How To Clean A Wagner Paint Sprayer

Clean a Wagner paint sprayer

So, you finally used that Wagner paint sprayer you bought. Good for you! Keeping that paint sprayer clean is essential to the performance of the gun. Once the gun sits for too long, you could be in trouble. Although these sturdy units are super reliable and among the best airless paint sprayers in the market today, proper maintenance is key to a long run and that means your first step is that you learn how to clean a Wagner paint sprayer.

How long a run that’ll be (meaning, how long will your Wagner paint sprayer remain fully functional and ready to spray coatings anytime you need) depends largely on how well you clean it. Paint sprayers require thorough cleaning and detailing in order to remain at the top of their game.

A neglected paint sprayer will leak and overspray, experience additional wear-and-tear and have a reduced operational capability and service life. All of this results in added costs (for repairs, or for replacing your unit earlier than necessary, or simply due to loss of work). Meanwhile, a spiffy-clean Wagner paint sprayer can be a loyal assistant in all your painting jobs for years to come. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why you absolutely need a reliable step-by-step guide for cleaning your Wagner paint sprayer. Lucky for you, that’s precisely what this is!

Follow these steps to a cleaner Wagner paint sprayer

1. Cleaning your airless paint sprayer

Once you’re finished with a paint job, the first thing you will do to clean your paint sprayer is clear any existing paint out of the sprayer and hose before it begins to harden. If the paint hardens inside your hose, sprayer or paint gun, your unit will begin to malfunction and become damaged. Repairs aren’t cheap and parts are not easy to find, so it’s best to strive for cleanliness.

If you’re using water-soluble paints or coatings, all you need is some water (lukewarm works best). First, take your suction tube and place it in a bucket of water. At this point, the unit is still full of paint. Let it gobble up the water and pump it through the system using the prime pump, letting the remaining paint drain into a paint bucket. You can achieve this at high pressure too: use the spray setting to spray paint into the bucket, until water comes out. That way, you can keep paint wasting to a minimum.

Next up, you’ll want to clean your filters and sieves. There are three filters you’ll want to inspect and clear of any residue: the suction tube strainer, the main sprayer filter, and the paint gun filter. The first can be found inside your intake tube, hanging directly in the bucket. You can remove the screws holding it in place and give it a thorough rinse. The main filter is inside a housing that you’ll have to pop open, but it’s pretty easy to rinse after that. Finally, your gun filter is located in the handle and can be easily removed for cleaning.

Finally, if you’re using solvent-based coatings with your Wagner paint sprayer, you’ll be following the same overall steps, but replacing water with paint thinner. Acetone and similarly harsh substances are best avoided, though, as they’re pretty rough on the seals. The seals in your paint gun are also vulnerable to some solvents, so avoid submerging them. Always remember to keep things ventilated when handling solvents.

2. Cleaning your nozzle

The nozzle may be a small part of your airless paint sprayer, but it’s definitely crucial for the performance of your unit. Many modern nozzles are actually reversible, simplifying what you need to do in the event of a blockage: flip it over and loosen it up! However, long-term cleaning and storage need a more dedicated solution.

These systems are typically shaped like an hourglass, and they allow you to prevent paint sticking to your airless nozzles, especially the ones that aren’t reversible, sharply reducing their service life. You place your nozzle in your hourglass-shaped cleaning system, fill it up with special cleaning fluid, and you’re all set!

For the gnarliest blockages, however, you may need to use a nozzle needle. Poke it right into the nozzle channel, then pick at the stubborn residues until they’re loose. You can find nozzle needles, cleaning fluid and the cleaning systems provided by Wagner under the TipClean brand. FARBMAX also makes a splendid cleaning system for airless sprayers.

3. Cleaning your paint gun

It’s not just the nozzles and filters. Your paint spray gun gets pretty dirty after every use, as does your nozzle holder. Mind the seat of the filter as well as the paint channel itself, and, using small brushes, do your best to scrub out any remaining paint residues you find.

