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An airless paint sprayer is a great tool to have when painting your house. It’s easy to use and saves time, and will make painting go much more smoothly, leaving you with less frustration in the end. It can do the work of two people in half the time-no kidding!
But without proper cleaning, it can quickly become clogged with debris from the paint itself or any other materials you might be spraying.
It’s essential to clean your sprayer after each use properly so it doesn’t clog or break. It’s a small thing you can do that will make a massive difference in the lifespan of your machine and save you money in the long run.
As we’ll see in the following steps, there are only six easy things that need to be done to clean your airless sprayer thoroughly.
What parts need cleaning?
Appreciating your model may have different features, there are three main parts, and these don’t vary from model to model.
Let’s take a quick look at the parts of your airless paint sprayer to determine which areas need cleaning after every use.
Spray gun. The spray gun is where your paint comes out of and should be cleaned thoroughly.
Nozzle. Airless nozzles are the small, cone-shaped part at the end of the spray gun which funnels your paint.
Filters. This is the small screen where paint collects before it’s pushed through to the nozzle. Generally speaking, there are three filters to clean.
In the beginning, it’s best to keep the unit fully assembled so you can remove the excess material.
Do you need water or thinner to clean the paint sprayer?
Well, potentially yes to both but not at the same time. It all depends on what you paint you have just used. For instance, tap water will eliminate any water-based paint and materials you’ve been spraying, such as latex paint and emulsion.
You will require paint thinners, like mineral spirits, to clean up after you have used any oil-based paints, like lacquer or stains. It’s essential you know which paint remover to use as the wrong one could cause unnecessary damage, not to mention additional cleaning!
An important point to note is heavy corrosive liquids are not required or recommended because they will ruin your machine.
How to Clean an Airless Paint Sprayer
Step 1: Use 2 Buckets
First, make sure you have two 5 gallon buckets available. One bucket should be for your cleaning solution (water or thinning agent), and the other should be for your dirty water.
Step 2: Flush out the existing paint.
Place the suction tube in your clean bucket and aim the paint gun at the empty one. Use both prime mode (to suck up any remaining material) and spray mode for pushing out any remaining paint residue that may be too deep or large to remove by hand alone.
Step 3: Clean the filters
You’re now halfway through but not letting up because this is one of the most critical stages in the clean.
There are approximately three filters you need to clean, they are:
Pencil gun filter: located in the airless spray gun handle
Manifold filter: fitted inside the unit
Suction filter: found inside the suction hose, which is placed into the paint.
If this is your first time cleaning the sprayer, it’s best to read the user guide first to ensure no additional filters need cleaning. Most filters are easy to remove, but again the manufacturer’s manual will explain this.
Once all filters have been removed, place them inside the bucket containing clean water or a cleaning solvent. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t put the gun itself into the solvent.
While wearing gloves, you can clean the filters with a clean rag, and the material should come away quickly. For any dried on stubborn spots, use a toothbrush to wipe off gently.
Step 4: Clean the nozzle
The nozzle is located at the end of the spray gun and needs to be cleaned extensively, so you can’t miss this step.
If you’ve used oil-based paints in the airless sprayer, clean your materials with paint thinner solvent instead of water. It’s also recommended to wear gloves and goggles while doing this because it could cause damage to your skin and eyes.
Again, place the nozzle in your bucket with solvent or water and run it through several times until any residual and dried paint comes away. If needed, you can use a toothbrush to clean around filter openings, but be gentle as you don’t damage the material.
Step 5: Clean the spray gun
The spray gun is the last thing that needs cleaning and can also be very difficult to remove. Different sized cleaning brushes are necessary to deal with all the small spaces in a sprayer gun. Some parts like plastic and rubber seals can easily get damaged, so it is a good idea to keep some softer brushes on hand for these more fragile areas of your equipment.
Remove the spray guard and clean it separately under a kitchen faucet. You can now take off the spray tip and hose and place the gun upside down under fast-flowing water. Hold the trigger down.
Ideally, the water should go where the pencil filter was.
After a minute, it should be clear.
Step 6: Dry and reassemble the parts
Using a clean, dry cloth, wipe down all the parts you have removed during the cleaning process. Place them back into your sprayer and check that they fit, then reassemble everything.
Maintain the piston pump
While it’s best practice to clean your airless paint sprayer thoroughly after every use, there are steps you can take to keep the piston pump working correctly.
The sprayer pump differs from brand to brand, so always consult your manual first as it’ll tell you how often and how to oil it (you can find the Graco airless paint sprayer user manual here). However, you will need to grease it regularly to ensure the machine runs as smoothly as possible.
You’re now a pro at cleaning your airless paint sprayer! While it may seem like a daunting task, remember that it’s all in the name of keeping your tools working well and delivering a high-quality coating. Now that you know how to clean a paint sprayer, you can spend more time painting and less worrying about machine maintenance.
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