Can An Air Compressor Be Used As A Pressure Washer




Have you ever wondered if you can use an air compressor as a pressure washer? In this article, we will explore this topic and discuss whether using an air compressor in this way is possible.

We will look at the differences between air compressors and pressure washers, as well as the components and functions of each. By the end of this article, you will clearly understand whether or not an air compressor can be effectively used as a pressure washer.

What is an air compressor?

Definition and Functionality

An air compressor is a mechanical device that converts power from a source (such as electric motors, diesel or gasoline engines, or even hand-operated pistons) into potential energy stored in pressurized air. This device is commonly used in various industries and applications, including construction, manufacturing, automotive, and more.

The basic functionality of an air compressor involves drawing in air from the surroundings and compressing it to increase its pressure. The compressed air can then be used for a wide range of purposes, such as powering pneumatic tools, inflating tires, operating machinery, and even cleaning surfaces.

Types of air compressors

Various air compressors are available today, each designed to suit specific needs and applications. Some common types include:

  1. Reciprocating air compressors: These are the most common and widely used types of air compressors. They work by using a piston and cylinder mechanism to compress air. The reciprocating motion of the piston creates a vacuum that draws in air, which is then compressed and delivered through an outlet.

  2. Rotary screw air compressors: These types of air compressors use a rotary motion mechanism to compress air. They consist of two rotating screws, which trap and compress air between them. This continuous compression process ensures a steady supply of compressed air.

  3. Centrifugal air compressors: Unlike reciprocating and rotary screw compressors, centrifugal compressors don’t use positive displacement. Instead, they rely on the high-speed rotation of an impeller to increase the air’s speed and pressure. This compressed air is then converted to potential energy.

What is a pressure washer?

Definition and Functionality

A pressure washer, also known as a power washer, is a device that uses high-pressure water sprays to clean various surfaces. These machines are commonly used for outdoor cleaning tasks, such as washing vehicles, decks, driveways, and buildings. The powerful water jets can effectively remove dirt, grime, mold, and other contaminants.

Pressure washers use an electric motor or a gasoline engine to power a pump that pressurizes water from a garden hose or other water sources. The nozzle’s high-pressure water spray, detergent, or cleaning solution helps break down and remove stubborn stains and dirt particles.

Types of pressure washers

Pressure washers can be categorized into two main types based on their power source: electric and gas-powered pressure washers.

  1. Electric pressure washers: These pressure washers are powered by electricity and are typically more suitable for lighter cleaning tasks. They are relatively quieter, easier to maintain, and require less space for storage. Electric pressure washers also tend to be more affordable than gas-powered ones.

  2. Gas-powered pressure washers: These pressure washers are powered by gasoline engines and are generally more powerful than electric ones. They are suitable for heavy-duty cleaning tasks and are often used in commercial settings. Gas-powered pressure washers offer greater mobility and can provide higher water pressure and flow rates.

Can An Air Compressor Be Used As A Pressure Washer

Differences between an air compressor and a pressure washer

Power source

One of the main differences between an air compressor and a pressure washer is their power sources. An air compressor can be powered by various sources, including electric motors, diesel or gasoline engines, or even manual operation. On the other hand, pressure washers are generally powered by electricity or gasoline engines.

Output and pressure

Another significant difference between an air compressor and a pressure washer is the output and pressure of the compressed air or water they produce. While both devices involve compressing a fluid, air compressors typically deliver compressed air at much higher pressures than pressure washers. Air compressors can generate pressures up to several hundred pounds per square inch (psi), depending on the specific model and application. In contrast, pressure washers generally operate within the range of 1,000 to 4,000 psi, with higher-end models capable of reaching even higher pressures.

Usage and applications

Air compressors and pressure washers are used for different purposes and applications. Air compressors are primarily used for powering pneumatic tools, such as air drills, nail guns, sanders, and spray guns. They are also used for inflating tires, operating machinery, and providing compressed air for various industrial processes.

On the other hand, pressure washers are specifically designed for cleaning surfaces using high-pressure water sprays. They are commonly used for outdoor cleaning tasks, such as washing cars, removing dirt and grime from surfaces, cleaning decks and patios, and preparing surfaces for painting or refinishing.

Can an air compressor be used as a pressure washer

Exploring the possibility

Considering the differences between an air compressor and a pressure washer, it is possible to use an air compressor as a makeshift pressure washer. However, additional components and accessories are required to convert the compressed air into a high-pressure water spray.

