How To Clean A Paint Sprayer

Paint sprayers decrease your spray-painting time by more than half. They’re comfortable to use. They give you ease of movement. You can paint tough-to-reach areas and corners without much effort. 

But one downside of a paint sprayer is that it’s tougher to clean than a roller or a brush. Unlike them, a paint sprayer is made up of many different parts. That’s why you need to know how to clean a paint sprayer.

If you want your system to last long, you must keep it clean. Failing to do so can lead to corrosion, jammed tips and nozzles, and multiple part defects. To avoid these, here’s a guide on how you can thoroughly clean your paint sprayer inside out. In this, we cover:

  • Which cleaning liquids to use
  • Preparing your paint sprayer
  • Disassembling and cleaning every part.
  • Flushing out the interiors.
  • Cleaning the exteriors.
  • Precautions to take when cleaning a paint sprayer
  • Why is it important to learn how to clean a paint sprayer?
  • FAQs

You will need:

  • Gloves and a face mask.
  • A cleaning brush or your sprayer’s cleaning kit.
  • Two buckets
  • A water source
  • Paint thinner (if you’re cleaning out oil-based paints)
  • Two towels
  • Soap

Decide which cleaning liquid to use

You don’t need a special cleansing liquid. If you’ve used water-based paint, such as latex, then use normal tap water to clean it. If it’s oil-based, like lacquer, use paint thinner. 

cleaning liquid for paint sprayers

Don’t use anything harsh corrosive liquids. This can cause damage to your sprayer.

Prepare two buckets

You’ll need two buckets for this process. Fill one bucket with either water or paint thinner (depending on what material you’re trying to clean out). Leave the second bucket empty, to load the tainted water into.

You can get an additional metal bucket if you want to. You can use this to ground the device when you’re letting out its pressure.

Prepare your paint sprayer

Disassemble and observe each part

There are three main parts to every paint sprayer. They are the body, the nozzle, and the paint cup. We’ll go into detail on how to clean each part. Observe each unit and see how much paint you’ll be cleaning out. Take note of whether the paint is oil-based or water-based.

Set the paint sprayer’s pressure to the lowest possible setting. Turn off the power. Remove the filters. Remove the nozzle and tips. Turn down the prime valve until it’s on the open position.

If you want to double-check on the pressure, activate the spray gun, and check.

How to relieve pressure

  1. Switch on the gun trigger lock.
  2. Flip the power switch to ‘off’.
  3. Adjust the pressure control to its lowest.
  4. Disengage the trigger lock.
  5. Trigger the gun to release pressure. Make sure you’re holding a metal part of the gun to a grounded metal pail.
  6. Switch off the gun trigger lock.
  7. Adjust the prime valve to prime or drain position.

Remove the tube

Slowly take out the siphon tube and put it in a flushing solution. 

If your paint is water-based, use a water-based flushing solution. If your paint or stain is oil-based, use a mineral spirit.

Flush out your paint sprayer

  1. Once you put your siphon tube into the solution, switch on your spray gun. Flush out the entire system. How do you do that?
  2. Turn on the power and activate the trigger mechanism.
  3. Point the sprayer into a bucket. This way, you can collect the paint-water and use it for your next project.
  4. After a few minutes, the flushing fluid will come out of the paint sprayer.
  5. At first, you’ll see colored fluid coming out of the sprayer. This is a combination of cleanser and paint.
  6. Keep flushing until the fluid is clear in color. Keep a second bucket if you want, to shoot the clear liquid into.
  7. Keep flushing out that clear liquid for a few extra minutes, to clear out the prime valve, too.

Clean the exteriors

The gun’s body

Take a damp rag and clean your gun’s exterior parts. You can use a cloth or a small towel. Soak it in mineral spirits or water and polish away.

Then take a cleaning brush. Using scissors or a sharp knife, trim the bristles to 1-inch in length. Use this to clean stubborn paint off the spray gun. The rough bristles will provide the friction required to remove stubborn paint.

paint sprayer

The paint cup

 If you’ve used oil-based paint or stain, clean the paint cup with a mineral spirit. Otherwise, plain water will do.

The nozzle, tips, and filters

Use a combination of water and paint thinner. Clean this part thoroughly, as it is the most prone to clogging. (Later on, take this used paint thinner, filter it with a cloth, and keep it for future use.)

Check whether you’ve cleaned it well enough by holding it up to a light source. If you can see light clearly from one end through the other, it’s clean. Attach it to the sprayer. Otherwise, if you can see particles, use a needle or something long and thin to clean them out.

