Cleaning a Pump Sprayer: The Ultimate Guide

Do you want to know the best way to keep your pump sprayer working long-term? Without a doubt, properly cleaning your sprayer after each use will help to reduce any negative effects from the pesticides, cleaning products, or other liquids that you spray.

With that said, what is the best way to clean a pump sprayer? And what types of cleaners should you use? There are many aspects to consider and in this post, we will dive into the nitty-gritty of the best methods to clean a pump sprayer.

Introduction to Pump Sprayer Maintenance

Maintaining your pump sprayer isn’t just about prolonging its life; it is also about ensuring that the sprayer is effective. Regular cleaning prevents clogs, maintains consistent sprayer performance, and avoids cross-contamination between different chemicals.

Recommended Cleaning Solutions for a Pump Sprayer

One of the first questions you probably have is: “What type of cleaner should I use in a pump sprayer?” Well, there are several options that will work. The specific type of cleaning solution to use in your sprayer depends on what you need to accomplish. Let’s look at the different cleaners and when to use them.

Good Old Water

Often, water is the simplest and most effective cleaning agent, especially when you have been using a water-soluble substance. Water is obviously readily available and the least expensive option for cleaning. 

For best results use warm water and employ the “triple rinse” method to thoroughly clean out your sprayer tank and flush out the system. You can read a detailed guide to the triple rinse procedure here


Regular household soaps can be used with water to provide a more deep clean to your sprayer and the components. It is important to ensure all soap is thoroughly rinsed out of the sprayer to avoid residue that can affect future spray solutions. Again, utilize the “triple rinse” method to ensure all the soap is removed. 

Do not use abrasive soap or detergent as it could cause damage to components like gaskets, o-rings, seals, or diaphragms.

Commercial Sprayer Cleaners

These are formulated specifically for sprayers and are intended to remove chemical residue in order to “neutralize” the sprayer. This ensures there is no cross-contamination of chemicals. These are often referred to as “spray tank cleaners”. 

This is extremely important when switching from one chemical/pesticide to another as some chemistries do not mix well and can result in sludge that gums up the sprayer. It is also vital to use a tank cleaner to prevent chemicals from getting sprayed somewhere they could do harm. For example, if you spray Roundup and then want to switch to a herbicide safe for your grass, you want to ensure all the Roundup is out before you spray grass.

To dive deeper into specific topics related to pump sprayers, we have some excellent resources for you. If you’re curious about how Roundup might impact your lawn, check out our detailed post “Can You Spray Roundup on Your Lawn”. Additionally, check out the article on using the same sprayer for various pesticides and herbicides.

Here are some tank cleaner products that are extremely effective:

Vinegar Solution

A mix of water and vinegar can be an effective eco-friendly option, especially for calcium and mineral deposits. Diluted vinegar solutions are typically not harmful to most backpack sprayers and hand pump sprayers but it is important to rinse out completely after using vinegar to clean your sprayer. 

Vinegar can also be used as a herbicide. Herbicide mixtures are typically stronger than household vinegar solutions, so it is important to ensure your sprayer is able to handle the acidity of these vinegar products. You can see more details about the types of sprayers that can spray vinegar here.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is an excellent choice for cleaning lawn and garden sprayers due to its quick evaporation rate, leaving minimal residue. This makes it perfect for cleaning parts that need to dry rapidly, such as nozzles and filters. 

Rubbing alcohol is also adept at cutting through greasy residues and oils, which is beneficial for cleaning sprayers that have been used with oil-based substances. Safe for use on a variety of materials like metals, glass, and plastics, it is a versatile cleaner suitable for different sprayer components.

Choosing the Best Cleaner for Pump Parts

Selecting the right cleaner for your sprayer is important. To determine which type of cleaner you use you need to consider the liquid that you have been using the sprayer to apply.

Determining the most appropriate cleaner for your sprayer involves considering a few key factors:

  • Type of Substance Used: The cleaner you choose should be effective against the type of substance you’ve been using in your sprayer. For instance, If you’ve used water-soluble substances like certain herbicides or pesticides, plain water or a mild detergent solution might suffice. For oil-based substances, a degreaser or rubbing alcohol could be more effective.
  • Material of the Sprayer: Check the material of your sprayer and its components. Some cleaners, especially harsher chemicals, might not be suitable for all materials and could cause damage. For example, vinegar’s acidity might be too harsh for metals.
  • Environmental and Health Safety: If you prefer eco-friendly options or are concerned about chemical exposure, opt for natural cleaners like vinegar or biodegradable detergents.
  • Strength of the Cleaner Needed: Assess the level of cleaning required. For regular maintenance, a milder cleaner might suffice, but for deep cleaning (e.g., after prolonged or heavy use), you might need a stronger, commercial sprayer cleaner.
  • Manufacturer’s Recommendations: Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Some sprayers may have specific recommendations or warnings regarding certain types of cleaners.
  • Purpose of the Sprayer: If you’re using the sprayer for sensitive areas like food gardens, you might prioritize non-toxic, food-safe cleaning agents.

Specific Cleaner Needs for Different Sprayer Parts

  • Gaskets and Seals: Use gentle cleaners as harsh chemicals can damage these parts.
  • Nozzles: Soapy water
  • Tanks: Triple rinse with fresh water

Cleaning a Pump Sprayer After Spraying Pesticide, Herbicide, Fertilizer, Etc. 

  • Empty and Rinse: Immediately after use, empty any remaining herbicide and rinse the sprayer with water.
  • Fill with Cleaning Solution: Use a commercial sprayer cleaner or a mild detergent solution.
  • Shake: Shake the sprayer to distribute the cleaner.
  • Spray: Spray the cleaning solution through the nozzle to clean internal pathways.
  • Final Rinse and Dry: Rinse thoroughly with water and dry all parts before reassembling.

For a deep clean, disassemble the sprayer and use a gentle brush with soapy water to clean individual components. 

Best Practices

  • Clean your sprayer immediately after use to prevent herbicide residue from setting.
  • Pay extra attention to nozzles and filters where residues commonly accumulate.
  • Regularly check the filter for clogs or damage.
  • Replace filters as needed to maintain optimal performance.

Cleaning a Sprayer Filter

  • Remove the Filter: Carefully disassemble the filter from the sprayer.
  • Soak and Scrub: Soak the filter in a cleaning solution, then gently scrub to remove debris.
  • Rinse Thoroughly: Ensure no residue remains.
  • Dry and Reassemble: Dry completely before reassembling.

Cleaning Sprayer Nozzles

Nozzles are prone to plugs or partial clogs. It is extremely important to keep them clean, that is why I wrote an entire article on how to clean sprayer nozzles

Conclusion: The Key to Longevity

Regular and thorough cleaning of your pump sprayer is an investment in the longevity and efficiency of your equipment. By following these steps and recommendations, you’ll ensure that your sprayer remains a reliable tool.

Shane Blomendahl

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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