15 Common Questions Beginners Have about Sprayers

No matter what you need to spray, lawns, golf courses, pastures, etc, if you are a beginner you will no doubt have questions. Setting up your sprayer to perform accurately and evenly can be complicated. Sometimes it is hard to get started if you don’t have the answers you need. Here are several common sprayer questions that you might have if you are new to operating and working with sprayers.

Questions About Sprayer Type

How Do I Calibrate a Sprayer?

When spraying herbicides or other chemical products your goal should be even and accurate coverage. In other words, if you want to use a boom sprayer to effectively spray your yard, pasture, field, etc., you need to calibrate your sprayer to ensure you are applying the correct rate. 

Calibrating your sprayer means determining how much liquid your sprayer uses over a given area. The goal is to determine the amount of your herbicide or other chemicals you need to mix into your sprayer tank. Most product labels will provide the amount of herbicide or pesticide to apply per acre for different types of weeds or pests you want to get rid of. Some products may also provide a rate for a certain number of square feet. 

You can measure an area 1/10th of an acre (about 209 x 209 feet) and then cover it with your sprayer at a constant speed, maintaining a fairly consistent overlap. If it takes you 4 gallons of water to cover this area, then you know that it would require 40 gallons to cover an entire acre at the same speed. You can then look at the product label, if it directs you to apply 10 ounces per acre, your mix ratio would be 10 ounces of chemical for every 40 gallons of water. 

For a more detailed explanation, be sure to read this post on calibrating an ATV sprayer where I go step-by-step through the Simple calibration process. 

What Causes a Sprayer to Lose Pressure?

There are several factors that may result in the loss of pressure from your sprayer. Some sprayer types may have several different things that could be the problem.

Common issues for hand pump and backpack sprayers:

  • Clogged nozzle: If the nozzle becomes clogged with debris or dried chemical residue, it can restrict the flow of liquid and cause the pressure to drop.
  • Leaks: A sprayer may lose pressure if it has a leak in the hose, tank, or other components.
  • Air in the system: If there is air in the system, it can reduce the overall pressure of the sprayer. This can be caused by a malfunctioning pump or by a faulty seal.
  • Worn seals or gaskets: Over time, seals and gaskets can become worn or damaged, which can cause leaks and reduce the pressure of the sprayer.

Simple hand sprayers or backpack sprayers often lose pressure because the sprayer tank pump assembly is no longer sealing properly. If you examine the sprayer and final signs of cracks in the tank or lid, you may be able to repair it with an epoxy sealer or super glue. If your sprayer is not sealing up tight around the lid or other connections. Check the o-rings and gaskets. If the seals are not damaged, applying some petroleum jelly to o-rings may help solve the problem.

RELATED: Hand Pump Sprayer Troubleshooting

With more complex sprayers you will have more potential causes for a loss in pressure. The natural inclination is to suspect that there may be an issue with the pump, but this is not always the case.

In addition to air leaks, and clogged nozzles, be sure to examine all the sprayer controls. This includes any regulating valves, flow meters, pressure sensors, gauges, etc. Often a pump can be working just fine but another component is not working properly and the sprayer ultimately loses pressure.

The pump can definitely be the issue. If your sprayer uses a centrifugal pump you can find a full troubleshooting guide in this article. If you have a 12-volt diaphragm pump, refer to this guide for information on diagnosing the issue. Finally, if you have a skid sprayer or tree sprayer with a high-pressure diaphragm pump, this article on tree sprayers contains more helpful information about diaphragm pump issues. 

What is Spot Spraying?

Spot spraying is a method of applying herbicides to specific areas of a property, rather than applying them over the entire area. This is often done to target weeds or pests that are concentrated in a particular area, rather than spreading chemicals over the entire lawn, garden, field, etc. 

