Pressure Washer vs Steam Cleaner

pressure washer vs steam cleaner

If you want your home to look well-maintained, you need to invest in the best cleaning machines to make your work easier. Steam cleaners and pressure washers are among the machines every home should have in its cleaning arsenal.

Even though they are both used for cleaning, they are different. This means you need to understand how each one works before buying. This article has compiled a detailed guide on the difference between steam cleaners and pressure washers. You will also learn how each one of them works and their benefits.  

What is Pressure Washing?

hot water pressure washer vs steam cleaner

Pressure washers are connected to the garden hose water line and require a pump to release cold water at more than 3000 PSI. 

Their powerful jet of water is very effective in blasting away tough dirt, paint, algae, oil, or grime from almost any surface. 

A pressure washer, also known as power washing, is an excellent choice if you want a powerful cleaner for outdoor areas. 

The pressurized water they provide enables them to perform better than using your garden hose alone. You can use them to clean different surfaces, such as:

  • Outdoor furniture 
  • Roofs 
  • Gutters 
  • Driveways 
  • Walls  
  • Floors  
  • Siding  
  • Decks  
  • Lawn mowers 
  • Fencing  
  • Vehicles and car engines
  • and much more

What are the Benefits of Pressure Washers? 

Pressure washers come with many benefits, which include:


One of the primary reasons most people prefer using pressure washers is their fast performance. With these machines, you can do thorough outdoor cleaning within less time than manually cleaning. Hot water quickly blasts dirt, grease, oil, and other grime. Hot water pressure washers consistently outperform cold water ones.


Another significant advantage of pressure washing is that it is safe even for the environment. This is because no harsh chemicals are required to enhance the cleaning performance.  

Transform the appearance of your home 

Without a doubt, pressure washing will give your home a better look. These machines can remove built-up dirt and grime from any surface. A thorough pressure cleaning of the outside is a must if you plan to sell your property or vacate a rental.

Suitable for any surface (almost)

Whether you want to clean walls, floors, driveways, corridors, windows, or any other external part of your home, a cold water pressure washer will give you an excellent performance. The concentrated stream of water is great for getting to hard-to-reach areas.

Prevention is Better Than Cure…

Proper home maintenance prevents damage or accidents that may occur due to the accumulation of dirt. For example, walls, floors, pathways, and other parts of your home may look unpleasant if left unattended for a long time. Repair costs such as painting will likely outweigh the price of a pressure washer. 

Create a safe environment for your family 

Accumulating dirt, debris, cobwebs, etc can create a perfect breeding ground for bugs and other pests which carry bacteria, germs, viruses, and other dangerous microorganisms. What is on the outside of your home can surely make its way inside, so using a pressure washer will help to blast away these critters for good.

Disadvantages of Pressure Washers

high pressure washer vs steam cleaner

The most significant disadvantage of pressure washers is:

They can easily cause injury 

Pressure washers are great for getting the job done quickly but can also cause injury and potential damage. If you have brittle plastics, the high pressure may cause them to crack.

The most common pressure washer injury is people hitting their own feet. Make sure you always wear closed-in shoes when pressure washing.

The volume of water used

Pressure washers use large quantities of water in comparison to steam cleaners. Consider this if you pay for water usage or use rainwater for your home.

Tips on How to Use a Pressure Washer

  • Preparation: Before cleaning, move any items around for a clear space. Use a blower vac to remove any leaves. Close nearby windows and doors to ensure water doesn’t get into the house. 
  • Gloves: When cleaning, wear protective gloves and other safety gear, such as eyewear, to enhance your safety. 
  • Shoes: Injury to the feet is one of the most common injuries when pressure washing. Wear closed-in shoes (not your flip-flops!)
  • Cleaning solution: Some hot water pressure washers have optional detergent features. Use only the detergent recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • Settings: You must adjust the pressure settings according to the type of surface you are cleaning. Too much pressure can cause damage, while low pressure may not be enough to remove tough dirt, particularly on porous surfaces such as concrete.

What About Hot Water Pressure Washers?

Hot water pressure washers combine steam cleaner features and pressure washers for the ultimate cleaning machine. Hot water washers are great for car detailing, engine degreasing, or anywhere you want the benefit of heavy pressure and hot water with steam.

Read my post on steam pressure washers for more information on the different types (diesel, gas, electric) and how they are used.

What is Steam Cleaning?

pressure washer or steam cleaner

Steam cleaners use superheated steam to clean surfaces. You add distilled or demineralized water to their boiler and connect the machine to a power source. Most heat the water within 10 minutes.  

Once the water is ready, you will need to connect the appropriate attachments according to the cleaning task you are about to perform. For example, a microfiber cloth for wall or floor cleaning, a scrubbing tool for grout cleaning, or a squeegee tool for windows.

Just like pressure washers, a steam cleaner is also very versatile. They are not as powerful as pressure washers, however. You can use a steamer to clean different surfaces, such as:

  • Floors 
  • Upholstery 
  • Children’s toys 
  • Kitchen Appliances 
  • Bathrooms  
  • Countertops  
  • Furniture  
  • Carpets 
  • Windows 
  • Car Interior 
  • Removing wallpaper etc. 

What are the Benefits of Steam Cleaners?

Steam cleaners operate at a high temperature, heating water past the boiling point. Use steam for cleaning instead of chemicals for a naturally clean home.

One of the great things about steam cleaners is that they can be used on almost any surface in your home. This includes hardwood floors (with care), carpets, upholstery, showers, tiles, and much more. Other benefits include:

Quick-drying time 

Unlike other cleaning methods, steam cleaners dry the surface almost immediately after cleaning. However, carpets and upholstery may require more time to dry due to their material.  

