In recent years, a nano-electromachining (nano-EM) process based on a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) platform has been demonstrated. Nano-EM is capable of machining nano-features, under both, liquid dielectric (wet nano-EM) and air dielectric (dry nano-EM) media. The objective of this paper is to present a comparative study between the wet and dry nano-EM processes based on process mechanism, machining performance, consistency and dimensional repeatability of these two processes. The comparison of the two processes has been conducted at near field nano-EM, where the gap between the tool electrode and workpiece is 2 nm and the machining is performed at room temperature and pressure (macroscopically). The major differences in the process mechanism are due to the media at dielectric interface, the breakdown field strength and breakdown characteristics of two dielectrics and therefore, the material removal mechanism. It is reported that the material removal mechanism of wet nano-EM is associated with field emission-assisted avalanche in nano-confined liquid dielectric, whereas, the material removal mechanism in dry nano-EM is associated with field-induced evaporation of material. The differences have also been observed in the machining performance, dimensions of the machined features and repeatability of the nanoscale machined features. The self-tip-sharpening process with the continuation of machining has added several advantages to dry nano-EM over wet nano-EM in terms of dimensions of the nanoscale features, repeatability and machining performance. © 2013 The Authors.