Be very gentle, though! Cleaning your paint gun is the #1-way users break or damage the seals between the gun and the nozzle. It’s also why you shouldn’t just drop your paint gun in a bucket of paint thinner. If you do damage the seals, you’ll have to find replacement parts and replace them with new ones. Seals are carried by Wagner, FARBMAX, Graco, and a few others. Remember, some of these parts are not always easy to find!

4. Proper maintenance of your paint sprayer

Your Wagner paint sprayer is a durable piece of machinery, but with proper handling and maintenance. When planning to use your airless paint sprayer over the course of several days, particularly with extended pauses between usages, the evaporation of coatings in your unit, added to standard corrosive processes, will undoubtedly lead to eventual sticking of your valves (both intake and outlet).

These issues can impede both proper operation of the suction tube and the spraying function. If the adhesion becomes severe enough, you may have to take the valves out of the system for cleaning or replacement (both are costly options).

But fear not! You can protect your airless paint sprayer through multi-day jobs or long pauses with special care products, such as Wagner EasyClean, FARBMAX Airless Care, or Graco Pump Armor. All you need to do is dilute them with water and have your paint sprayer suck them up. Once inside, let the water/fluid mixture sit in place until you need to use your sprayer again. It’ll keep your pumps from sticking, and you just need to flush it out before beginning the next job.

5. Maintenance of your diaphragm pumps

Your Wagner paint sprayer contains a diaphragm pump filled with hydraulic oil. That oil needs constant monitoring! Oil loss isn’t normal, so if you detect any changes in oil level (using the included measuring rod or sight glass), you not only need to refill the pump with hydraulic oil but also find the cause of the leak and address it. The oil also needs changing – first, after approximately 100 hours of operation, and then, every 500 hours of operation.

6. Maintenance of your piston pumps

Your Wagner paint sprayer also packs piston pumps, which are responsible for creating the pressure that moves coatings through your unit. These pistons need oiling before operation (every time!), though not much oil is needed; a splash should be more than sufficient. The special piston oil you need protects both the piston and the seals. Graco and FARBMAX carry pistol pump oil solutions that should work just fine with your machine.


If you run into trouble with your airless paint sprayer, it’s likely you’re not the first to encounter the situation. Read through this section to find the most common problems you can experience with your paint sprayer, and how to address them.

Leaking paint from the sprayer

Using an adjustable spanner, remove your spray tip. Beneath, you’ll find an atomizer valve and tip washer. Sometimes, they get a little loose, causing leaks. Tighten them, replace the tip, and try again. Also worth noting is that clear coatings and certain kinds of stains will always leak, even with a tight valve and tip washer. Take the necessary precautions.

Leaking paint from the nozzle

The nozzle should only spray when your unit is on and activated. If paint comes out at any other time, inspect your paint gun seal. Chances are you’ll be needing a new one.

If the sprayer is brand new (or almost new) and the nozzle is leaking, it’s likely that the gun was put together incorrectly. If you did it yourself, check your manual, disassemble and reassemble your gun, and try again. If it was put together by the manufacturer, contact them – it’s probably still under warranty.

Spray patterns that trail off

If you’re using your paint spray gun right, you should be delivering a powerful and consistent spray at regular pressure, for the best possible results. But if your spray patterns are trailing off, the result can be quite unseemly. So, what gives?

Your paint might be too thick or your nozzle may have weakened. If you find that it’s the paint, use a different paint or use paint thinner to get a runnier consistency. Heavy paint will eventually clog your filters and nozzles, so keep an eye on them. If it’s the nozzle, you’ll have to replace it.

No spray

A painter’s worst nightmare? Not really. If your unit isn’t spraying paint, there are several things you should try before shopping for a new one. First, check the prime/spray knob (it should be on a spray setting, and often is what people are overlooking). Then, check the ground level – is your sprayer on a flat, level surface? If it isn’t, that can prevent its proper operation.