Ability to sanitize surfaces 

The hot steam produced by these machines is usually more than 212⁰F. Since it is above boiling point, it is highly effective in sanitizing and killing up to 99.9% of microorganisms. These microorganisms may include bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, dust mites, and other germs. 

Suitable for Deep Cleaning 

Another significant benefit of steam cleaners is that they are highly effective in deep cleaning surfaces. They release steam at a pressure, which enables them to remove tough dirt, stains, and other messes from the surface.

Some models, such as the Vapor Clean Desiderio Plus steam vacuum, are highly powerful, which makes them suitable for commercial cleaning


When cleaning using a steam cleaner, only water is required. This means you don’t need to add harsh chemicals, which may harm children, asthma and allergy sufferers, and pets. 

What are the disadvantages of steam cleaning? 

steam clean vs pressure wash

Even if steam cleaning is one of the best cleaning methods, it has some disadvantages, although not many. They include:

Burns Risk

Steam cleaners use super hot water to sanitize and clean surfaces. Since steam is hot you can quickly burn yourself accidentally. This means that you need to know how the machine works before using it to minimize such risks. 


The best steam cleaners are usually more expensive than cold water pressure washers. This is because steam temperatures are hotter than base models of steam cleaners, PSI is generally higher, and you get more attachments and better quality.

However, they are worth the price since you can use them to clean different parts of your home. Some are even powerful enough for commercial use. 

Steam Cleaning vs Pressure Washing – What is the Difference?

pressure washer steam cleaner combo

Even though the two machines are used to clean, their performance differs. Their main differences include the following:


The difference between pressure washers and steam cleaners is their functionality. Compared to a pressure washer, a steam cleaner uses less water. The water is then turned into hot steam, which effectively cleans surfaces and kills allergens such as dust mites and other pests around the home. Steam cleaners are the best for cleaning indoor surfaces such as floors, bathrooms, carpets, windows, appliances, upholstery, etc.  

Pressure washers require a considerable amount of water to clean surfaces. High-pressure water makes them ideal for cleaning outdoor areas.

Could you imagine how your home would look if you pressure-washed the inside? Whilst, I’ve thought about this on occasion (especially with dogs in my home), the key differences are a steam cleaner depends on heat and less pressure, while pressure washers depend on high pressure and volume of water.  


Pressure washers are the best for heavy-duty cleanings, such as concrete surfaces, driveways, and outdoor structures. You can use a steam mop or steam cleaner on these surfaces, but it will be slow and most likely wear out your accessories.

Drying time 

Since pressure washers require a lot of water, they leave the surface very wet after cleaning. Due to this, you need to allow the surface to dry. Steam cleaners dry the surface almost instantly, especially vapor steam cleaners with less than 5% moisture content. 


In terms of hygiene, steam cleaners are the best due to their ability to kill microorganisms. Pressure washers only effectively blast dirt and grime from the surface. You can invest in a hot water steam pressure washer if you are concerned about the hygiene of your outdoor areas.

Frequently Asked Questions 

which steam cleaner is the best

Should I buy a pressure washer or a steam cleaner? 

Since the two machines are used for different purposes, you will likely need both. With a pressure washer, you can clean your outdoor space quickly and easily, compared to sweeping and scrubbing. 

On the other hand, a steam cleaner will help you to clean your indoor surfaces and other items conveniently. Both have different uses for different cleaning jobs.

What are the advantages of hot water pressure washers? 

The primary benefit of a hot water pressure cleaner is for use in commercial settings or cleaning industrial equipment. For example, degreasing a car or truck engine. A hot water pressure cleaner will benefit any area where you have a problem with oil, grease, and grime.

Which features should I check when purchasing a pressure washer? 

Pressure washers are available in different designs and come with various features. When comparing the products, you should check the temperature settings and the maximum pressure the machine provides. This will help you to know if the device is robust and powerful. Those with a higher PSI are the most powerful. Besides that, you should check the warranty, nozzle type, portability, and overall construction. 

Should I rent or buy a pressure washer? 

If you intend to use the machine frequently to clean your home, it is better to buy it since this will help you save money in the long term. However, you don’t need to buy it if you use it once in a while. Instead, you can rent it or hire a professional to help you clean. 

Do pressure washers only use cold water? 

Most inexpensive power washers work with cold water. You can purchase specific pressure washer machines that convert cold water to hot water.

Are steam cleaners worth it? 

A steam cleaner is one of the most essential cleaning machines every home should have. Steam cleaners are versatile and chemical-free and provide a superior clean to many chemical cleaners on the market.

The hot steam they produce is highly effective in killing allergens and harmful organisms. I love using my steamer around my children and pets without worrying about chemical inhalation.

What is a good PSI for a Steamer? 

I generally recommend choosing a steam cleaner with at least 58PSI; however, what I look for over PSI is the temperature of the boiler.

A steamer that only heats the water to boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit) will have a much lower temperature at the tip or nozzle.

I prefer much hotter steam at less pressure for more effective cleaning. Take a look at this page which lists 26 steam cleaners above 65PSI – especially the boiler and tip temperatures of some.

Pressure Washer vs Steam Cleaner – Which One is Best?

Pressure washers and steam cleaners are both excellent machines for home cleaning. However, pressure washers are the best for outdoor cleaning since they are typically connected to the garden hose pipe.

On the other hand, steam cleaners are suitable for indoor floor cleaning and other items such as appliances, carpets, countertops, bathrooms, floors, etc. In my household, since they work differently, I have both.