How To Clean a Paint Sprayer – Step-by-Step Guide

| Last Updated: November 16, 2021

Clogs and other debris in a paint sprayer can significantly lower productivity and reduce the equipment’s lifespan. Learning how to clean it will save you on costs and time. 

While cleaning a paint sprayer can be a tedious process for many people, the task can be completed more efficiently using the correct procedure and proper cleaning materials.

This article will take you through a step-by-step approach on how to clean a paint sprayer and leave it operating as a new one each time.

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Quick Questions Before Starting

First, let’s answer the quick questions below for a partial view of what it takes to clean a paint sprayer.

How Difficult is This to Do?

Cleaning a paint sprayer doesn’t require any special expertise. It is a moderate task that anyone can perform once equipped with the proper knowledge and cleaning equipment.

How Long Does it Take?

Cleaning a paint sprayer immediately after use can significantly make the process fast and less painful. Whether you’re cleaning a water-based or oil-based paint sprayer, the process should last between 10 and 30 minutes. 

How Much Do Materials Cost?

You’ll spend about $85 on essential materials like buckets, thinners such as mineral spirit, bristle brushes, and protective gloves.

Items Needed to Clean a Paint Sprayer 

Items needed to clean a paint sprayer may vary slightly depending on the type of paint. For instance, you may not need mineral spirits when cleaning water-based paints. 

You may not need to purchase other materials such as a rag. You can use an old piece of cloth to wipe the device. Below are essential materials you’ll need and their estimated costs. 

  • Paint buckets (at least three)- $10-$15 (each depending on sizes)

  • Bristle brushes – $5 -$10 ( a set of varying brush sizes)

  • Thinners like mineral spirit (when cleaning oil-based paint) – $10-$15 (5 liters)

  • Protective gloves – $20-$35 (box of 100 pieces)

  • Water (when cleaning water-based paint) – free/readily available

How To Clean a Paint Sprayer

Different paints require unique approaches to clean. You’ll also need to know how to clean different parts of the paint sprayer properly. Below is an exhaustive guide on cleaning a paint sprayer.

How To Clean an Airless Paint Sprayer

  1. Unplug the paint sprayer from the power source and press the trigger to dispense any medium residue from the system.

  2. Loosen your paint cup and empty any left paint from the container back to the paint tin.

  3. Fill the container with clean water and fix it back.

  4. Reconnect the power, pull the paint sprayer trigger, and flush it to one of the empty buckets to clean the internals and the suction tube. Repeat the process until the water is clear and then disconnect from the power source.

  5. Fill the other two buckets with clean water and add some soap or thinner (depending on the type of paint) in one of them per the manufacturer’s instructions.

  6. Disassemble all the key components of the paint sprayer.

  7. Place the parts in one bucket with soap or mineral spirit and leave to soak for about one minute.

  8. Once all the parts are soft and moist, scrub gently using the bristle brushes. Use the suitable brush size depending on the size of the piece being cleaned.

  9. Rinse the parts in the next bucket with clean water to remove any remaining residue.

  10.  Allow the parts to dry completely before storage.
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How To Clean Water-Based Paint From a Spray Gun 

A water-based spray gun is the easiest to clean. It requires no special solvents or cleaning detergents—soap and water will do the job. Soak all the parts in water. You can add some soap and scrub gently to clean. 

You most likely won’t need any assistance in cleaning a water-based spray gun.

How To Clean Oil-Based Paint From a Spray Gun 

The cleaning process for oil-based paint can be challenging due to the oil-based medium such as polyurethane. Still, it’s a manageable one-person task. It follows the same procedure used in cleaning water-based spray guns.

The only difference is the solvent used in soaking the parts. You’ll need to replace water with mineral spirits. Some of these solvents have toxic fumes, which require extra protection when handling, unlike water-based spray guns.

How Do You Clean Dried Paint From a Spray Gun?

Every once in a while, you’ll forget to clean your spray gun immediately after use causing the coating to dry. Leaving the paint to stay long on the spray can easily cause nozzle clogging as well.

However, that should not cause you any worry. You’ll not necessarily need to buy any new parts. Instead, you may use a little more effort and time to restore the paint sprayer to an excellent working condition.

  1. You can start with the nozzle. Dampen it in a solvent depending on the paint type. You may use pliers to remove any big chunks of spray.

  2. Unscrew the handle to remove the filter and other internals. The filter will likely have the largest volume of dry paint. Soak and scrub gently using a brush.  

  3. Get two pails, one with water and the other one empty. Insert the uptake tube in one pail with clean water and set the system to the prime function. 

    Let the system prime with water for a few minutes and repeat the process until the water is clear. The process will thoroughly clean the siphon tube as well.
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  1. Check for dry paint at the inlet strainer—just at the entrance of the hose. There should be very little coating left after priming with water. Rinse the strainer with clean water and let it dry.