Spot spraying can be done with hand pump sprayers, backpack sprayers, or 12-volt pump sprayers (which are often called “spot sprayers”). The operator uses a trigger wand or a spray gun instead of a spray boom or boomless nozzle that would be found on a broadcast sprayer.

Spot spraying can be an effective way to control weeds and pests while minimizing the use of chemicals and reducing the risk of unintended impacts on other plants or the environment. It can also be more efficient and cost-effective than treating an entire area with herbicides.

Spot spraying with a hand pump sprayer.

What is Broadcast Spraying?

Broadcast spraying is a method of applying herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals over a wide area, such as a lawn, garden, or field. The chemicals are typically dispersed using a sprayer that is mounted on a vehicle, often a tractor, mower, truck, etc. The sprayer releases a fine mist of the chemical solution, which is meant to cover a large area evenly. Typically, this is achieved via several evenly spaced nozzles on a spray boom.

Broadcast spraying is often used to control weeds, insects, diseases, or other pests over a large area. It can be an effective and efficient method of pest control, lawn care, and crop care. Broadcast sprayers are made in a wide variety of sizes with many optional capabilities and features.

What Kind of Sprayer Do I Need?

The type of sprayer you need depends on how much land you need to cover, the type of liquid you will be spraying, your budget, and how you want to spray it.

The type of spraying, lawn, pasture, crops, etc., is the main determining factor. Obviously, a backpack sprayer will be inadequate to spray a large field and a large pull-type boom sprayer is unnecessary for a small lawn. But once you determine the type of sprayer you want to use, you can start to identify the different specific features you will need.

For more detailed guidance on choosing a sprayer, view this beginner’s guide which will walk through all the different sprayer types and their applications. 

How Much Should I Spray On My Lawn?

To determine the volume of chemicals to apply to your lawn, you will need to refer to the instructions on the chemical product label. The label will provide information on the recommended application rate, which is the amount of chemical to use per unit of area (ounces per acre, ounces per 1000 sq ft, etc.). It may also provide guidance on the volume of water to use and the appropriate sprayer settings to achieve the desired coverage. 

How Much Pesticide Do I Mix in My Sprayer?

To determine how much of each different chemical you need to mix in your sprayer, you will need to know the volume of your chemical needed over a certain area. As discussed above this is typically ounces per a certain amount of square feet or ounces per gallon. Again, you will find this rate information on the label. 

You will also need to know how much liquid your sprayer uses over that given area at your desired spraying speed. Example: at a constant speed of 4 mph your sprayer may apply 10 gallons of liquid over an acre. If your product requires 2 ounces per acre, then mix 2 ounces for every 10 gallons of water in your sprayer. Just remember to maintain that same speed going forward or your rate will be off. 

Finding out how much your sprayer actually sprays over a given area is called calibrating your sprayer. You can find a detailed guide in this article where I break down the steps to calibrate a simple ATV sprayer, but it applies to most sprayers.

Of course, it is important to follow the instructions on the chemical product label carefully and to use the appropriate protective equipment when mixing and applying chemicals.

Are All Sprayer Nozzles The Same?

No, not all sprayer nozzles are the same. There may be several different types of nozzle that work for the same application, but there are a host of attributes that vary from one nozzle type to another. There are several different spray patterns, nozzle sizes, and droplet sizes. Nozzles also come in several different materials like brass, nylon, stainless steel, ceramic, poly, etc.

Nozzles control how much liquid is going to land on your target as well as how it covers the target. This is important because when it comes to pesticides and herbicides, the different chemicals do you work the same way. Some require more coverage on the surface of the weeds and some just need to hit the ground around the weed to be effective.

A nozzle designed to produce a large droplet over a wide area may be ok for some herbicides, but for herbicides that need to coat the surface of the weed, it will be less effective. This is why it is important to choose the right nozzle.

RELATED: 14 Common Sprayer Nozzle Questions

How Do I Choose a Sprayer Nozzle?

