Can You Use an Air Compressor as a Power Washer?

With all the things we end up needing for our homes, our garages, sheds and lofts can become pretty cluttered. A lot of people cannot even store their car in their garage because of their garden tools, mowers, freezers, bicycles and maybe even home shop tools such as an air compressor!

For those more cluttered garages, wouldn’t it be great if multiple tools were combined into one to save on space? If you already own an air compressor, it may have crossed your mind that the air pressure from the compressor could somehow be used to pressure wash – especially if you have googled “can you use an air compressor as a pressure washer” and have found this article!

The short answer is yes – it is possible for an air compressor to become a pressure washer, with the help of a pressure washer attachment such as a spray gun that connects your garden hose and air compressor. But the results will not be as effective. See our choices for the best spray gun pressure washer attachment for air compressors in our upcoming article.

Generally an air compressor can only be used as a power washer for short periods of time, because to run an air compressor as a pressure washer, you need to be careful about how much pressure you are applying. The compressor will only work with a specific amount of pressure and it will not last long if the pressure is too high. This type of power washing should only be done for short periods of time or until the job is complete. For more information on this, try our guide on the size of air compressor you might need.

Choosing the right air compressor for your needs can seem daunting, but but try our buying guides – we are confident that you will be able to find the best one for your situation.

What is an Air Compressor and what is it used for?

An air compressor is a device that is used to compress air and increase its pressure. Air compressors are popular for their portability, durability, and energy efficiency. They are also popular for their ability to provide power to a large range of tools including pneumatic air tools such as drills, nail guns, and spray guns.

What is a Pressure Washer and what is it used for?

A pressure washer is a machine that is typically used to clean and wash surfaces. They are most often used on vehicles, patios, sidewalks, fences, and many other surfaces. The pressure washer works by spraying a high-pressure water stream onto the surface it is sprayed on. It does this in order to remove dirt and grime that has accumulated on the surface from various sources.

Why use your Air Compressor as a Power Washer?

You can use your air compressor to wash your home or other surface, and save money in the process.

Some people may be convinced that they do not need a pressure washer and can just wash things by hand. However, this is not a viable option because it requires lots of elbow grease and time to get the same job done by hand. This is where an air compressor comes in – it only requires attaching a pressure nozzle or paint sprayer to the unit in order to be set for your project needs.

How can you use an Air Compressor as Pressure Washer?

To use an air compressor as a pressure washer you must connect it to a high-pressure garden hose with brass fittings and then turn it on. This will release compressed air mixed with water that can be used for high-pressure work.

The pressure from a garden hose should be anywhere from 40-70 PSI, while a standard pressure washer usually starts at 1300 PSI and can be much higher. If you’re lucky, you’ll only get about 100-200 PSI out of your air compressor when connected to a garden hose, no matter what attachments or modifications you make to it. For more information on PSI, see our guide What PSI Compressor Do I Need?

This is still two times larger than your standard hose, and is really helpful for jobs that require more power than a hose, but not a pressure washer’s power. PSI is the pound per square inch that is exerted onto the surface, so it is the measurement used to determine how much pressure there is. PSI increases the chance of it spraying off more.

The stream can also be narrowed by moving the spray wand closer to the surface or by using different nozzles. You have limited options, however, if you use an air compressor/garden hose.

I found a great video which demonstrates the limitations of using an air compressor as a pressure washer, which you can see below (credit to IllinoisBMWriders). This guy is using a dedicated tool for the job made by Snap-On, which enables you connect the high pressure garden hose, and the air compressor hose at the same time. The trigger on top modulates the amount of water, while the brass trigger on the air pipe controls the amount of air. You’ll see that despite producing an impressive jet of water which to the eye looks like sufficient air pressure, even when at full pelt, this device struggles to strip the moss and dirt off a stone:

Can you use a Garden hose as a Pressure Washer?

No. Garden hoses are specifically designed to water plants and not for power washing – they have low pressure that is not high enough for such a task.

The garden hose is designed primarily to provide a low level of water pressure, steady supply of water for watering plants and other landscaping needs. It is not designed for high pressure applications such as power washing a patio.

It is possible to purchase attachments that allegedly turn your garden hose into a pressure washer – there are several available. They do produce a slightly more powerful jet stream than just the hose pipe, but the consensus seems to be that they don’t perform much better than simply using an adjustable hose nozzle on the jet setting to spray the water. But obviously, as mentioned before, you will likely not exceed 70 PSI with your garden hose no matter what attachment you use, so proper pressure washers remain the better choice.

What are the Con’s of using an Air Compressor as a Pressure Washer?

To summarize – you can use an air compressor as a pressure washer but the results will not be as good. Air compressors are best used for pumping liquids, gases, and other mediums into other tanks or containers. Pressure washers are designed specifically for high pressure cleaning of things such as driveways, patios, lawns etc. Air compressors connected to garden hoses just can’t produce enough water pressure to clean anything and also are not able to atomize the water in order to remove dirt off surfaces like a pressure washer can.

What are the Pro’s of using an Air Compressor as a Power Washer?

You should know that you won’t get the same results if you convert your air compressor/garden hose into a pressure washer. This does not mean, however, that it is useless. The air compressor as power washer method (connected to a garden hose or high pressure hose) means lower pressure, but still a little better pressure than a standard hose pipe. Additionally, the compressor wand gives you more control as you can stop and start the water by pressing the trigger, giving you more controllable cleaning power.

This means the air compressor as power washer can be used when more delicate washing is required. However, a standard pressure washer is extremely powerful and can be dangerous (never aim it at a person or animal, as the water can cut skin and inject air into the blood stream which can kill quickly), and can quickly damage fragile surfaces such as the lacquer on car body paint, or grout between tiles.

Alternatives to Pressure Washers

Pressure washers are a necessary part of any power washing job. But, they also have some downsides such as their extremely high water pressure. So, what are some alternatives to pressure washers? Let’s explore that question in more detail below:

There are many different types of power washing equipment on the market – but, not all of them have the same features as a pressure washer. For example:

  1. A rotary power washer is a useful tool for removing dirt and grime from outdoor surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways. It utilizes water pressure to transform the surface of the object being cleaned into a foam-like substance, which can then be easily rinsed away by spraying water on it.
  2. An electric pressure washer is the perfect addition to any home, especially for someone who may not want to spend their day lugging around a heavy machine. It can be easily used for smaller cleaning projects such as windows and siding, which are perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time at home.
  3. A gas pressure washer is a strong alternative to traditional electric power washers, but the key advantage is that these machines do not need electricity because of their powerful petrol engines, meaning you can take them pretty much anywhere. The gas pressure washer is especially popular for working on boats, where mains power is not easily available.
  4. A garden hose is a common tool that can be used in some circumstances to provide low-pressure water for tasks such as watering plants, but it is not appropriate for more demanding uses. You can combine the hose with hot water and detergent though to help shift stubborn marks on stains on outdoor objects such as tables, stones and walls.

Jeff Stelling

Jeff Stelling is an air compressor obsessive who has been working with compressors for over 25 years, since he was an apprentice engineer in the mid 90’s. He designed to offer technical guidance and buying advice for compressors.

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