Paint sprayer nozzles can be easily cleaned by using the right tools, choosing the appropriate solvent, flushing the system, and disassembling the gun to manually clean the nozzle. Depending on whether you use an airless sprayer or a HVLP (high-volume, low pressure) sprayer, the steps for cleaning a paint sprayer nozzle will vary slightly.
TIP: Painting professional Pam Estabrooke, of ProTect Painters, adds “Do not neglect this part of your project and always follow the instructions that came with your sprayer.”
Step 1 - Choose the Cleaning Solvent
All spray guns require that you flush the sprayer with a solvent after painting. For a water-based paint, flush it with cool water; for oil-based paint, use lacquer thinner; for shellac, flush with denatured alcohol.
TIP: Pam says, “If you plan to stop spraying for a short period of time, you can submerge the gun in a bucket of water or solvent if using oil paint. Dry it off well, shoot a short test pattern on a scrap piece of paper and continue with your project.”
Step 2 - Flush the System
Be prepared to use about 5 gallons of solvent or water when flushing. After painting, relieve pressure from the hoses by following the safety instructions for the sprayer you are using. Engage the safety switch and if you are using a sprayer tip, remove the tip and tip guard from the nozzle. Immerse the tip and trigger guard in the appropriate solvent while flushing the system. Remove the intake tube from the paint and put it into a container of solvent. Disengage the safety switch, and spray the gun into an opened can of paint until the solvent is visible. Then switch over to a waste can and run solvent through the system until there are no visible traces of paint in the solvent.
HVLP sprayers may have a paint cup attached to the spray gun. In this case, there is no intake tube, and the paint is transferred into the cup and pulled directly from here. When flushing, remove paint from the cup and replace it with solvent. Also, HVLP sprayers don't require you to remove the tip while flushing.
Step 3 - Brush, Dry, and Reassemble
Remove the tip and tip guard from the solvent and use solvent-soaked bottle brushes to clean the inside of the tip. Use the brushes to clean all remaining openings on the nozzle, including the nozzle needle.
HVLP spray guns have an air cap that must be removed to get to the nozzle. You can then remove the nozzle with a wrench and clean it with a brush. Dry off the disassembled parts with a cloth or paper towel, being sure not to bend the nozzle needle. Reassemble the spray gun and store it in a safe place until you are ready to paint again.
Pam Estabrooke, district manager of ProTect Painters, contributed to this article.