerful streams of hot water at a stable high-pressure stream. Many hot water power washers used in the commercial environment deliver 8 to 12 gallons per minute, at temperatures up to 220 degrees. They can be utilized with a wand equipped with various spray tips or a flat surface cleaner. The wand is used for walls, gum removal and removing stains off sidewalks. Using a power washer at full capacity is not, however, compatible with cleaning shingle roofing or softer exterior surfaces.

Typically, the main difference in pressure washing is that the velocity is less, and the temperature is cooler, if not cold altogether. This makes pressure washing ideal for cleaning surfaces with less traffic, such as residential walkways, patios and sand-packed materials like concrete or brick pavers. So how can you be sure you are making the right choice?

Power Washing WallBecause these terms have become so interchangeable, industry experts even tend to transpose one term even if they mean to use the other. It is pertinent to always make clear which you are getting, particularly if you have been told not to use power washing for certain materials on the exterior of your location. Otherwise, either one is a great way to clean up a surface that would be impossible to do any other way.

In some instances, it is mainly the time that is saved by using a higher-pressure water washing system, as opposed to another method. This high-pressure mechanical sprayer can be used to remove more than just dirt. For example, many pros rely on this for cleaning up structures or vehicles and removing old paint or rust.

There are different nozzles that can be used, which makes a difference in the stream. The right choice of washer may be used for industrial jobs, while a less extreme version is ideal for use even within the interior boundaries of a commercial building. Washers can damage surfaces, forcing water deep into masonry and wood, which can create a prolonged drying time or cause actual damage.

Keep in mind that there is also a difference between the system you rent from your local improvement store, and what a professional may use, who comes out to clean your business. People often rent or buy their equipment, expecting to get the same results as the pros, but end up disappointed with the results they get. A pressure washer is the equivalent of a stronger garden hose, so if you have a lot of mildew, staining, or gum to remove, this probably won’t get the job done.

There is also a difference in performance, based on the way the washer is fueled. These types of machines range from electric or diesel to gas or hydraulic. Of course, using an eco-friendly cleaner/ degreaser is another way to have better results, just make sure you rinse with pure, clean water following the wash.

It is of course important to use caution when using a washer, especially around electricity. When in doubt, hire a trained and experienced power washing professional. The benefit is that they will already have all the necessary equipment and will get the job done right, the first time around. Make the most of your cleaning project by using a power or pressure washer to achieve the desired results.

So, now you know which machine meets your cleaning needs, but have you found the answer to the rules and regulations? And which ones do you follow?

First and foremost, there are various laws and regulations regarding the water discharged or left from power washing and pressure washing. The EPA enforces the Clean Water Act (CWA) on a federal level and many states and local municipalities have local regulations on what can happen to water that has pollutants in it. The main stipulation is that discharge of any pollutant (oil, gas, diesel, anti-freeze) or “process water” from outdoor washing activities to a storm sewer is prohibited.

What does this mean for you? How do you know what your hired professional power washer will be doing while on site?

You must know your chosen power washing professionals understand and adhere to the Clean Water Act and have the proper equipment to reclaim the discharged water. This water can be reclaimed and hauled off to an approved disposal station, or it can be reclaimed and filtered down to potable water. Be informed: Don’t subject yourself or your company to hefty local and federal fines. Make sure everyone stays within the confines of the law!


— Carol L. Carey is CEO and co-founder of Superior Facility Service Group, Inc., a family owned and operated company specializing in commercial maintenance and repair, bird control and prevention, and disaster restoration. For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.superiorfacilityservice.com.

You may also like