There are two main aspects of selecting the right sprayer nozzle for your needs. First, you need to find the right type of nozzle for your application and second, you need the right size nozzle to achieve your desired application rate. 

Selecting the right sprayer nozzle for your sprayer will depend on the type of chemicals you are using, the coverage area you need to treat, and the application rate you need to achieve. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a sprayer nozzle:

  1. Type of chemical: Different chemicals may require different sprayer nozzles to achieve the desired coverage and application rate. For example, systemic herbicides may require a different nozzle than contact herbicides.
  2. Application rate: The application rate is the amount of chemical you need to apply per unit of area. The nozzle you choose should be able to deliver the desired application rate based on the coverage area and the chemical you are using.
  3. Sprayer type: The type of sprayer you are using may also affect the type of nozzle you can use. For example, a backpack sprayer would typically be used with a cone nozzle or adjustable nozzle, while a boom sprayer would use a flat fan or flood nozzle.

To select the right sprayer nozzle, it is important to refer to the instructions on the chemical product label and the manufacturer’s instructions for your sprayer. If you are new to spraying, you might find this article helpful, it breakdowns in detail all the factors to consider and help you choose a nozzle for a boom sprayer. You may also want to consider consulting with a professional or contacting the manufacturer for guidance on the appropriate nozzle to use for your specific application. 

Can I Use the Same Sprayer for Herbicide and Fertilizer?

Definitely. Sprayers built for lawns, gardens, and agriculture, are intended to be used with a variety of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Thoroughly rinsing and flushing out your sprayer before you switch from one chemical to another or from one fertilizer to another will help to eliminate cross-contamination. It will also prevent chemical residue from building up inside your sprayer resulting in plugs and poor coverage.

Chemicals and fertilizers vary widely in their makeup and ingredients. Just because something is used as fertilizer or herbicide, don’t assume your specific sprayer will work fine. Many active ingredients found in fertilizers, pesticides, etc., will be harder on some plastics, rubbers, and metals than others. It is always wise to refer to chemical compatibility databases when applicable. 

Can You Fix a Lawn and Garden Sprayer?

Depending on the issue, you can certainly repair a lawn and garden sprayer. However, the specific steps you will need to take to fix the sprayer will depend on the cause of the problem. 

  1. Identify the problem: Determine the cause of the issue by inspecting the sprayer and considering any recent changes or problems you have encountered.
  2. Clean the nozzle: If the sprayer is not producing a consistent stream or if the pressure is low, the nozzle may be clogged with debris or chemical residue. Cleaning the nozzle may fix the problem.
  3. Check for leaks: If the sprayer is losing pressure or if the chemical is not being applied evenly, there may be a leak in the hose, tank, or another component. Small cracks where air is escaping may not be easy to see. You can use soapy water in a small spray bottle to squirt on the tank, hose, etc. When you pump up the sprayer, any area leaking are should show bubbles. 
  4. Air in the system: This can result from over-pumping or clogs in the sprayer. Air gets trapped in the pump assembly. Open the lid, pull the trigger, and disconnect the hoses where possible. Let all air escape and reconnect all the components. 
  5. Replace worn or damaged parts: If seals, gaskets, or other parts are worn or damaged, they may need to be replaced to fix the sprayer.

This is a short list, if you need more information be sure to check out my articles on hand pump sprayer and backpack sprayer troubleshooting

How Big of a Sprayer Do I Need?

To determine the size of sprayer you need, you will need to consider the size of the area you need to treat and the recommended application rate for the chemical you are using. The volume you need to spray per acre (or whatever unit of area you are using) multiplied by the number of acres you need to spray is a good starting point. For example, if you want to spray 5 acres at a rate of 10 gallons per acre, then a sprayer with a volume of 50 gallons will be required to cover the whole area without refilling the sprayer.

