How to Open a Pump Sprayer

I hate when the lid on my hand pump sprayer gets stuck. I used to end up turning the handle too hard until something broke. After some experimenting and a little patience, I came up with a helpful procedure to get the lid off of my hand pump sprayer without breaking it.

How to Remove a Hand Pump Sprayer Lid

I have found the key to opening a stubborn sprayer lid is getting a solid grip on the tank and the lid. This gives you the best chance to apply as much force as possible without risking damage to the sprayer. Textured gloves will increase your ability to get a good grip on the lid. I prefer the latex-coated work gloves that have some texture for better grip.

You may be tempted to put a wooden broom handle or similar item through the handle of the sprayer to get extra leverage. I would caution against this. If your lid is stuck tight, using this much leverage will most likely damage the pump handle. The safest way to open the lid will be to apply force directly to the lid.

Many of the hand pump garden-type sprayers have a lid that you can grip instead of the pump handle to turn it. If this is the type of lid you have do not use the handle to try and open the sprayer as this is a weaker spot and can break. Some hand sprayers are designed in such a way that you must use the handle, in this case, get a grip as low on the handle/pump assembly as possible. The Chapin Farm & Field sprayer is an example of a quality hand sprayer with a lid that has some ridges making it easier to grip.

hand pump sprayer lid
Two different hand pump lid types.

To open your sprayer lid, sit on the edge of a chair/bench/etc with the sprayer tank between your knees. Ideally, you should be wearing pants that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Use the soles of your shoes or boots to pinch the sprayer tank at the bottom. Grab the lid with one hand at noon and one at six o’clock. Then turn and the lid should begin to rotate.

Tips for Removing Stubborn Hand Sprayer Lids

If your lid does not come off after following the guide above, there are a few extra things to try.

Relieve Sprayer Pressure

Hand pump sprayers are typically equipped with a pressure release button or knob. Before attempting to remove the lid, make sure that you release the pressure inside the tank. If there is pressure trapped in the tank, this can apply force on the lid, keeping the threads on the lid tight against the threads on the tank opening. This will add to the force needed to open the lid.

Let the Sprayer Cool Down

This is referring to the sprayer and not your attitude after dealing with a stuck lid. Although you might benefit from a break, the real purpose is to let the sprayer cool down. It is common that hand pump sprayers are used in the heat of the day during the summer. Plastic expands as temperature rises and this can lead to a tighter sealed lid on your sprayer. Set the sprayer in the shade for a while, let it cool down, and try again. (You can also rinse off the outside with cool water to speed up the cool-down process, this also helps with the next tip.)

Lubricate the Lid

Sometimes sticky, viscous nature of the product you are spraying can lead to build-up on the sprayer lid and tank. This is another factor that can make it difficult to remove the lid. Rinsing the area where the lid and tank meet with water may help to dilute the residue and allow the lid to be more easily turned. In extreme cases, you can use WD-40. As with the water, spray all around where the lid and tank meet.  

How to Prevent Hand Pump Sprayer Lids From Sticking

One of the best ways to deal with stubborn spray lids not opening is to avoid the problem altogether. Here are some things you can do to prevent lids from getting stuck on your hand pump sprayer. 

Don’t Over-tighten the Lid

A bit obvious, but our natural instinct is to make sure the lid is on very tight in an attempt to avoid leaks. This can have the opposite effect. Over-torquing the lid can damage the o-ring seal, threads, and handle. This can lead to leaks and stuck lids. 

To avoid this, tighten the lid with one hand. When you can no longer turn the lid, pump the handle. If pumping the handle does not move the lid, the sprayer builds pressure and air does not leak out, the lid is on tight enough.

Don’t Over-pressurize the Sprayer.

Another common situation is pumping the handle too many times. Hand pump sprayers are rated to about 60-70 psi max. For most of these 7-10 pumps of the handle will get you the maximum pressure. Any additional strokes of the handle can lead to damage not to mention that additional pressure will make the lid hard to remove.  

Rinse Your Sprayer

When you have finished spraying, flush the pump with fresh water. Fill about ⅓ full of water and pump it through the hose, gun, and nozzle. Then rinse the tank and lid, inside and out. After rinsing, store the sprayer with the lid off so it can dry out completely.

In addition to water, you can use a tank neutralizer if you are dealing with especially harsh or corrosive chemicals. I recommend Prime Source Tank Cleaner Select because it will also help you prevent cross-contamination of chemicals. 

Sadly there are many plastic hand pump sprayers on the market that are not great quality, but you usually get what you pay for. The best defense against a stuck lid or other issues is buying a quality sprayer and maintaining it.


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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