Filters

For the filters, identify what kind of filter it is. There are three types:

  • Suction filter – This filter is found at the end of the hose. It’s usually merged into the material.
  • Manifold filter – You’ll find this one inside the tool.
  • Pencil filter – This one can be found at the handle of the sprayer.

In case you can’t find the filters, look at your user’s manual to learn where they are.

Take the filters, place them in the first bucket that’s filled with water and thinner. You can also don gloves and clean them manually with a brush. 

Discard any waste

You will be left with a bucket filled with a water-paint combination and a dirty rag. You can keep the water-paint for later use, to dilute fresh paint. Clean the dirty rag if you can, else throw it away.

If you want, throw away all the water-paint and other waste you’ve generated. Do this if your next painting project is a long way off.

Reassemble your paint sprayer

Put your paint sprayer back together. Take your time doing this. 

How to clean an airless paint sprayer

Many airless sprayers have garden hose valves. You can hook those up to a garden hose and flush everything out.

Precautions to take when cleaning a paint sprayer

Always wear protective clothing.

Wear a face mask, blue nitrile gloves, and a protective suit. These ensure that you don’t inhale paint particles or hurt yourself in any way. Gloves will ensure you don’t scratch yourself or hurt yourself with the paint needle. 

You can equip yourself with the same painting equipment that you would when you paint a project. You don’t need to get separate gear just for cleaning. But after you finish with your paint sprayer, remember to clean your protective gear as well. We have a guide on paint sprayer safety that you should check out.

safety gear for spray painting

Keep your instructional manual close to you.

All paint sprayers come with instruction manuals. Keep them close to you. In case you run into some issues, refer to the manual. That way, you’ll be able to troubleshoot quickly.

Sprayers come with different pumps, nozzles, and other parts. It’s possible that these instructions won’t be apt for every single paint sprayer. We recommend you go through your manual once before you start your project.

Keep a plan ready.

Prepare a plan of action before you start your project. Keep a list of to-dos, such as a pointer reminding you to pay special attention to cleaning a particular part. For example, if your sprayer’s nozzle is extra dirty, create a reminder to give it special attention.

Prepare the surrounding area

Make sure you’ve covered everything in the surroundings or keep them away at a safe distance. You won’t want to get paint, water, or any residue on your benches, car, or anything else. Keep the area clear of children and pets.

Get the right accessories 

Make sure you have the right number of buckets, towels, and sponges. Double-check and see if you’re using the right cleanser according to the paint or stain you’re trying to cleanout.

Some paint sprayers come with their cleaning kits and brushes. If you didn’t, get the right brush.

Why is it important to learn how to clean a paint sprayer?

Here are some reasons to motivate you to clean your paint sprayer after a paint job.

It makes your spray painter last longer

Certain paints can corrode your sprayer. They can also clog your tip and spoil your machine. Cleaning it regularly makes it more durable.

It boosts your sprayer’s efficiency

You wouldn’t want your sprayer to start spitting up chunks of paint into your paint job, would you? That what will happen if you don’t keep its nozzle clean.

FAQs

How to clean a paint sprayer that has used oil-based paint? 

For oil-based paint, use mineral spirits to clean your sprayer. This is the only thing that will remove the oil. 

How do I clean a Wagner paint sprayer?

Before you start, read your manual thoroughly. In case your sprayer is different, there may be other methods that you should use. If there’s no cleaning method specified, then just follow our pointers. They work for most Wagner paint sprayers. You’ll be good to go. 

How do I clean a paint sprayer after the paint has dried?

If it’s a water-based paint, you can clean it off with water and a cleaning brush. Just gently scrub the paint off. Use soap if necessary. 

If it’s an oil-based paint, use the same soft-bristled brush. This time, with a mineral-spirit. You can also purchase a cleansing liquid specifically for oil-based paints.

How can I clean a paint sprayer that has used a stain?

As most stains are oil-based, you can use a mineral spirit to clean up. You can also purchase a cleaner specifically made for stains/oil-based paints.

Should I buy a professional cleaning kit?

This is a sound investment for those who use their paint spray guns daily, or very frequently. These work as a sink and a dishwasher. They spray thinner onto the paint sprayer as you wash them.

My toothbrush isn’t able to reach into hollow parts. What do I do?

You can use a Q-Tip instead. That should get the job done.

My paint sprayer is dribbling and squirting paint. What do I do?

This could mean that the pressure is not at the proper level. It could also mean that it’s time to change your filters. This could also mean that you must unclog your tip or that you need to replace it.