  2. After the spray has dried completely, double-check for any remaining residues before using.

  3. You’re now ready to use your paint sprayer again.

How To Clean a Paint Sprayer Hose

Hose pipes can be long, stretching up to 25 feet. Flushing through the system can be a challenge, especially if you leave the paint for a long period to dry. Below is a step-by-step guide on cleaning a hose pipe.

  1. Detach the hose pipe from the paint sprayer

  2. Leave it to soak for about one minute in the relevant cleaning fluid

  3. Place a funnel on one end of the hose pipe and pour in a cleaning solution to rinse

  4. Wipe dry the hose exterior and inspect for any form of wear or damage

  5. Allow it to dry completely before storing

How To Clean the Nozzle On a Paint Sprayer

The nozzle is one of the most important parts of a paint sprayer that requires special attention during cleaning. Here’s a guide on cleaning a paint sprayer nozzle.

  1. Detach the nozzle from the spray painter

  2. Dampen it with the relevant solvent

  3. Once moist, scrub gently with a brush to remove any paint build-up

  4. Wiggle in the bucket containing water or mineral spirit to remove any sticking paint flakes

  5. Allow it to dry before reattaching it back on the spray gun

  6. Store in a secure case to protect it from dust

What To Do If Your Nozzle Is Clogged

Leaving paint to dry will cause your paint sprayer nozzle to clog. Here’s what to do if the nozzle is clogged.

  1. Dip the nozzle in water or thinner to soak for a few minutes

  2. Scrub gently using a toothbrush to unclog

  3. Use a needle on the nozzle if the hole is completely blocked with other foreign material.

Safety Considerations When Cleaning a Paint Sprayer

Safety is an important consideration when cleaning a paint sprayer. Below are precautions to keep in mind during the cleaning process.

Clean in a Well-ventilated Area

Some cleaning materials such as lacquer thinner used for cleaning oil-based paints are highly flammable. To prevent any possible fire or explosion, clean the paint sprayer in an open space with plenty of airflow. 

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Ensure no ignition sources like pilot lights, electric appliances, stoves, and other fire triggers around.

Wear the Right Personal Protective Equipment

Be sure to protect your hands from harsh solvents and sticky paints using the right pair of gloves.

You should also wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flashing paints or thinner.

Wearing a respirator will protect you from inhaling toxic paints or solvent smells.

Keep Your Hands Off the Nozzle Tip When Flushing

The high-speed fluid ejected when cleaning an airless paint sprayer can pierce your skin and cause serious wounds. Avoid placing your hands or any body part too close to the paint sprayer tip or any leakages in the hose pipe.


Let’s face it. Cleaning a paint sprayer can be a tedious task. Some manufacturers will include a maintenance manual to help you out. Still, proper cleaning and aftercare are essential in maximizing productivity and keeping your paint sprayer working smoothly.

You can use this guide to clean any paint from your paint sprayer. A complete cleaning kit can make the work much easier if you don’t have an automatic paint sprayer cleaning machine. 

Do not forget to wear safety gear, especially when working with toxic chemicals such as lacquer thinner.

People Also Ask

Depending on the paint type, procedures and materials used for cleaning may differ significantly. Below are common questions from painters about cleaning a paint sprayer.

Do You Have To Clean a Paint Sprayer After Every Use?

The most appropriate way to care for your paint sprayer is to clean it immediately after every use.  While you may clean it later using water or different thinners, the process can be more challenging, especially when cleaning dry paint residue.

Can You Clean a Paint Sprayer With Acetone?

Acetone is one of the most prevalent solvents used for cleaning different types of machines and other parts. It is an effective solvent, and the most recommended for cleaning a paint sprayer. Besides, it’s more affordable and safe to use.

Can You Clean a Paint Sprayer With Lacquer Thinner?

Lacquer thinner is effective in cleaning a paint sprayer but requires handling with caution. The thinner is highly flammable. However, it will clean paint sprayers with less struggle.

Can You Clean a Paint Sprayer With Water?

Water-based paints do not require any special spirit to clean. You can clean your paint sprayer with fresh, clean water if you use water-based paint. You can add a little soap if the manufacturer’s maintenance manual permits.

Welcome! We hope you’ll find the job costs of home improvement projects useful when you’re deciding whether to do a job yourself vs. hire a contractor. We’re the authors of 20 home improvement books, most notably Home Improvement for Dummies©, Bathroom Remodeling for Dummies©, Carpentry for Dummies©, Plumbing for Dummies©, and Painting and Wallpapering for Dummies©. Our most recent book Fix It and Flip It is in its second edition. We’ve appeared as home improvement experts on television programs such as CNN, Dateline, the Today Show, HGTV and many others.