Steam Cleaning vs Pressure Washing

Steam Cleaning vs Pressure Washing: How Do They Work and Which is Better?

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A lot of people are often confused when it comes to steam cleaning vs pressure washing. And rightly so…

The thing is that both steam cleaning and pressure washing are effective ways of cleaning dirt from most surfaces.

That is why today, we’re going to look at how each of the methods above work, their advantages, and which is the best cleaning option for you.

Ready for a quick dive? Let’s begin!

Related Post: Steam Cleaning vs Hot Water Extraction: How to Choose [Pros & Cons]

What is Steam Cleaning?

You know the drill. Water gets heated up to extreme temperatures then afterward, the resulting vapor is passed over surfaces to clean and disinfect them. (If you’re after more details, head over to this article.)

For this method, you will need a steam cleaner. This is an ingenious machine that comes with a little canister at the back for storing water. When turned on, a steam cleaner converts the water held in the reservoir to steam. It does this by using electricity to boil the water to extreme temperatures of over 200 Fahrenheit!

Because of this high temperature, a steam cleaner can effectively remove grime, stains, gunk, and bacteria with a lot of ease.

Also, steam cleaning is pretty quick and works great on several surfaces and fabrics. You can use it on your floor, carpets, furniture, and also clothes!


  1. Very effective against germs and bacteria in addition to removing dirt and all other muck.
  2. Environmentally friendly as it uses very little water and does not involve any use of chemicals while cleaning.
  3. A super-fast method that offers a ‘touch-and-go’ solution that doesn’t involve long wait times during drying.
  4. Steam cleaning appliances are very portable and will give you an easy time moving around the house.
  5. They are versatile in cleaning most surfaces and will give you over par results as you’d expect.
  6. Cheap to acquire and maintain steam cleaners when compared to pressure washers.
  7. Lesser chance of getting an injury. The steam nozzle is always far from your body and the hot vapor virtually disappears in a matter of seconds.


  1. Not the best option for industrial cleaning.
  2. Might distort or degrade surfaces and materials that are affected by extreme temperatures.

What is Pressure Washing?

Pressure washing involves using water pumped under high pressure that is passed as extremely powerful jets to clean and remove dirt from surfaces.

This method uses water that is normally pressurized up to ranges of 3000+ pounds/square inch!

So no, it’s not a very wise idea to bring a pressure washer inside because you spilled hot chocolate on the floor.

It’s much more appropriate for rougher work on the exterior – roofs or walls or driveways.

pressure washing a wooden fence

For it to work well, you will need to use up a LOT of water throughout your cleaning session. That said, you must ensure that you are constantly around or have set up your pressure washer near a steady water supply for it to work.

Another thing is that pressure washers are not the best option for greasy and grimy surfaces. As a result, you may have to add detergents and other chemical cleaners to get the job done.

Pressure washers also have several nozzle attachments meant for different types of cleaning and surfaces.

They include:

  • 0 degrees – Gives off a powerful pinpoint jet (can cause injury) that’s suitable when cleaning far areas.
  • 15 degrees – Suitable for stripping off paint and mild greases from concrete surfaces.
  • 25 degrees – For general outdoor cleaning.
  • 40 degrees – For use on vehicles and easily damaged surfaces like stucco and siding.


  1. A good option for large industrial cleaning.
  2. Effective at removing mud, dirt, and grime using pressurized water.
  3. Comes in multiple nozzle attachments for different cleaning scenarios.
  4. Easy to use as it’s mostly point-and-shoot.


  1. Uses a lot of water when cleaning even the smallest spot when compared to a steam cleaner.
  2. Bulky and normally not easy to carry around.
  3. Needs a huge space when used as the streaming high-pressure jets of water can cause accidental injuries.
  4. Pretty expensive to maintain compared to a steam cleaner.
  5. Not as effective in killing germs and sterilizing surfaces as in steam cleaning.

So Which One is Better Between Pressure Washing and Steam Cleaning?

Unless we’re talking about warehouses or other huge, relatively empty spaces, steam cleaning offers a better bargain!

Pressure washing revolutionized cleaning in the past but has some glaring shortcomings when lined up against modern steam cleaners.

For instance, although pressure washers are super effective in removing grime, dirt, and whatnot, they aren’t as good when you’re after a deep-cleaning solution that deals with germs and stains as well.

Steam cleaners also offer a lot of mobility as the current models are mostly portable and are easy to move around within your household. A pressure washer has to stay stationary near a garden hose or water outlet during its entire use.

Still, to be perfectly honest, I’ve found TONS of satisfying videos that show the magic of pressure washing, so there’s that too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between pressure washers and steam cleaners?

When it comes to steam cleaning vs power washing, the main difference in their functionality is pressure.

In a power washer, the appliance depends on a pump that increases the velocity of water, making it come out from the nozzle under extreme pressures of over 3000 psi.

A steam cleaner, on the other end, mainly depends on vaporized water that is heated until it turns into steam to clean surfaces. This steam can lift dirt and grime and cut through grease and slime like jelly.

How much water is required when using a steam cleaner?

A steam cleaner doesn’t really require that much water when using it. For most models, the maximum capacity held is mostly under a gallon and this can serve you for multiple cleaning sessions.

For a pressure washer, however, the device may use tons of water depending on the equipment or type of cleaning you are doing. In the long run, you end up using up more water with a pressure washer than with a steam cleaner.

Which will clean my car best between a pressure washer and steam cleaner?

The answer to this solely lies in your personal preference since most car owners are very picky when it comes to how they maintain their vehicles.

However, if you want a car cleaning solution that is both effective and environmentally friendly, then steam cleaners are the way to go! They are an exceptional alternative as they can clean your car inside-out. This also includes removing stains and germs from the car seats and flooring.

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