Next up, check your nozzle. It could be set in the default “clean” position, rather than “spray”, preventing any paint from coming out. If that’s not it, check to see if your gun filter is clogged from things like dirt, grime or paint residue. Remove it with a wrench and give a good rinse with warm, soapy water, as well as an oil-based or mineral-based cleaner. Finally, repeat this process with your nozzle, checking for clogs.

Spraying air

Is your Wagner paint sprayer is spraying air instead of paint (or alongside it)? That can be very frustrating, but fortunately, solutions are quite simple. First off, check your paint bucket – if the level is too low for the suction intake to fully submerge, you’ll get some air in. Fill it right back up and the problem should disappear as soon as the last of the air is purged from the lines.

Motor problems

Wagner paint sprayers have a pretty reliable motor inside – the heart of your machine. However, no motor is 100% issue-free, and you may notice your Wagner paint sprayer motor failing under some circumstances.

If it happens to you, check the cord. And we don’t mean checking that it’s actually plugged in (though, well, you should absolutely make sure that it is!) – we mean check the length. Very lengthy cords, including extension cords, tend to strain your motor and overheat your unit. This can cause it to underperform or seize up.

If that’s the case, try moving the unit closer to the outlet so you can use a shorter cord. If a long cord is a must to finish the job, try to work quickly or in brief intervals, to let the motor rest and prevent overheating, which severely reduces the service life of your unit.

Dead motor

If your airless paint sprayer suddenly refuses to start up, it can be a bit more worrisome. First off, check your cord, and try to avoid using extension cords at all. If that’s not it, check the pressure control knob and make sure it’s in the right setting.

If that doesn’t solve it, there may be a problem with your electric outlet. Plug your Wagner paint sprayer into several other outlets and check if it works. If it does, your outlet is the problem. If it doesn’t, it’s definitely the sprayer. Contact Wagner customer support as soon as possible.

No pressure

If you can hear your motor running and your paint bucket is nice and full, but within moments of beginning to spray, the pressure suddenly drops off, there’ a few possible causes. First off, check your inlet valve. If it’s dirty, use a ratchet wrench to release the valve, and using latex-based cleaner and soapy warm water, clean all six parts (the inlet valve itself, the inlet filling and the four O-rings).

Another possibility is that your paint is too thick. Use some paint thinner and see if it helps. Check your paint gun filter as well, as it can get clogged up with excess paint. If that’s the case, you’ll have to clean it or replace it. Inspect and clean your nozzle as well. If it’s an old nozzle, you may need to replace it outright.

Pressure knob problems

Your Wagner paint sprayer has a pressure control knob that can be set to prime or spray. If it’s in the wrong position, the sprayer won’t work at all. However, sometimes you’ll see paint in the sprayer, yet, no paint comes out the nozzle, and upon checking, you’ll find the knob is in the right position. What gives?

Well, the pressure knob is actually a valve, and like any valve, it can get clogged up with residues. If that happens to your sprayer, you’ll have to contact Wagner for further assistance. To prevent this type of clogging, make sure you keep all your filters and both intake and outlet valves clean, and that you keep your unit on level ground.

Paint finish is a grainy texture

If you notice strange textures, grains and even lumps in your coats of paint upon spraying, instead of the nice and glossy finish you expected from your paint, there are a few possible culprits. Check the kind of paint you’re using, and whether it’s compatible with your sprayer. Check your filters and clean or change them if necessary, as dirty filters can change the texture of paint coming through them. Also, check the surface you’re painting on as well. If it isn’t smooth, flat and clean, you won’t like the results.

Uneven drying

If your coats of paint aren’t drying evenly, it’s probably an air pressure issue. Check your air cap. If it’s dirty, rinse it and put it back, try again. If the fan holes in the air cap become blocked or jammed, even partially, the pressure in the unit suffers as a result, giving you too much or too little paint and that undesirable uneven drying. Also, check your spray tip for any blockages.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. You have one of the best airless paint sprayers on the market, and now, you know exactly how to keep it in tip-top shape for years to come. Time to get to painting!

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