Airless Paint Sprayer FAQ

Here are some commonly asked questions about airless paint spraying, and some not so common too, that may benefit you as well. If you don't see your question answered here please check back as this area is ever changing.



Airless Maintenance

What cleaner should I use to clean my airless sprayer?Typically you should use whatever the thinner is for the material you are spraying, for example;

Latex = Water
Oil-base = Mineral Spirits
Lacquer = Lacquer thinner

After thoroughly cleaning your sprayer you need use a protectant such as Pump Armor.

How often should I clean my airless sprayer?After every Use! And thoroughly! Be sure to also clean the filters, housing, gun and tip
Is there a solvent that will loosen dried and semi dried latex paint when running it through your airless spray unit? (Other than water) Something that will dissolve it?

Removing dried material from an airless sprayer can be anywhere from a small chore to tuff to extremely difficult. About the only solvent that works very well and that is readily available is lacquer thinner. This may or may not work depending on how much dried material is in the sprayer and how long it has been in there.

Be forewarned that lacquer thinner is a "hot" solvent and it may take some of the life out of packings and/or other seals in the sprayer. Also be warned that once you start loosening the dried paint with lacquer thinner that it will continue to come out here and there for quite some time and plug your pump and/or gun filters and the pump itself. Also sprayers with a flexible intake tube are more prone to this than rigid intake tube machines.

Be sure to follow grounding procedures for your sprayer when using flammable materials!

Often one can run some lacquer thinner through the pump for awhile and get out most of the old dried debris if the sprayer does not have too much in it. If your sprayer has a flexible intake tube, flex it, move it around while running the thinner through it to try to dislodge the dried material inside it.

If it has a moderate amount of old stuff in it you may want to let it set with the lacquer thinner in it for a few hours then run it for awhile and then run some clean thinner through. If you are still getting junk out of it, repeat this procedure. If you are still getting rubbish after repeating this, try the next procedure.

Last ditch procedure after trying the above; same as above but let the sprayer sit 2-4 days with the lacquer thinner in it between flushing's. Note that if the sprayer is already in bad shape this may finish-off packings and/or seals. On the other hand if the sprayer is in that bad of shape to begin with, the sprayer will most likely need to be rebuilt anyway.

Be sure to properly clean and store your airless paint sprayer afterwards, unless you like repeating this procedure!

Rather than wasting money and your valuable time on trying to clean a hose, just buy a new one.

Clean your airless paint sprayer immediately after using it each and every time to avoid this problem!

As we have said elsewhere throughout our website - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Where do I put the TSL?On the front of the sprayers, just above the fluid section is a black metal place with a couple of oblong holes in it. Behind the plate is the rod of the pump. If you follow the rod down, there is a lip (cup), this is where the TSL goes. You should be able to put the tip of the bottle through one of the holes and into the back plate. Gently squeeze the bottle in order to fill the cup. Do this every time you paint to ensure no paint sticks to the rod or packings, which can reduce maintenance costs for the machine.
Should I cover the unit with a cold wet rag in order to prevent the machine from overheating?No! The sprayer is designed to circulate air throughout, and placing anything on top of the sprayer will obstruct the airflow, and prevent the machine from automatically cooling itself down

Spray Tips

What size tip should I use?This is an in-depth question, please see
Tip Sizing
What is the best way to clean my airless spray tips?
First on the sprayer when cleaning the sprayer using the thinner of the material being sprayed. Then in a bucket or other container along with the guard and using a small stiff bristled nylon brush and the thinner of the product being sprayed to remove as much material as possible. Rinse with clean thinner. After that put the guard and tip back on the sprayer for a final high pressure blast of clean thinner to push through anything that may be in the orifice from the brush cleansing.
How do you know when to replace tips?All tips will wear out in time depending on the abrasiveness of the material. The more abrasive the material, the faster the tip will wear out. Latex for example, will start to wear the tip out anywhere from 40-50 gallons. Stains, being less abrasive, will last longer
How can you tell a tip is worn out?Spray tips start out in an oval spray pattern. As a tip becomes more worn, the oval shape will gradually form into a circle, sending more paint into a smaller area. the other way to tell if your tip is worn out, is if you start to see the effects of fingers or tails. Generally a RAC X spray tip will spray around 45 gallons of paint before it needs to be replaced. A RAC IV or RAC V spray tip will last for approximately 40 gallons. All tips will vary depending on pressure that the user is spraying at the the type of paint being sprayed.
airless painting tails airless painting fingers

Airless Hoses

What is a "whip-hose"?A whip hose is a shorter and usually narrower in diameter piece of hose that you use between your regular hose and the gun. This allows for more flexibility at the gun and easier movement thereby reducing hand fatigue. Great for trim work, fine-finish work and cabinet finishing.

A whip hose is also a great accessory to have if you are going to be spraying for long periods of time. The extra flexibility provides the user with the ability to spray for longer periods of time.

Why would I want a shorter hose?If you use a are spraying a small amount of paint regularly or are in close proximity to what you are spraying and don't move from that area it may benefit you to have a shorter airless hose. Priming a full-size pump such as an Ultra 495 while using a 50-foot hose consumes about a quart of material. You can reduce that by using a shorter hose. You can reduce that further by using a smaller diameter hose if that is possible. You can reduce it even further by using a Hopper - great when spraying a gallon or less. Remember that less hose equals less clean-up!

