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Can a pressure washer be used without water?

Fact Checked By Daniel Wood | Post Updated On: May 4, 2023

You might find that your pressure washer turns on without any water stored in its tanks. But does that mean it should be used without water?

The answer is no. Many people think that just because the pressure washer turns on without water, it should function as well. But frankly speaking, that’s not the case, and it can severely damage your pressure washer. 

Let’s learn why.

Can you run a pressure washer without water?

Not for long. Running a pressure washer without water can be catastrophic. Running a pressure washer without water is possible, but that does not mean you should do it. 

Avoiding Harm To Your Pressure Washer

Water plays a vital role in decreasing the temperature caused by the immense pressure water stream created by the pressure washer. Exactly which part of the pressure washer has the most risk of getting damaged? It is the motor. 

The motor controls every aspect of the pressure washer’s functioning. Any damage to the motor would mean an impact on the whole pressure washer. 

Presence of Water Source

The problem just doesn’t end there with the unavailability of the water source. If you run your pressure washer for a large period of time, this might also cause the pressure washer to overheat, affecting the motor.   

To avoid this conundrum, experts suggest that a user should know the volume of water coming from the source, especially if that source is a water barrel or a tank. At higher pressures, let’s say at least 1000 psi; you should double-check the source if it is finite because it’ll drain quickly and won’t give you much time to react.  

Using Stored Water: Can we?

You can use stored water. Rain barrels, tanks, and pressure washer trailers are all the options that serve as potential water sources in important pressure-washing tasks. You’d want to know each source’s individual capacity before making it your primary source of water supply. This will ensure that there is plenty of water in store for you to clean daily tasks. 

Then some pressure washing jobs require hot water. Now you can not use an ordinary barrel in such types of cases. This is because there are already special pressure washer trailers available that store hot water. This material does not corrode easily, so effective pressure washing can be done. 


To sum up, you can run a pressure washer without water. You may do it just to experiment. However, it’s not highly recommended by experts, given the fact that pressure washers need water to operate correctly. 

Only commercial pressure washers, and those too to some degree, can withstand running without water for short periods of time, so you should definitely not try running a household pressure washer even for very short periods. The damage might not be quick, but it can certainly wear down a normal functioning pressure washer within months, if not days.

About Daniel Wood

Daniel has completed his graduation mechanical engineering from a reputed university in US. He worked as a technical engineer in a pressure washer manufacturing plant for four years. He has a great passion for mechanical devices and has opened a workshop where he does research on various machines in his leisure time. His high interest in technology made him an expert in commercial and residential pressure washers.

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