Here are some general things to consider when deciding on what size sprayer you need:

  1. Determine the size of the area you need to treat. Acres, square feet, etc. 
  2. Determine the volume you need to spray over your area. This is the total volume of your final mixture of water and chemical.
  3. How will you spray? If you have a lot of area to cover it can take a lot of time and refilling with a backpack sprayer. But if you have hard-to-reach areas it may be your only option.
  4. Can your vehicle handle the weight? The size and horsepower of your vehicle will limit the sprayer size you can use. For example, 100 gallons of spray mixture will weigh at least 800 pounds. This is before you consider the weight of the sprayer itself.
  5. Boom width. A wider boom will cover your area faster, but if you have obstacles it may be hard to maneuver. If you have land with a lot of obstacles, a boomless sprayer may be the better option. 

RELATED: How Many Acres Can Different Sprayer Sizes Cover?

Why are There so Many Different Types of Sprayers? 

There are many different types of sprayers available because they are used for a wide variety of applications, including agriculture, horticulture, pest control, landscaping, and more. Different sprayers are designed to be used with different types of chemicals and to deliver different application rates and coverage areas. Some sprayers are designed for small, targeted applications, while others are designed for larger, more expansive coverage. Some sprayers are manual, while others are equipped with electronic controls.

Additionally, sprayers are designed to be used in different environments and for different purposes. For example, there are sprayers designed for use in gardens and greenhouses, as well as sprayers designed for use in fields and orchards. There are also specialized sprayers for use in aquatic environments and in pest control.

The wide variety of sprayers available allows users to select the best tool for their specific needs, whether they are professional landscapers or home gardeners.

What is a Boomless Sprayer?

A boomless sprayer is a type of sprayer that is designed to apply chemicals or other liquids over a wide area without the use of a boom. Boomless sprayers typically use one or two, wide-angle spray nozzles that are mounted on the back of the sprayer. These nozzles are called “boomless” nozzles and they are designed to provide similar flow rates and coverage as a conventional spray boom with multiple nozzles. 

Boomless sprayers are often used to apply herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals to lawns, fields, orchards, or other large areas. They are particularly useful for areas that are difficult to reach with a boom-mounted sprayer. Boomless sprayers are designed for use with ATVs, tractors, trucks, or other vehicles.

If you want to learn more about boomless sprayers or how to choose a boomless nozzle, check out this article that explains the different boomless nozzles and how they work.

How Far Will a Sprayer Reach?

The distance that a sprayer can spray will depend on the type of sprayer, the nozzle, and the pressure of the spray. Some factors that can affect the spray distance of a sprayer include:

  1. Nozzle type: Different nozzle types will produce different spray patterns and spray distances. For example, a wide-angle nozzle may produce a wider spray pattern but a shorter spray distance, while a narrow-angle nozzle may produce a more concentrated spray pattern but a longer spray distance.
  2. Pressure: The pressure of the spray will affect the distance that the chemical can travel. Higher pressure will generally result in a longer spray distance, while lower pressure will result in a shorter distance.
  3. Chemical: The characteristics of the chemical being sprayed can also affect the spray distance. For example, heavier or more viscous chemicals may not spray as far as lighter or less viscous chemicals.
  4. Wind: Wind can affect the spray distance of a sprayer, particularly if the nozzle is not properly adjusted or if the chemical is not being applied in the direction of the wind.
  5. Spray Gun: Different spray gun designs can affect the distance of the spray. For tree spraying, special turbine spray guns are designed to reach extremely far distances. 

In general, a backpack sprayer or hand pump sprayer may be able to spray up to 30 feet, while a skid sprayer with a high-pressure pump may be able to spray up to 100 feet or more. However, these are just general estimates and the actual spray distance will vary based on the factors mentioned above.

RELATED: How Far Will a Pump Sprayer Spray?


I have more than a decade of experience using, building, studying, and testing sprayers in several applications. With the knowledge I have gained I want to provide straight forward and detailed answers for DIY homeowners, farmers, and commercial turf and tree care pros.

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