One of the major challenges of using an airless paint sprayer is the maintenance involved. These machines make it very easy to paint large areas quickly, but they require a lot of cleaning. A thorough cleaning and maintenance program is the key to ensuring your paint sprayer performs well and lasts for many years to come.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into how to properly clean your airless paint sprayer. We’ll also discuss a regular maintenance checklist you can run through to ensure your machine sprays accurately for job after job.
How to Clean Your Airless Paint Sprayer
Step 1: Run the Paint out of the machine
When you are done painting, the first thing to do is run the remaining paint out of the machine. If you are using a water-based paint, you can remove the intake and place it in a bucket of lukewarm water. For other paints, do the same with a bucket of thinners. Avoid very harsh thinners if you can (like acetone) as they can damage the seals in the machine.
To avoid wasting paint, we recommend running your gun straight into the paint bucket on a low pressure setting with the nozzle removed. Once you see water or thinners come out the nozzle, immediately stop. Flip the machine over to prime mode, and repeat the process, holding the priming tube into the paint bucket.
Step 2: Clean Pipes
Now grab a waste bucket, and repeat the process again into a waste bucket. After you’re happy you’ve run the machine through for 30 seconds, remove the intake and empty out all the solvent until it runs dry. Leaving solvent inside the machine can damage it over time.
Step 3: Clean the Filters
There are typically three filters in a quality airless paint sprayer, and you should clean them all. The first is located on the paint intake, and you can normally unscrew it and clean it with water or paint thinner.
The second is located on the main pump, and is often found on the manifold. Unscrew it, remove any paint debris, and clean it using thinners before replacing it again. The final filter is located between the hose and the sprayer gun. Detach the hose from the gun, and clean the filter there.
Step 4: Clean the Nozzles
Cleaning the nozzles is difficult to do well without specialist equipment. While you can do it by hand or soak them in thinners, do so for extended periods can damage seals and the nozzle.
Instead, many airless paint sprayer manufacturers sell an hourglass nozzle cleaner. Using their cleaning fluid, you can place the nozzle in the cleaner and let it do its thing. Since nozzles block so easily, we cannot stress enough how important it is to keep them clean. Even a partially blocked nozzle can lead to an uneven spraying pattern.
Step 5: Clean the Sprayer Gun
Finally, you need to clean the sprayer gun itself. You should not soak your sprayer gun in solvent or water, as doing so will damage the seals and other components in the gun. Instead, you should use solvent and a sprayer gun cleaning git.
Cleaning kits comprise of a number of small brushes you can use to remove paint and debris from the gun. If you don’t want to use a kit, you can also use an old toothbrush and pipe cleaners to clean the tubes. While you are doing it, check your hoses are clean and free from dried paint. After you’re done, leave the whole sprayer and all the components to dry.
Airless Paint Sprayer Maintenance
Long Term Storage
If you aren’t going to use your airless paint sprayer for any time longer than a few days, we recommend using a purpose made cleaning agent. This is because solvent residue left in the machine can damage the internal components.
All the major manufacturers such as Graco and Wagner sell cleaning agent, and it typically arrives as a concentrate. Mix it up (often 30:1), and run it through your paint sprayer. Remember to do the primer and the main sprayer gun. Like long term storage motor oil, this solution will protect the inner components of the pump while it’s not in use.
You should also intermittently oil your airless paint sprayer. Inside these machines is a diaphragm or a piston. Diaphragm pumps use hydraulic fluid, and you should check the level of the fluid using the gauge on the machine. Typically, this fluid should be changed every 500 hours of use, or after 100 hours if the machine is brand new.
For piston pumps, you should drop a little bit of oil onto the piston intermittently. Specialist piston oil for airless paint sprayers is available, and we recommend you use this rather than generic oil.
Finally, you should replace the seals in your airless paint sprayer every season. Seal kits are available from most of the major manufacturers. Refer to the maintenance manual of your particular sprayer to determine how to replace the individual seals.
Main image credit: Sherwin Williams