How to Clean a Paint Sprayer with Dried Paint


Last updated: May 27, 2023

Learn the Steps of Cleaning a Paint Sprayer with Dried Paint in this Expert Painting Guide.

How to clean a paint sprayer with dried paint

Paint sprayers are great tools for achieving professional finishes for your painting projects. However, they require proper care and maintenance to ensure longevity and optimal performance. 

A common challenge a professional painter or sprayer user faces is cleaning dried paint from the equipment. 

If you’ve encountered this issue, worry not! 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through step-by-step instructions on how to clean paint sprayers with dried latex paint, helping you keep your equipment in top shape for future painting projects.

Also, we will highlight how to remove old dried paint from paint sprayer and how to clean paint sprayer tips.

How to Clean a Paint Sprayer with Dried Paint

Here’s how to clean a paint sprayer with dried paint and restore its functionality to as good as new. Learn how to disassemble the sprayer to dry and store it by following the step-by-step cleaning instructions and professional tips to maintain your sprayer’s optimal performance. This will also help you eliminate frustrating clogs and enjoy smooth, flawless, unforgettable painting adventures.

Importance of Cleaning Dried Latex Paint Off Sprayers

Before we break down the cleaning process, it’s crucial to understand why cleaning a paint sprayer with dried paint is important. 

Irregular or no cleaning does more harm than good to your spraying equipment. 

Clean dried latex paint sprayers properly to avoid clogged nozzles, reduced spray pattern quality, and overall performance issues. 

On the other hand, regular cleaning prevents the buildup of dried latex paint and ensures consistent and uniform paint application. 

It also prolongs the lifespan of your equipment and saves you time and money in the long run.

Why Paint Dries in a Paint Sprayer

Here are some reasons why paint may dry up in your paint sprayer in detail.

  • Over-exposure of The Sprayer’s Contents to Air

Constant exposure to air results in the moisture within the paint evaporating, which leads to the paint drying. 

The rate at which the paint dries is determined by the size of the surface area exposed to air. 

The larger the exposed surface area, the faster the drying process.

  • Evaporation of Key Solvents in Paint

The paint contains solvents and additives that keep it in its liquid state. 

However, over time, these solvents gradually evaporate. 

Higher temperatures, for instance,  accelerate the evaporation of solvents, leading to faster drying. 

  • Lack of Agitation or Stirring as Recommended 

Some types of paint require you to constantly agitate or stir them to prevent settling and drying. 

The heavier colors or components in the paint will settle.  

This leads to uneven distribution of the paint molecules and colors and potential drying within the sprayer.

  • Incompatibility of the Paint with Your Sprayer 

Different paint formulations have varying chemical compositions. Incompatibility between the paint and the sprayer can lead to drying issues. 

The paint may not fit your sprayer’s internal parts or your desired application method.

  • Poor Sealing, System Leakages, and Clogs

If your sprayer is not sealed tightly after pouring in the paint or if there are any leaks in the system before use, air can enter in, which fosters the drying process of the color inside.

If not cleaned properly, the clogging hinders the paint flow in your sprayer, resulting in a build-up that eventually dries up.

  • Lack of Proper Cleaning

If the sprayer is not cleaned promptly or if cleaning is not done thoroughly, residual paint can remain within the system. 

Over time this residual paint can dry, leading to clogs and functionality issues. 

How to Effectively Clean Dried Latex Paint Sprayer with Dried Paint

What You’ll Need

  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • Cleaning brush
  • Soft bristled brush
  • A cleaning solution such a mineral spirits, latex paint thinners, or baking soda
  • Bucket
  • Cleaning rag or paper towel.
  • Wrench
  • Screw drivers
  • Warm water for water-based paints.

Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area.

Also, understand the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific paint sprayer model.

Step 1: Disassembling the Paint Sprayer

Disassembling the latex paint spray may vary depending on the specific model and the manufacturer before you proceed to clean dried latex paint in its interiors. 

As a safety precaution, ensure that the paint sprayer is turned off and disconnected from any power source before starting the disassembly process. 

Wear protective gloves and eyewear to prevent any potential injury as most spray paints are toxic.

Below, we highlight key steps to guide you when disassembling a sprayer. 

A Step-by-step guide to disassembling the paint sprayer

  1. Empty the paint container

If any latex paint remains in the container, pour it back into the original paint can or a storage container.

Use a clean rag or paper towel to wipe off excess latex paint on the paint sprayer.

  1. Remove the spray tip and guard.

Unscrew the spray tip and guard assembly from the front of the paint gun using a wrench.

  1. Disassemble the paint gun handle.

Check to see if there may be screws or fasteners holding the paint gun handle together. Remove these screws and separate the gun handle components.

  1. Remove the fluid needle and nozzle.

Carefully remove the fluid needle and nozzle assembly from the paint sprayer gun. Depending on the design, these parts may require unscrewing or pulling them out.

  1. Detach other removable parts.

Check for any additional removable parts that need to be disassembled, such as the air cap, paint cup, or internal filters.

