Tips for Cleaning Graco Airless Paint Sprayer Parts

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Cleaning Graco Airless Sprayer Parts

I've owned and used Graco airless paint sprayers throughout my painting career. Their contractor sprayers are built to last if you take care of them and carefully clean parts after every use. I've owned a Graco 495 Ultra Max since 2009, and the sprayer still sprays as good as the first time I used it.

If you don't flush paint out of the sprayer with the appropriate cleaner and clean parts thoroughly, paint particles start sticking to everything inside, causing loss of pressure, or problems with the spray gun. There is nothing more frustrating than having to take apart and troubleshoot an inoperable sprayer when you need it the most for a painting project. You can avoid problems and having to replace parts prematurely through preventative maintenance.

Flush Out the Sprayer

The paint, or whatever material was used in the sprayer, should always be cycled out of the pump and spray hose right after you're done spraying, using the right cleaner, until the cleaning fluid comes out of the spray gun nozzle clear.

While you can leave paint in the machine overnight, I don't recommend it. Whatever you do, never leave Zinsser BIN primer (white pigmented shellac) in your Graco sprayer overnight, or even for more than a couple hours at a time, otherwise you'll ruin the filters and potentially damage the pump.

Before you cycle cleaner through the machine, unscrew the spray tip guard from the spray gun and turn off the pressure. To cycle your cleaner through the machine at a low pressure, squeeze the trigger and keep the pressure adjusted at a very low setting.

  • Latex Paint and Primer

First, pour warm water into a five gallon bucket. Wipe paint off of the siphon hose with a clean rag so your clean water bucket doesn't become contaminated. I use a mix of water and ammonia to clean latex paint and BIN primer from my airless sprayer. Ammonia breaks down and loosens paint particles really well to keep your spray hose and pump clean for storage.

  • Oil Paint and Primer

Repeat the same process as for removing latex paint from the machine, except use paint thinner, or mineral spirits, instead of water. Never attempt to remove oil paint from the spray hose using water.

  • Alcohol-Based Shellac Primer (BIN)

Flush out the sprayer with ammonia, or denatured alcohol. I use ammonia mixed with warm water to clean BIN from my sprayer. You can buy cheap bottles of ammonia for a couple dollars. Denatured alcohol is more expensive, but also works really good for cleaning clogged filters. Wear protective gloves to prevent skin exposure.

Cleaning Graco Airless Spray Tips

Don't forget to clean your Graco spray tips after each use. Leaving paint inside the orifice of the spray tip clogs the hole when the paint dries, and next time you need to spray, the tip will be unusable.

The best time to clean spray tips is right after you're done flushing cleaner through the sprayer. Once your sprayer is clean, screw the tip guard back onto the spray gun. Insert the tip into the guard in the reverse position. Turn up the pressure and pull the trigger to clear the spray tip of any paint stuck inside.

Cleaning Graco Spray Gun Filters

The Graco airless sprayer parts and filters might be different on your model, but either way, always clean the filters after each use. Running water through the sprayer alone isn't enough to remove paint from the filters, especially enamel and sticky coatings like BIN primer.

A clean filter keeps everything flowing smoothly, while preventing debris from entering the gun. If the filter clogs, the gun won't work.

Unscrew the spray gun and remove the pencil filter inside. If you bought your sprayer brand new from Graco, they include a special cleaning tool that works great for cleaning this filter. You push the tool tightly through the center of the filter to remove gunk and paint build up. Swoosh the filter around in your cleaner to clean the mesh screen.

Manifold Pump Filter

If you're losing pressure, check the manifold. The manifold filter prevents debris from entering and damaging the pump. When it's clogged, you'll lose pressure. By keeping the manifold clean, you'll prolong the life of the machine.

On my Graco 495 Ultra Max, the manifold unscrews and lifts out for cleaning. The easiest way to clean it is with a toothbrush and the appropriate cleaner. The mesh holes should be clean and unobstructed.

Cleaning Clogged Airless Filters

When airless filters get clogged, I've found the easiest way to remove the build-up is by soaking them in de-natured alcohol, or ammonia, depending on the material in the sprayer, but denatured alcohol dissolves primer and paint fast. Scrub the surface with a toothbrush to remove residue from the mesh screen.

If you spray BIN primer, the filters on your sprayer will clog badly and break if you wait too long to clean them. When spraying BIN all day, I clean the filters every hour with ammonia.

Cleaning the Inlet Strainer

The inlet strainer is the metal screen where paint is siphoned directly from the container into your sprayer. This strainer is the first line of defense against debris that can cause clogging and pump damage.

Even though the inlet strainer is supposed to filter out debris, small chunks already in the paint can from the factory, or even a blade of grass, can pass through the strainer holes and cause problems. The best way to avoid this is to get in the habit of placing a paint strainer bag over the inlet strainer. Tie it off, or use a rubber band, to keep it in place. The small holes of the strainer bag are more effective at preventing debris from passing through into the machine.

The inlet strainer should be carefully cleaned after painting to clear the screen holes too. Over time, the holes become clogged, reducing paint flow. The best way to clean the strainer is with a garden hose, or if clogged, soak the part in denatured alcohol. If the screen is damaged, or totally clogged, replace it with a new one.

Storing A Graco Airless Sprayer

Properly storing your Graco sprayer is very important. Don't store your sprayer with water in the pump, especially in below freezing temperatures. Leaving water in the pump for a prolonged period time can cause corrosion and pump damage if the water freezes.

Always release pressure during storage to prolong the life of the packings. Flush the water out of the pump and cycle in pump protector for storage. You can use Graco Pump Armor, which I used for years, but it's expensive. An inexpensive alternative is to go to a major home improvement outlet and buy a cheap bottle of marine anti-freeze. The bottle is double the size of the pricey Pump Armor and does the same thing.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can ammonia be purchased?

Answer: You can find ammonia in the household cleaner section of a grocery store, or a home improvement store. I buy mine from Menards and Home Depot. The cost is only a couple dollars per bottle. You can order ammonia from Amazon too if you can't buy it in a store near you.

© 2019 Matt G.

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