A pressure washer gun, wand, and a specialized nozzle are needed to transform an air compressor into a pressure washer. These components are designed to convert the high-pressure air into a water spray by mixing it with water. Once connected to an air compressor and a water source, the converted air/water mixture can be used for cleaning.

Advantages and disadvantages

Using an air compressor as a pressure washer has its advantages and disadvantages.


  • Cost savings: If you already own an air compressor, converting it into a pressure washer can save you the cost of purchasing a separate pressure washer.
  • Versatility: An air compressor can be used for various purposes, and converting it into a pressure washer adds another valuable function to its repertoire.


  • Limited functionality: The converted air compressor pressure washer may not have the same power and efficiency as a dedicated pressure washer. It may struggle with cleaning tasks requiring higher water pressure or flow rates.
  • Additional components needed: Converting an air compressor into a pressure washer requires purchasing extra components, such as a pressure washer gun and nozzle, which may incur additional costs.

Factors to consider

Certain factors must be considered if you are considering using an air compressor as a pressure washer.

Air compressor specifications

The specifications of your air compressor play a crucial role in determining its suitability for use as a pressure washer. Key specifications to consider include:

  1. PSI and CFM: PSI (pounds per square inch) determines the pressure output of the air compressor, while CFM (cubic feet per minute) measures the air volume or flow rate. Your air compressor should have insufficient PSI and CFM ratings to achieve adequate water pressure for cleaning tasks.
  2. Tank size: The tank size of your air compressor determines how long it can sustain continuous water pressure. For longer cleaning sessions, a larger tank size would be more suitable.

  3. Power source: Consider the power source of your air compressor and ensure it is compatible with your available power supply.

Compatibility with pressure washer accessories

To convert an air compressor into a pressure washer, ensure compatibility with the necessary pressure washers accessories, such as a pressure washer gun, wand, hose, and nozzle. Check if these accessories are readily available and compatible with your air compressor model before purchasing.

Alternatives to using an air compressor as a pressure washer

While using an air compressor as a pressure washer is possible, alternative options may be more suitable for specific cleaning tasks and applications.

Electric pressure washers

Electric pressure washers are a popular choice for residential and light commercial use. They are relatively affordable, easy to use, and require less maintenance than gas-powered pressure washers. Electric pressure washers also produce less noise and eliminate the need for gasoline refills. However, they may have limitations in terms of power and mobility, depending on the specific model.

Gas-powered pressure washers

Gas-powered pressure washers are more suitable for heavy-duty cleaning tasks and commercial applications. They offer greater power, higher water pressure, and increased mobility than electric pressure washers. However, they require regular maintenance and refueling with gasoline. Gas-powered pressure washers also tend to be louder and emit exhaust fumes during operation.

A man is filling up his tire with an air compressor.

Safety precautions and considerations

When using an air compressor or pressure washer, it is essential to consider certain safety precautions and considerations.

Risk of damage or injury

Both air compressors and pressure washers can pose risks if not used properly. High-pressure air or water can cause harm or injury if directed at sensitive areas or individuals. It is crucial to follow safety guidelines, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and never direct the air or water spray at people, animals, or delicate objects.

Proper handling and maintenance

Proper handling and maintenance of air compressors and pressure washers are necessary to ensure their safe and efficient operation. Regular inspections, servicing, and adherence to manufacturer guidelines are essential to prevent accidents, breakdowns, or malfunctions.

Benefits of using a dedicated pressure washer

While using an air compressor as a pressure washer may offer certain advantages in terms of cost savings and versatility, but a dedicated pressure washer has distinct benefits.

Efficiency and effectiveness

Dedicated pressure washers are designed for cleaning tasks and offer better performance and efficiency. They are optimized to deliver the right water pressure, flow rate, and spray pattern, making them more effective at removing stubborn stains, dirt, and grime.

A wider range of applications

Dedicated pressure washers have various accessories and nozzles to tackle different cleaning tasks. Whether you need a focused jet for deep cleaning or a wider spray for larger surfaces, a dedicated pressure washer can provide more application versatility.


In conclusion, while using an air compressor as a pressure washer is technically possible, it is not the most efficient or practical solution for all cleaning tasks. Factors such as power source, pressure output, and availability of compatible accessories should be considered.

A dedicated pressure washer offers better performance, safety, and a wider range of applications. Making an informed decision and choosing the right tool for the job is essential to achieve optimal cleaning results.