Step 2: Removing Excess Latex Paint

Scrape off dried latex paint flakes.

Use a soft bristle brush or a scraper to remove any excess or old paint flakes from the dryer. You can use both to remove the loose and stubborn fragments, which makes the next cleaning steps easier.

Pre-Soaking The Parts

To remove dried latex paint from the nozzle, needle, and other removable parts, soak them in a bucket filled with appropriate solvents or paint thinner. 

Soaking helps soften the dried latex paint and makes removing dried paint less hectic.

Step 3: Cleaning Latex Paint Sprayer Components

Cleaning the spray gun

  1. Moisten a clean rag with the cleaning solvent.
  2. Wipe down the exterior of the spray gun to clean dried latex paint residue and irt.
  3. Use a small brush or toothbrush to gently scrub stubborn areas, especially around the trigger, air cap, and fluid passages.
  4. If there are any clogs or blockages in the sprayer, use a small brush, such as an old toothbrush, to remove any dried latex paint or debris.
  5. Wipe down the exterior of the spray gun body to clean dried latex paint residue and dirt.

Be gentle to avoid damaging delicate parts.

Cleaning the nozzle, paint cup, spray tips, and other Removable Parts

  1.  Take one part at a time from the solvent container.

  2. Use the small brush or toothbrush to clean dried latex paint or debris from the nozzle, spray tips, filters, hoses, and the paint cup.

  3. Rinse the parts thoroughly with clean solvent, ensuring all is removed.
    You can also use a garden hose to remove any remaining paint from the sprayer. Under the right water pressure, a garden hose helps remove paint in its internal components.

Step 4: Flushing the Paint Sprayer System

Flushing the sprayer removes any debris in the system. We discuss steps to properly wash a sprayer and ensure it is ready for the next use below.

Preparing the flushing Solution

  • Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the right cleaning solution. It can either be a solvent or a solution of the solvent in water. 

  • Prepare the solution. Make sure it is enough to flush the whole system.

  • Fill a clean container with the solution. It should be large enough to submerge the pickup tube or siphon hose.

Dip or Submerge the Pickup Tube or Siphon Hose

  • Depending on your sprayer type, submerge the pickup tube in a cup-style sprayer or the siphon hose in a gravity-fed sprayer into the cleaning solution.

 Run the Cleaning Solution Through the System

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set up the sprayer for flushing. This may involve connecting an air hose or power source and adjusting the settings.

  • Hold the spray gun or sprayer wand over a waste container or an appropriate area that can catch the cleaning solution.

  • Run the solution through the paint sprayer quickly.

Activate the Sprayer

  • Switch on the sprayer and activate the trigger or switch to start the flow of the solution.

  • Allow the cleaning solution to flow through the system, including the pickup tube or siphon hose, fluid passages, and nozzle. This will help dislodge any paint.

Clean the Sprayer Nozzle and Filters

  •  While flushing, periodically remove the nozzle and any filters from the spray gun or sprayer wand.

  •   Clean the nozzle and filters separately in the cleaning solution using a small brush or toothbrush to remove any paint or debris.

Rinse the System

  •   Once the Solution runs clear, disconnect the wand from the sprayer.

  •    Rinse all components with clean water to remove any remaining cleaning solution.

Step 5: Drying and Reassembling

  • After cleaning, dry all the components completely using a clean, lint-free cloth or compressed air. Air drying is also recommended for complete drying.

  • Check for any signs of damage or wear on the parts. 

  • Replace or repair any damaged components if necessary.

  • Reassemble the spray gun by following the reverse disassembly order, ensuring all parts are securely attached and in the correct positions.

  • After reassembly, connect the sprayer to the power source (if applicable) and perform a test spray to ensure it works properly and is free from any remaining dried paint.

  • Store the sprayer and its components in a clean, dry, and protected area for future use.

  • Remember to consult the instructions provided by the manufacturer for any additional steps or considerations related to your particular model.

How to clean a Graco paint sprayer with dried paint

What You’ll Need

  • Bucket
  • A small brush or toothbrush
  • A paintbrush comb or wire brush
  • Cleaning solution-solvents or paint thinner
  • Containers
  • Protective gear
  • Scraper
  • Warm water

Step By Step Procedure

  1.  Disassemble the sprayer by removing the spray gun, nozzle, tip, filter, and other removable parts.

  2. Scrape off excess paint gently using a scraper on the interior and exterior to avoid damaging the surface.

  3. Fill the container with the correct cleaning solution and dip all the removable parts to soak off and loosen the dried paint for about 30 minutes. Soak in warm soapy water for water based paints.

  4. Clean each component in the solution using a soft brush. Scrub off any excess paint and check for any color.

  5. Rinse off the cleaning solution and any paint debris under running hot water.

  6. Completely dry each part with a clean towel and reassemble the sprayer accordingly.

  7. Test the sprayer and store it appropriately for future use.

How to Clean Paint Sprayer Tips

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your paint sprayer tips help prevent clogs, achieve consistent spray patterns, and extend the lifespan of your sprayer.

