What’s the Difference Between a Cordless Drill and an Impact Driver?

Posted by John Cittadino on

What’s the Difference Between a Cordless Drill and an Impact Driver?

A Tale of Two Drills


Longtime followers of Drillbrush or newcomers doing their research will notice that in most of our about pages and product synopses, we mention that our brushes are used in cordless drills and impact drivers.

Most people know what a cordless drill is, and the handyman crowds will probably know what an impact driver is, but people new to drill-powered cleaning or drill-ownership in general, may not know what that is or how it differs from a plain jane cordless drill.

Does one have more power than the other? Does one work better with the Drillbrush? Is one easier to use?

If you have questions like these, this is the article for you. We’ll take a look at a cordless drill and an impact driver, show off what makes them unique, and demonstrate the effect they can have on the way you clean.

Cordless Drills

Cordless Drills

Not wearing a wire!

Cordless drills are most likely the ones you recognize more from the title. Simply put, a cordless drill is an electric drill/driver that uses a battery for power, rather than a cord. This allows you to use a drill in places where outlets aren’t available or where having a cord can be cumbersome. 

Drill/drivers are built for two purposes; drilling holes and driving screws. It does this through the use of drill bits, metal shafts with different sizes and head shapes that can be inserted into a drill’s chuck.


Jaws wishes he had this tooth set-up!

The chuck is a mechanism on the front of the drill that receives and holds the drill bit so it does not become loose while drilling. Cordless drills have what is called a three-jaw chuck. A three-jaw chuck has three pincers that clamp down on the bit to keep it in place. This chuck is usually 1/2 inch or 3/8 inch in diameter and can be adjusted to secure nearly any sized drill bit that is commonly available.

Cordless drills have multiple gears that can be switched between to give you more control. You can set it to gear one for delicate tasks or gear two for higher speed endeavors.

They also have an adjustable clutch. Represented by a ring of numbers around the chuck, the clutch let’s you set the drill’s torque. This is helpful if you’re using a larger bit that requires more torque or a finer bit that uses less.

Due to how common they are, they’re very friendly for beginners and are often bundled with additional accessories that can give you more bang for your buck than more specialized tools.

Impact Drivers

Impact Drivers

Really leaves an impact!

On the surface, an impact driver may look very similar to a standard cordless drill. However, it hides its own tricks for getting the job done.

Impact drivers work using a special hammer and anvil mechanism. When the hammer strikes the anvil, causing the titular “impact,” it drives the chuck and whatever bit is inserted.

The impact driver typically has two gears to adjust speed, but does not have an adjustable chuck. It can only accept bits with a 1/4 inch quickchange shaft. As such, it doesn’t have an adjustable clutch, as it's set for the one type of bit it accepts.

Let's see what it’s got up its sleeve!

However, the chuck is much easier to operate than that of a cordless drill. Just pull the sleeve surrounding the chuck forward and insert the shaft. When the sleeve returns to its position, it locks the shaft in, preventing it from loosening until you pull the sleeve forward again to release it.

While it may seem like the lack of adjustability is limiting, that isn’t the case, as the impact driver is quite powerful. Where cordless drills stop if met with too much resistance in what you’re drilling (or cleaning,) the impact driver will disengage, make a full rotation, then re-engage and continue. This gives it more force to drive through tough surfaces. 

How They Affect Cleaning

How They Affect Cleaning

Cleaning with no strings (or wires) attached!

Now that we know how both drills operate, we can go into how they work with the Drillbrush Power Scrubber to clean surfaces.

Most Drillbrush products use a 1/4 inch quickchange shaft, meaning they’ll fit both cordless drills and impact drivers. However, an added bonus of the cordless drill is that it can accept our legacy 5/8 inch hexagonal shaft 5 inch flat brushes as well. To learn more about Drillbrush shaft types, including connectors for specific tools, check out this article.

The main differences between the two, cleaning wise, are the speed and connection. Impact drivers are faster and get stopped less, meaning you can power through tougher cleaning tasks. The cordless drill, especially low power ones, may struggle if faced with baked on substances and hard set stains.

Cordless drills have their own strength, though. They have more control at lower speeds, which makes them perfect for cleaning delicate surfaces like embroidery and upholstery, as well as lifting pet hair off of furniture.

For the connection, the impact driver works better with Drillbrush, as it is faster and less complicated to install the brush. Though the cordless drill is not too terribly difficult to work with, it’ll just be a lot of tightening and untightening if you’re constantly switching between brushes.  

How impactful!

The Drillbrush staff enjoy using impact drivers for our videos, photos, and cleaning tasks around the office. The easy click-in and fast speed make cleaning a breeze! However, if you do not want to invest in an impact driver, a cordless drill will do a comparable job and give you a helpful tool to use around the house.

Personally, I use a cordless drill at home when I’m cleaning things like my bathtub. It was the most economical choice for me and I was able to reuse the bits from my old, outdated corded drill.

Find the Right Drill for You

Find the Right Drill for You

Regardless of which style of drill you choose, by using it with a Drillbrush, your household scrubbing chores will go by faster and be easier than ever before!

Drillbrush does NOT sell drills, but if you’re looking for specific drills to purchase, our drill recommendations guide has a variety of options, including drills outside of cordless drills and impact drivers. We also have a more verbose blog on drill selection you can check out here if you're looking for options outside of cordless drills and impact drivers.

Photo of Author John Cittadino

John Cittadino | John is the lead graphic designer, script writer, and video editor for Drillbrush. John is a die-hard motorsports fan and loves storytelling and illustrating.


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