Comparing Pressure Washing vs Sanding Hardwood Floor

Dec 14, 2023

As a homeowner, you want your hardwood floors to look their absolute best. When dirt, grime, and wear build up over time, your floors lose their luster and start to look dull. So what’s the best method for deeply cleaning hardwood and revitalizing its appearance? The two leading options are pressure washing versus sanding. Both can effectively refresh hardwood, but they work in different ways with their own sets of pros and cons.

In this blog post, we’ll compare and contrast pressure washing and sanding hardwood floors. As an industry expert providing top-quality flooring services in the UK for over a decade, I’ll offer an in-depth examination of these two techniques so you can determine which is right for your needs and home.

What is Pressure Washing for Hardwood Floors?

Pressure washing (or power washing) uses a high-powered stream of water to vigorously clean surfaces. Specialized flooring pressure washers can blast away years of accumulated filth and bring back theclean, attractive look of hardwood.

During the pressure washing process, a powerful motor forces water through a narrow nozzle at pressures ranging from 500 to 5,000 PSI. Using just the power of water enables deep cleaning without any cleaning solutions or chemicals needed. Adjusting the pressure allows control over the intensity of the water stream. Lower pressures gently wipe away surface dust and stains. The highest settings deeply scour the flooring surface without causing damage.

Pressure washing works by using focused water to penetrate the micro-crevices in the wood. This dislodges debris and trapped substances. The pressurized rinse then whisks all the loosened grime away. It reaches deep down into the natural grain lines for a cleaning like no other conventional method.

pressure washing

Equipment Needed

Pressure washing hardwood calls for specialized equipment:

  • High-powered pressure washer with adjustable PSI
  • Rotating flooring surface cleaner attachment
  • Extension hoses & spray wand
  • Eye protection, gloves, protective clothing

Because pressure washing generates large amounts of water and overspray, the process normally takes place outdoors. Treating indoor hardwood may risk water getting under walls and baseboards or damaging other non-flooring surfaces.

What is Sanding Hardwood Floors?

Sanding involves abrading off a thin top layer of the wood surface using coarse sandpaper and a weighted sanding machine. This removes small nicks, scratches, stains, and worn or discolored fibers for a smooth, uniform appearance.

The sanding process goes step-by-step from the most abrasive grit to the finest. The work begins using rough 60-80 grit sandpaper to aggressively scour off old finish or stain residue. Then medium 100-120 grit paper smooths away sanding marks and evens the surface. Finally, fine 150-180 grit puts on a satiny polish.

Between sandings, the craftsman thoroughly vacuums up all wood dust before progressing through the ascending sandpaper grades. For stained floors, apply the desired stain after fine sanding then follow up with protective sealants and finishes.

hardwood sanding

Equipment Needed

Professional floor sanding relies on heavy-duty equipment:

  • Drum sander – Uses rotating sandpaper-wrapped cylinder
  • Edge sander – Handheld for sanding perimeter areas
  • Random orbital sander – Removes swirl marks & fine sanding
  • Dust containment system – Captures airborne wood particles
  • High-quality sandpaper discs & sheets
  • Eye, ear & respiratory protection

The drum sander works best for open areas. The other tools focus on detailed areas and achieving a blemish-free polished finish. Controlling dust is crucial when sanding inside the home to prevent mess and health hazards.

Here’s a comparison table between pressure washing and sanding:

Pressure WashEasy and quickCan damage the protective layer
Useful for outdoor floorsNot recommended for indoor floors
SandingEffective for deep scratchesRequires professional expertise
Removes stains, damages, etc.Time-consuming process

Pressure washing and sanding are two common methods for hardwood floor restoration. Each technique has its pros and cons that homeowners should consider before choosing the best option for their specific needs. Hiring a professional to perform these techniques is highly recommended to ensure the best results and avoid further damage to your precious hardwood floors.

Key Considerations: Pressure Washing vs Sanding

Now that we understand what pressure washing and sanding floors entail, how do you choose the best method for your hardwood? Consider these key factors:


The first question is: what do you want to achieve? Basic cleaning to spruce up floors between deeper treatments? Or removing stains and old finish for complete restoration?

Pressure washing excels at revitalizing hardwood aesthetics by removing surface dirt and grime. Its deep cleaning rejuvenates color and brings back a like-new glow.

Sanding goes beyond cleaning by actually refreshing the wood itself. It levels complete resurfacing including eliminating old finishes, stains, small damages, and extremely stubborn substances.

Hardwood Condition

Study the current condition of your floors. Are flaws limited to overall soiling, scuffs, and scratches? Or are there issues like cracking, cupping, or warping boards?

For floors in generally good structural condition, pressure washing serves well to clean away topical dirt and imperfections you want to erase.

Yet if boards suffer from cracks, splinters, gouges that collect grime, or other substantial damage, sanding becomes necessary. Sanding is the only way to remove enough wood to effectively repair and smooth major defects.

Type of Wood

Consider the wood species. Is it a hardy type like oak, maple, ash, or mahogany? Or delicate softwood such as pine, cedar, or fir?

The dense grain and resilience of hardwoods allow both pressure washing and sanding within reason. Take extra precautions when working on softer woods. Limit psi for pressure washing and sand lightly by hand.