Below, we outline a step-by-step guide on effectively cleaning your paint sprayer tips.

  1. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning sprayer tips, maintenance, and key considerations for the specific model.

  2. Wear protective gear such as goggles, gloves, and masks before cleaning to protect yourself from harmful fumes, harsh chemicals, and paint splatters.

  3. Prepare the cleaning solution suitable for the sprayer tip. You can also use warm water and dish soap to clean it or commercial cleaning options such as baking soda.

  4. Detach the tip from the sprayer. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to detach it properly. Some tips are detachable, and others aren’t, depending on the sprayer type. 

  5. Soak the detached tip in a bucket full of cleaning solution. Ensure it is fully submerged. Let it soak for about 30 minutes. Pre-soaking helps loosen any dried paint or debris that may have lodged in the tip during use or storage.

  6. Use a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush and gently scrub the tip without excess pressure. Clean out any residue around the tip opening. You can use a toothpick to unclog or remove paint that might have blocked it. Exercise caution when cleaning the tip, as it can easily get damaged.

  7. After thoroughly scrubbing the tip, rinse it under warm running water until it is clear. Ensure the paint particles and any cleaning solution are completely rinsed out. If any stubborn residue is left, repeat step 3 and then rinse again. 

  8. After rinsing, check the tip for any damages or possible wear. Damages may include bent or irregular openings, which adversely affect the spraying. If it is damaged, consider replacing it with a new one.

  9. Dry the tip with a clean or paper towel by patting it dry to remove any excess water or moisture. Any water can affect the paint application process or damage the surface through rust.

  10. Reassemble the tip and store your sprayer in a clean, dust-free space, away from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.

Maintenance and Preventive Measures

Maintaining and taking preventive measures for your sprayer by:

  1. Reading the manufacturer’s instructions on specific maintenance guidelines for how to clean your paint sprayer, general maintenance, and troubleshooting.

  2. Cleaning your paint sprayer regularly and after each use, especially when switching between different paint or colors. 

  1. Using compatible paint and materials such as paints, solvents, and other recommended materials consistent with your paint sprayer to avoid clogs, damage, and poor performance.

  1. Using appropriate filters and Inlet strainers and cleaning or replacing them regularly to maintain optimal flow and prevent clogs.

  2. Lubricating moving parts by greasing or oiling components like pistons, seals, or O-rings to reduce friction ensures smooth operation and prevents premature wear and tear.

  1. Properly storing it in a clean and dry area, away from extreme temperatures and humidity when not in use. Protect it from dust and debris by covering it with a cloth.

  1. Carrying out regular inspections on your sprayer for any signs of damage, worn-out parts, or leaks. 

  1. Following safety guidelines by always wearing appropriate protective gear and working in a well-ventilated area.

  2. Training your operators on proper training on its operation, maintenance, and safety concerns/procedures. 

  1. Seeking professional servicing if you encounter persistent issues or malfunctions with the paint sprayer. 

FAQs – How to clean your paint sprayer with dried paint

How Do You Remove Dried Latex Paint?

Using a putty knife or scraper, remove latex paint after it has dried. Then, use warm soapy water, mild dish detergent/dish soap, or a paint remover to clean your sprayer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for loosening and removing dried latex paint.

Can you run paint thinner through a paint sprayer?

Yes. You can run a removable paint stripper or thinner through a sprayer to clean the system and remove leftover paint or debris. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the correct type of paint thinner for your specific paint sprayer.

Can I Use Lacquer Thinner To Clean My Wagner Paint Sprayer?

No, using lacquer thinner to clean an airless sprayer is not recommended. It can cause damage to the seals and other components, leading to leaks or malfunctions in your sprayer. Lacquer thinner is a strong solvent used for cleaning and thinning lacquer-based coatings.

What Solvent Do You Use To Clean A Paint Gun?

You can use a solvent such as mineral spirits, rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, or paint stripper. These solvents help dissolve and remove dried latex paint residue from the gun’s components. First, check to ensure compatibility with your specific paint gun.

Can you leave paint in the sprayer overnight?

No. It’s not advisable to leave paint in the sprayer overnight. Leftover paint can lead to a clogged paint sprayer and overall damage to the sprayer. Always clean the sprayer immediately after use to boost its performance and longevity.

How long can paint be left in a sprayer?

You can leave paint in a sprayer depending on the type of paint, environmental conditions, and the manufacturer’s instructions. It is advisable to clean the sprayer promptly after use. 

Some paints may be left for up to 24-48 hours, under proper storage and if allowed by the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Summary – Cleaning Paint Sprayer with dried paint

Cleaning a paint sprayer with dried paint is a daunting task. However, the right steps can be easy, straightforward, and rewarding. 

Following the step-by-step instructions in our in-depth guide, you can effectively remove dried latex paint from your paint sprayer.

Additionally, you will also help maintain its performance and extend its lifespan.

And finally, always remember that regular cleaning and maintenance of the sprayer are vital to consistently achieving high-quality results in all your painting projects.

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