How to Clean a Paint Sprayer

Choosing a paint sprayer for your DIY projects or home improvement activities guarantees you a better paint finish as compared to a paint bush. The painting service doesn’t come without the challenges of cleaning a paint sprayer. How to Clean a Paint Sprayer

Worst of it all occurs when you choose to store a paint sprayer before cleaning is done. Indeed, that may be the end of quality performance for your spray painter. Could you be experiencing such problems?

Well, in this article, we shall be discussing how to clean a paint sprayer. To begin with, you need to select required items, release air pressure, flush the remaining paint, clean up the pump system, and rinse the spray gun with thinner before scrubbing to remove stuck paint. 

Besides, you will have to detach the nozzle/tip and clean it thoroughly, clean various filters independently, rinse the hosepipe, and wipe the prayer’s surface to remove any paint traces before leaving it to dry. Importantly, you must consider the type of paint used by that particular sprayer (whether water-based or oil-based paint) for efficient thinning action. 

Details: How to Clean a Paint Sprayer

a. Select the Required Items

  • Soft bristle Paintbrush and Empty Paint bucket
  • Nitrile Hand Gloves and eye goggles
  • Clean Water – for water-based paint
  • Thinner/Mineral spirit – for oil-based paint
  • A piece f cloth or rag and tack cloth
  • Rinse bottle and rinse material
  • Dust Coat and a pair of boots
  • Tool Box – where necessary
  • Waterpoint and hosepipe
  • Blower and paint scraper – for dried paint

b. Release air pressure

  • Wear protective gear – overall, boots, gloves, goggles, facemask, and respirator
  • Switch off the paint sprayer from the power source
  • Turn off the pressure gauge to the lowest setting
  • Turn off the paint trigger and bring the pressure down slowly
  • Reverse the pattern at the tip of the spray gun
  • Point the tip into an empty bucket and engage the trigger continuously to release build-up pressure – until the pressure is removed
  • Lock the trigger and re-engage the above process once more

NB: This procedure is crucial in relieving pressure built-up and creating a way for a smooth flushing process. See Also: Granite sealer

c. Flush Paint Remains

  • Identify the paint solvent used by your paint sprayer – for an easier thinning process
  • Pour water into an empty bucket (for water-based paint) or thinner (for oil-based paint)
  • Unscrew the gun tip and tip guard gently – be careful to avoid damage
  • Remove the intake tube from the paint bucket and dip it in a bucket with water or thinner
  • Connect the waste pipe to a waste pail bin – to collect flushed paint remain
  • Turn on the spray setting and pull on the gun trigger gently and let the flush solvent clean the paint flow network
  • Repeat the procedure until the waste removed doesn’t have any paint traces

NB: In the case of dry paint, the thinning solvent should be allowed to pass through the sprayer (sometimes) repetitively until the dried paint is cured for an easier flushing process.

d. Clean Pump System

  • Direct the gun nozzle into the intake bucket – once the flushing process is successful
  • Release the trigger and turn on the paint sprayer to “prime pump setting” – this engages the pump and limits outflow
  • Add more thinner or water into the bucket and watch the paint sprayer carry out self-cleaning – the water/thinner circulates within the pump, thus cleaning any paint remnant on the surface
  • Engage the waste pipe and remove the flush fluid – through this, the paint stuck with the paint is cleaned and eliminated
  • Repeat the steps above until the flush fluid release is clear (has no paint traces)

NB: During the pump cleaning process, be careful not to damage the pump filters. 

See Also: Gravity Feed Spray Guns

e. Clean and Rinse the Spray Gun/Hose Pipe

  • Turn on the sprayer into paint spray position
  • Dip the gun nozzle into the paint thinner or water in the bucket
  • Pull the gun trigger and press continuously – the bubbles will come out from the fluid as the embedded pressure strain the paint particles in the gun for complete removal
  • Remove the nozzle in water and let the waste fluid flow into the waste pail
  • Connect the intake hose pipe to the water bucket and engage the paint gun to create a continuous cycle into the bucket until the hose pipe is well cleaned
  • Engage the trigger guards and switch off the paint sprayer. then, turn down the pressure to the lowest level available in the gauge
  • Disconnect the paint sprayer from the power supply

f. Clean the Nozzle and Filter

  • Unscrew the nozzle, the nozzle tips, and detach the paint filter carefully
  • Using a soft bristle paintbrush, scrub the paint remains on the nozzle and nozzle tips gently
  • Dip the nozzle in thinner or water and clean with a piece of cloth until the paint is entirely removed
  • Flush the filters with thinner or water continuously to remove paint or any debris that may be stuck on the surface – the filters could either be suction filters, manifold filters, or gun pencil filters
  • Scrub the filter gently to remove solid particles that may be stuck. Then, flush water over the filters to attain a clean finish
  • Fix the filters back to the sprayer appropriately – if you are not experienced, use a professional to help you

NB: Different paint sprayers are manufactured with different filters. It’s therefore important to consult your manual when cleaning for further instructions – especially on how to remove and replace filters

g. Rinse the Paint Sprayer to Dry

  • Soak a piece of cloth in clean water and wash the paint sprayer’s external parts to remove any paint stains
  • Rinse the surface with a piece of cloth gently
  • Leave the paint sprayer to dry 

See Also: Chalk Paint for Furniture

What are the Problems of Using Uncleaned Paint Sprayer?

Using an uncleaned paint sprayer is not recommended as it may lead to some of the problems highlighted below:

1. Blockage

When the paint is left within the channels of a paint sprayer, it dries and blocks the pathway.

The subsequent spray action is hampered and the efficiency lowered. Usually, the spray gun is highly affected than the piping network.

