Power washing vs. water blasting: what's the difference?

If you need to clean a concrete driveway, factory floor or greasy engine bay, do you need a power washer, pressure washer or water blaster? Is there a difference?

While all three use an electric motor or fuel to direct water under pressure, there are differences in how this is achieved and in the pressures available. These distinctions are important to know when choosing the right cleaning equipment for your home, workshop or construction site.

Pressure washing

The most common solution for domestic use, pressure washers may be electric, petrol or diesel powered and use cold water directed through a nozzle to blast dirt away from hard surfaces.

Pressure washers are less severe than other water blasting systems, which prevents damage to brickwork and other surfaces, but they still need to be used with care.

They're also more water-efficient if you just need to give your outdoor area a quick clean, but they won't remove stubborn stains or clinging substances such as moss or mould.

Water blasting 

If you need a more heavy-duty industrial cleaning solution, you need a water blaster. As well as cleaning and lifting dirt like pressure washing, water blasting also removes a thin layer of the surface being sprayed.

While this offers a high level of cleaning, it can also cause damage if water blasters are used on unsuitable surfaces, focus for too long on a single area or are misused, potentially causing severe injuries to operators and other people in the area. Personnel need to be fully trained in the safe use of water blasters, which must be in constant motion.

Water blasters can be powered by petrol or diesel:

  • Petrol water blasters are available with pressure ratings from 1000–3000 PSI, depending on the level of cleaning needed.
  • Diesel water blasters also come in a range of sizes, from portable 1000 PSI units up to self-contained mine spec trailer units delivering over 4000 PSI from a 1000-litre water tank.

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Power washing

Power washers are similar to standard pressure washers, with two key differences: they tend to work at higher pressure (1000–2600 PSI) and they use heated water.

The heat helps to loosen dirt, making cleaner faster and more effective, especially when it comes to tougher stains and residue such as mould and chewing gum. Power washers can also be used to degrease engine bays.

Power washers are suitable for commercial and industrial use as well as household cleaning, as long as proper safety precautions are taken. Electric power washers are recommended over fuel-powered washers for homes and other areas where loud noise is not acceptable due to their quieter operation.

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