Airless paint sprayers get the job done quicker but they also require more cleaning and aftercare. It is important for their functionality and lifespan that you always take the time to properly clean after use.
The first time you do this might be confusing because you are dealing with many different parts. However, once you have done it a few times it should feel like a straightforward routine.
This is how to properly clean the most popular airless paint sprayers.
Attending to the Different Parts
Though each model might differ slightly, the main components are generally the same. When cleaning a paint sprayer, it is better to take the device apart so that you are getting into all the crevices where paint and dust might get stuck.
The 3 main parts to clean are the device as a whole, the nozzle and the gun. At the start of the cleaning, you can keep the tool assembled to remove the majority of the paint but later on you need to pull off the gun and nozzles for closer handling.
Water or Paint Thinner?
This is an easy question to answer. Use tap water to clean water-based paints like latex and use paint thinner to remove oil-based paints like lacquer.
Never confuse these two types of paint remover because it can damage the device. Also, don’t use heavy corrosive liquids because that too causes damage.
Steps to Clean an Airless Paint Sprayer
Follow the cleaning steps in the correct order. Start with removing any excess paint and then carefully clean the filters, nozzle, and gun.
Step 1: Set Up Your Buckets
Depending on whether you’re spraying oil based paints such as lacquer, or water-based paints such as emulsion, you’ll need to vary your cleaning fluid.
You need one bucket filled with water or paint thinner (depending on the paint type, see above) and one empty bucket to empty the machine into.
Step 2: Clear Out the Remaining Paint
Place the suction in your clean bucket and aim the gun at your empty bucket. Use both the prime mode and spray mode to push out the remaining paint.
Step 3: Cleaning the Various Filters
Once all the paint is cleared, you can start cleaning the smaller parts of the airless paint sprayer. Start with the filters.
Because of how airless paint sprayers work, there are normally 2 or 3 filters on semi-professional to professional paint sprayers, they are:
- Suction filter – found on the end of the suction hose that is submerged in paint
- Manifold filter – found in the machine itself, normally on the left or right side
- Pencil gun filter – found in the handle of the airless spray gun
You should be able to refer to your user manual to see the various components of your spray gun. Here’s an example of Graco user manual.
Take the pencil filter out of the gun, the manifold filter out of the machine and the suction filter off the end of the suction hose, then place them in the empty bucket to soak in the solvent or water. Do not place the entire gun in the solvent because this can be abrasive, only let the filters should ideally soak.
Put on a pair of gloves and start swiping away the remaining paint. For the stubborn leftovers, use an old stiff brush and scrub away gently.
Step 4: Clean the Nozzles
This is the tedious part but there are a few tools that can make it easier for you. The best way is to use an old toothbrush, small pipe cleaners and if required, a very thin needle.
Submerse the spray tip in water or thinners for a few minutes, then use the toothbrush to scrub either side of the tungsten carbide spray nozzle. Be sure to inspect it up close before calling it a day and storing it.
You should be able to see a pin-prick of daylight through the nozzle when you hold it up to the light.
Only use the needle as a last resort is the whole is completely blocked with dry paint.
Step 5: Scrub the Spray Gun
Now it is time to get into the small parts of the sprayer gun itself. Since you are dealing with different sized parts, you also need different sized cleaning brushes to get into all the tiny spaces.
Some of the parts are more fragile than others so it is also a good idea to keep a few softer brushes on hand, as well. For example, the plastic and rubber seals are easily broken so you want to use a brush with less thick bristles.
You’ll want to take the spray guard off the gun and clean that separately, you’ll also need to flush the gun under a faucet.
With the spray tip, spray guard, hose and gun filter removed, hold the gun upside down under a fast flowing faucet, and hold the trigger down. You want the water to be flowing into where the filter previously was, and out of the spray area.
Do this for around 60 seconds to ensure all the paint is cleared.
Step 6: Wipe Dry
Once all the parts are completely free of paint, you can wipe off the solvent until all the parts are completely dry again. Use a clean dry cloth for this.
Besides cleaning your new paint sprayer thoroughly, you also need to do some maintenance. One of the most important things to take care of is the piston and packing kit.
The pump system is particular to specific brands so always read the manual to check what needs to be oiled and how often. The piston pump can do with regular greasing before each job, just to make sure that the device continues to run smoothly.