How To Clean A Paint Sprayer (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On August 25, 2023

paint sprayer can turn a two-day DIY home improvement job into a two-hour painting project.

But, that doesn’t make them perfect. While a spray gun is a lot easier to use than a paint brush or roller, it’ll also be a lot harder to maintain because of its complexity.

Man holding a dirty paint sprayer

Cleaning a paint sprayer as soon as you're done working is an essential part of clean up. If you don't, the paint residues will jam the mechanism, and you'll have a much harder time getting it working again.

However, if you’re new to paint guns, then you may not know how to clean a paint sprayer. Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as you may think.

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • The proper gear to wear during the paint sprayer cleaning process
  • How to clean out various types of spray paint
  • The different procedures necessary to clean your paint gun
  • And other paint sprayer tips!

So before you decide to clean your paint sprayer, here are a few things that you should know:

What You Need To Know About Cleaning a Paint Sprayer

Before we dive right into the steps, it's important to know a few things about paint sprayers first, like how to protect your health when working with paint, and how to avoid damaging your spray gun in the process.

Always Wear Protective Clothing

Some forms of paint are extremely toxic, and even if you know that you’re using relatively safe paint, you’ll want to protect your clothes and skin.

Along with clothing, you should also always protect your eyes while working with paint sprayers, as paint can irritate them or even cause permanent vision loss.

At the very least, protective gear will keep you from ruining your clothes. At most, it will prevent you from ending up with a serious health condition.

Your health is paramount, so whatever you do, don’t risk cleaning your paint sprayer unless you have all the right equipment.

Be Sure That You Know What You’re Doing

Always practice and carefully read each of the steps.

Even if you think that cleaning an airless paint sprayer looks easy, one wrong step can potentially ruin your paint gun and cost you a hefty sum of money buying a new one.

Always Have Your Instruction Manual Close At Hand

If you run into trouble while you’re cleaning out your paint sprayer, it always helps to have the manual right next to you. Most paint gun manuals will come with a section that describes how to disassemble and clean your paint sprayer, so you’ll always know what to do.

Just remember to use caution if you need to use paint thinner, mineral spirits, or any other sprayer cleaner that could contain harmful chemicals.

Did you know: There are 3 main types of paint sprayers? Airless, HVLP, and Compressed.

Supplies You’ll Need For Cleaning a Paint Sprayer

Keep in mind that the exact set of supplies will depend on the kind of paint that you have been working with, so we’ll make a note of that next to the affected items.

How To Clean a Paint Sprayer (5-Step Guide)

  1. Release air pressure
  2. Flush remaining paint
  3. Clean the pump
  4. Clean the gun
  5. Clean the filter and tip

Step 1: Release Air Pressure

Before you get started cleaning your paint gun, you’ll have to go through the pressure relief procedure.

First, you should engage the trigger guard so that you don’t accidentally spray yourself. You will then need to turn off the paint gun before bringing the pressure down to the lowest possible setting.

The next step is to reverse the pattern of the spray tip on your gun. Once this is done, disengage the trigger lock and bring your waste pail close to the unit.

Point your paint sprayer into the waste bucket and pull the trigger. Keep holding the trigger until all of the built-up pressure has been released, and the gun is safe to work with.

At this point, you can re-engage the trigger lock on the paint sprayer and turn the valve back to the “prime” or “drain” position, depending on the model of paint gun that you’re using.

Step 2: Flush Remaining Paint

Up next, you’ll have to flush all of the remaining paint of the gun’s system before you can get started cleaning the components themselves.

Remove both the tip and the tip guard from the gun before you start flushing the paint. At this point, you should remove the drain tube and the fluid intake from your paint bucket. Place the fluid intake into your bucket of flushing fluid (water for water-based paint, mineral spirits for oil-based paint).

Next, place the drain tube inside of your waste pail and switch the prime valve to the “spray” setting. If you want to save the remaining paint, point the gun into your paint bucket. If you don’t mind wasting whatever paint remains in the system, point it into the waste pail.

Turn the gun on, and hold the trigger down while gradually increasing the pressure. If you are draining the paint into your paint bucket, switch over to your waste pail once you see the stream of paint start to end, as the flushing fluid will start spraying out of the gun.

When the paint is out of the system, and you only see flushing fluid spraying out of the nozzle, release the trigger of the paint gun and turn it back off.

Step 3: Clean The Pump

The next step is cleaning the pump itself. You will start off by aiming your paint gun into your waste pail. Hold the trigger down and flip the on/off switch to on. Keep spraying until you see the flushing fluid coming out clear, without any paint contamination.

At this point, flip the switch to off and release the trigger of the paint gun. Switch the prime valve to "prime" and turn the gun back on. Watch the drain tube as the flushing fluid circulates through the pump's system. After a little while, the fluid that is coming out of the drain tube should be clear, without any hints of paint inside of it.

When the liquid coming out of the drain tube is completely clear, pull the fluid intake out of your flushing fluid. Toggle your on/off switch to off, and you are ready to move on to cleaning the paint gun itself.

Step 4: Clean The Gun

Now the pump has been cleared of any remaining paint, you are ready to move on to cleaning the gun and the hose.

Start by turning the prime valve to the "spray" position and flip the power switch on. Aim the gun into your flushing pail and depress the trigger. You should see nothing but flushing fluid coming out. If you still see paint, then you'll have to return to the previous steps to fully purge the system of the remaining paint.

Once the flushing fluid has been purged, you can turn the power switch back off. Next, engage the trigger guard and turn the pressure control down to the lowest option. Disconnect the power source and remove the filters from your sprayer.

Step 5: Clean The Filter and Tip

Place the filters inside of your flushing fluid until the paint is mostly gone and use your rag to remove any of it that remains. Do the same with your tip and tip guard. Up next, remove any remaining paint with a soft bristle brush, as there will likely be some remaining in some hard-to-reach areas.

You should now be ready to reassemble your paint sprayer. If you used water as a flushing fluid, we would recommend now flushing it out with mineral spirits to prevent ice build-up and rust.

Finally, wipe down the exterior parts of your paint sprayer with a rag that has been soaked in water or mineral spirits. Be sure to dispose of the waste from this process responsibly. And that’s all there is to cleaning a paint spray gun.

Final Thoughts Thoughts on Cleaning a Paint Sprayer

So, now that you know these 5 key steps to cleaning your paint sprayer, make sure you do this each time you use your paint sprayer.

Consistent maintenance is the best way to help your paint sprayer last much longer.

Just be sure to follow these steps and protect yourself from any chemicals, and you'll master this cleaning process in no time!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Richard Saunders

Richard Saunders

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Richard Saunders

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