The filters’ pores get blocked (limiting suction and sieve ability), while the nozzle and the tip lose effectiveness in the paint removal action. Internal paint blockage is common in most paint sprayers and narrows the pathway.

When the paint dries internally, the cleaning process may even be more cumbersome, especially in the case of oil-based paints.

2. Poor Paint Finish Quality

Clean paint sprayer delivers excellent paint coat finish. However, an uncleaned paint sprayer creates a low-quality paint finish, which may have surface drains or runs.

The insufficient pressure within the system network creates a low impact force, which leads to lesser adhesive contact during paint application.

Besides, the paint solvent is not well atomized and hence leads to incomplete contact strength.

Air may be sucked through the system (instead of paint) due to suction filter failure leading to an insufficiently painted surface finish. 

See Also: Paint Sprayer for Exterior Walls

3. Channel Clogging

The paint sprayer’s channel clogs due to the continuous use of the paint sprayer without subsequent cleaning.

This problem is pronounced when the paint sprayer is used to handle different paints (oil-based paint or water-based paint)

Metallic paint sprayers are highly affected by clogging problems as compared to plastic counterparts.

Usually, the paint particles cling to the inner parts of the channel and accumulate with time. Upon drying, the paint layer forms a tough lining, which is more cumbersome to remove.

4. Extra running Cost

Clogged or blocked paint sprayer parts may be more cumbersome to clean. Therefore, such parts are best when replaced. This calls for an extra cost.

Repairing blocked or damaged pump/filters are quite expensive. Such maintenance costs can be cut down by practicing better cleaning procedures as highlighted in this article.

Often, the nozzle and paint gun get fatigued due to internal strain resulting from paint clog. Such parts may require subsequent replacement – there are very few paint nozzles that can be repaired. 

See Also: Telescoping Ladders ed

5. Frequent Breakdown and Repair

Continuous straining of the paint sprayer leads to an entire breakdown due to internal blockage and clogging within the sprayer’s channels.

The compressor or the motor gets fatigued as it tries to overcome internal resistance due to paint clog, leading to failure eventually.

Moreover, the paint gun may block or fail to function (atomize) leading to total or partial failure. Repair of failed parts of a paint sprayer is carried out often if the paint sprayer is not cleaned after use.

6. Incomplete Atomization

Incomplete atomization is a situation that happens due to interior blockage, clogging or parts malfunction.

The paint molecules fail to be converted into particle form (atomization), which is need to form a paint coat layer upon contact with the surface under paint application.

Incomplete paint atomization leads to a low-quality paint coat layer and uneven paint finish.

Maintenance Tips for a Paint Sprayer

In order to improve service life and lower running costs of your paint sprayer, proper use and maintenance tips highlighted below should be followed:

  1. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when setting up your paint sprayer.
  2. Often, carry out check-up and diagnosis for your paint sprayer to assess any part failure.
  3. Clean your paint sprayer immediately after finishing your painting activity to prevent internal clogging or blocking.
  4. Failed nozzle and nozzle tip should be replaced with a similar model to prevent paint efficiency loss.
  5. Motors and sprayer pumps should be prioritized during a check-up, while any internal shock should be attended to immediately before system failure.
  6. Use a paint sprayer as per the directives given by the manufacturer – an oil-based paint sprayer should be used with oil-based paints and vice versa.
  7. Replace old parts of the paint sprayer with new ones (of the same model) in order to improve its efficiency and paint coat quality.
  8. When repairing filters, consider the type of filter and match the model where possible always.
  9. The piston pump should be greased regularly (as advised) to improve functionality. 

See Also: Airless Paint Sprayer Under 300

Precaution to Consider When Cleaning a paint sprayer

When cleaning your paint sprayer, stick to the following precautions:

  1. Read the instructions given by the manufacturer before you begin to clean your paint sprayer.
  2. Wear appropriate protective gear when cleaning your paint sprayer – overall, boots, gloves, goggles, facemask, and respirator
  3. Never flush your paint sprayer before cleaning the paint remains – it may cause internal blockage or failure
  4. Always turn off the power button when setting up your paint sprayer
  5. Handle all filters during removal, cleaning, and replacing – consider engaging an expert if you aren’t confident about the same.
  6. Unscrew the nozzle and nozzle tips when flushing your paint sprayer, to prevent damage.
  7. When releasing air pressure, follow the manual or instruction highlighted in this article to avoid choking the paint sprayer.

Allow the paint sprayer to dry to touch after cleaning before assembling the parts. 

See Also: HVLP Spray Gun for Lacquer


By choosing to read this article on how to clean a paint sprayer, I believe you gained a deeper insight on how to improve your cleaning techniques and boost the sprayer’s service life.

The cleaning process requires you to select the right cleaning items, release air pressure in the system, flush the remaining paint, clean up the pump system, and rinse the spray gun with thinner before scrubbing to remove stuck paint.

Moreover, you will have to detach the nozzle/tip and clean it thoroughly, clean various filters independently, rinse the hosepipe, and wipe the prayer’s surface to remove any paint traces before leaving it to dry.

Importantly, you must consider the type of paint used by that particular sprayer (whether water-based or oil-based paint) for efficient thinning action.

It’s advisable to follow the manufacturer’s manual/instruction and precautions highlighted in this article when cleaning your paint sprayer. Don’t forget to wear protective gear when cleaning for safety purposes.


Hi there! I'm Jeremy Till, a professional and a partially self-taught spray painter, blogger, writer, and among other interesting things. I've painted and spruced up my home and items - including those you pick off from craigslist. I'll teach you how not to let your painting project go south.

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