How to Clean a Paint Sprayer

Josh Nuttall

If you have never used a paint sprayer, using one for the first time is an eye-opening experience. Not only does a paint sprayer help finish any painting project faster, sprayed paint also looks better and in less work than rolling and brushing.

Cleaning an Airless Paint Sprayer

But after the job is done, it is very important to clean the paint sprayer thoroughly, inside and out.


Before using your paint sprayer, tie plastic shopping bags around the wheels (if the model you own has wheels). The wheels are the hardest part of the sprayer to clean. During normal use, put a tarp or a sheet of plastic over the body of the sprayer to help avoid overspray. Be sure not to cover the vent on the rear end of the unit. If the hose is long enough, place the sprayer in a different room to avoid overspray.


Do not allow paint to sit in the paint sprayer for very long. The paint could begin to dry inside the machine and cause major problems. When rinsing the inside of the sprayer (as explained in step 1), the paint in the system can still be used. Do not discard.

  1. When you are finished painting for the day, place the intake hose of the paint sprayer into a bucket of water (for latex-based paints) or lacquer thinner (for oil-based paints).

  2. Point the spray gun into the paint bucket and pull the trigger allowing any unused paint to be saved for later. Release the trigger before water or lacquer thinner begins to spray out.

  3. Point the gun into a throw-away bucket and allow the remaining paint and water or thinner to spray through. Continue spraying water or thinner into the throw-away bucket until the water or thinner comes out clean and clear.

  4. Using scissors, shears, or a sharp knife, trim the bristles of a cheap paint brush to 1-inch in length.

  5. Pour about 2 cups of either paint thinner or lacquer thinner into a small plastic cup or bucket.

  6. Disassemble the spray gun and place all gun parts into the lacquer thinner to soak.

  7. Put a pair of protective gloves on (blue nitrile gloves work well). Put some lacquer thinner on a clean cloth rag and rub the oversprayed paint off of the frame and body of the paint sprayer.

  8. Using the trimmed paint brush, begin cleaning the paint off of the spray gun. The shorter bristles will help add some abrasive action along with the solvent to work any stubborn paint residue away.

  9. Filter the used lacquer thinner using a clean cloth rag and put the used thinner back into the original container for reuse.