For fragile, reclaimed or antique wood, consult a flooring professional. Special handling ensures you safely clean or resurface without loss of character or harm to the existing wood.


Will you clean the floors in place or remove & transport them? Involves indoor vs outdoor work?

Pressure washing requires transporting planks outdoors when possible. This allows adequate drainage and containment for the large amounts of water. Indoor pressure washing risks water seeping through crevices causing unintended damage.

Sanding has equipment sized for working inside the home. Contractors take careful precautions to minimize dust infiltration to other areas. Still, isolating the task to a detached workshop even more effectively guards against mess.

Extent of Area

How large an area needs cleaning or refinishing? Are we talking a single room or an entire house full of hardwood spanning several rooms?

For small areas under 200 square feet, it may prove affordable to pressure wash even indoors within containment. Move up to sanding for small areas that want stain or finish changes.

For whole house installation or quantities over 500 square feet, pressure washing all that flooring off site becomes unrealistic. Sanding in place contains the work while resurfacing planks across large open spaces.

How Durable Is Your Existing Finish?

Does your floor have a protective gym shoe or heavy-use commercial finish able to withstand pressure washing? Or has the current coating reached the end of its usable lifespan?

Study finish wear patterns. If high-durability coatings still have solid integrity despite scratches, pressure washing restores luster and buys more years of life.

Once tongue and groove edges show raw wood or factory finishes degrade, consider sanding. Removal allows your choice of optimal long-lasting sealants to match the setting.

Budget What financial resources can devote to your floor restoration project? Pressure washing or sanding floors costs $-$$ per square foot depending on factors like location and wood quality.

How to Protect Wood Floors From Damage?

While both revitalize hardwood appeal, sanding does entail higher labor and takes more time. Yet sanding also imparts lasting value by enabling custom stain colors and modern protective finishes.

Do you need to work within a strict budget? Or do you consider this a long-term investment allowing flexibility to achieve your ideal vision for the floors? Realistic expectations help balance goals with affordability.

How Much Disruption Is Acceptable?

Pressure washing requires transporting planks outdoors which entails removal then reinstallation. This allows access for drainage while containing overspray. Manage expectations around temporary empty rooms and moving furniture. Schedule accordingly.

Sanding may release noticeably more indoor dust, noise and vibration. Impacts may extend to other rooms depending on system containment. Allow 1-3 days for completion including dust dissipation and ventilation.

Determine how much disruption your household can accommodate. Schedule at convenient times to minimize impact on normal home activities. Communicate proactively with family members about what to expect.

Which Should You Consider?

Weigh your unique needs and situation. Hardwood flooring constitutes a major investment that well rewards protecting its lifespan and aesthetics. Evaluate the current state of your floors to determine if pressure washing’s deep clean restores luster, or if sanding’s fresh surface better suits long-range goals.

Consider the following factors:

  1. See if pressure washing first saves you money and disruption before committing to intensive refinishing.
  2. Confirm whether old finish and stain removal requires installing completely new coating.
  3. Consider your lifestyle patterns and how to make the floors more durable.

The best method depends on an honest assessment matching your home life, wood type, footprint size and budget. Work with reputable professionals to translate needs into the optimal process. Your beautiful floors will thank you for taking time to carefully consider the ideal approach.


After examining the pros, cons and costs involved with pressure washing versus sanding hardwood floors, which sounds like the best fit for your home?

Pressure washing brings back the clean you may have thought was lost forever. It’s an affordable maintenance revitalization great for floors in basically good shape but suffering from environmental dirt accumulation.

Yet for extensive stain removal or complete resurfacing needs, sanding remains the gold standard. Yes it costs more upfront. But you regain pristine bare wood capable of being customized with fabulous new finishes.

Ready to get started with renewing your hardwood floors? Get your free quote from our team of flooring specialists waiting to make your floors look their absolute best again. Call today at 0800 335 7565 to schedule your initial site evaluation anywhere across London and surrounding areas. We service residential and commercial clients throughout the UK who want the beautiful wood floors they deserve.


What PSI is safe for pressure washing hardwood?

For most hardwood floors, pressure washers with around 1,500-2,000 PSI work well for thorough cleaning without damage when used properly. Adjust pressure lower for softer woods. Always test an inconspicuous area first.

Can you pressure wash engineered hardwood?

Yes, engineered hardwood with surface veneers can withstand pressure washing effectively. Use caution regulating pressure and spray nozzle angle to avoid saturating edges or peeling up laminate layers if present.

How long does water stay under hardwood after pressure washing?

With adequate airflow and fans directing cross ventilation, hardwood dries within 24-48 hours after pressure washing. Allow longer for humidity or poor ventilation slowing evaporation.

What grit sandpaper is best for refinishing hardwood floors?

Progress through 60-80 grit for leveling, 100-120 grit to smooth, then finalize with 150-180 grit. For stain grade work some pros finish up to 220-240 grit for ultra-fine polish.

Can you safely DIY sand hardwood floors?

Sanding floors yourself risks potential pitfalls without proper protective gear and dust containment. Rent a floor sander or better yet hire an experienced professional to safely handle the challenging details.