At a minimum however you would want to use at least 15 feet. Because the pump still builds up pressure, using too small of a hose may cause back-pressure into the pump. This can cause severe problems with the pressure control system, whether the sprayer has electronic or mechanical.

See Also: Hopper and About Airless Hoses

What hose should I use with my pressure roller?Since you only need up to a couple hundred psi for a pressure roller you can use a smaller 3/16" diameter hose to start with and depending on your application, such as painting only one average room, you may be able to use a shorter hose as well such as a 25' or even a 15'. Remember that less hose equals less clean-up!
What is a "conductive hose"?Conductive hose is hose that will pass electrical current. This is very important when spraying flammable materials! Some hose is not conductive, some is but is via a wire that has to be manually attached. Graco BlueMax II airless spray hose on the other hand is natively conductive, no wires to attach manually or to break off or to forget to attach.
My airless spray hose sprung a leak, how should I repair it?You should not attempt to repair it, discard it and get a new one. Airless paint sprayer hoses are built for high pressure, typically around 3300 PSI which can serious injury unlike the typical garden hose which is around 40-60 psi. A damaged sprayer hose can greatly increase your chance of injury - what is your health worth to you? Also remember to not kink or over-bend hoses or use hoses to pull the sprayer.
How long of a hose can I use with my Ultra 395?Generally speaking with the 395 and up you can use up to 300' of hose BUT there are variables such as the viscosity of the material, condition of the pump/sprayer, temperature etc.. We recommend going the first 100-200' using 3/8" hose then the rest of the way with 1/4". The longest we recommend going with just 1/4" is 150'.
How would I connect two hoses together?In order to connect two hoses together, you need a high pressure fitting. The size of the fitting will depend on the size of the hose. A standard 1/4" hose takes a part # 156971 fitting.

Spray Guns

What is the difference between the blue gun filters and the black ones? Is it just the plastic?If we're talking about Graco gun filters manufactured by Graco, the difference is that the black ones are what's known as a "60 Mesh" which is what most new Graco sprayers come with and what is typically used for latex paints. The blue ones are what is know as "100 Mesh" and are a tighter screen than the 60's. The 100 mesh are for fine finish work such as lacquers, cabinetry work etc... These are available in a two pack which has one each: 60 mesh & 100 mesh.

Sprayer manifold filters are also measured in this way so if you do fine finish work you should get both the gun and manifold filters in the same 100 mesh.

What is the difference between the 2 fingered trigger and the 4 fingered trigger.There is no difference in spraying, it is purely the painters preference. Most new contractor guns are 2 fingered, while more homeowner units are 4 fingered, however most Graco guns give the painter the choice of 2 or 4 fingered
What does the gun filter do?The filter in the gun filters the paint one last time before it is sprayed. The gun filter helps eliminate down time by preventing debris from entering the tip, and prevents it from being sent onto the wall
They say the new contractor gun has a "totally enclosed needle", what does this mean?The needle in the new contractor gun is completely enclosed, meaning it is never exposed to paint. This prevents paint from drying on the needle, which lengthens the life of the gun.


Can the same airless sprayer be used for poly & varnish as well as lacquer?

Can it be cleaned well enough to avoid cross contamination, particularly in lacquer?

Is an extra spray gun and hose a good option to help in the cross contamination, or are there other options?

Yes, but...
You will have clean your sprayer very very very thoroughly after each use and...

You should have one hose just for the lacquer and one for the polyurethane & varnish. At the least, you should also have a filter set (gun and pump/manifold) for each material and these should be 100 Mesh.

Preferably you would have one gun just for lacquer and another for the varnish and polyurethane.

Ideally you would have one sprayer for just lacquer to avoid contamination.

Also, if you were to throw latex into the mix, which we don't recommend if also using lacquer, you may want a hose, gun, tip and filter set for that as well.

Lacquer thinner is a fairly "hot" solvent that will soften, loosen and/or dissolve most other materials that were not cleaned out of the system and will contaminate your lacquer, plug filters and tips. That being said and if you must use one airless sprayer for all materials, you may want to store your machine differently when it is not in use, a way we don't recommend as it will ruin your pump packings and other seals in your sprayer and that way is with lacquer thinner with a few splashes of engine oil in it.

My question is about the hose length. If I used a 25 ft. hose instead of the 50 ft., would it hurt the machine? The sales person at a well-known paint store said it would...I forgot her reasoning. The reason why I'm asking is: I don't need all that hose. So could I use a smaller length hose without hurting the machine?If you are using a Graco airless paint sprayer, you can use a 25' hose! It will not hurt the machine. If your Graco airless sprayer is equipped with SmartControl or other Electronic Pressure Control, you can use even a shorter one such as a 15' hose if you wanted to. Using a longer hose does have a slight dampening affect that can reduce any pulsation in pressure caused by the pump, but his is usually only noticeable when spraying at high pressures and spraying narrow, sharp-edged lines such as parking lot lines. The slight dampening will also somewhat lessen the wear-and-tear on mechanical pressure controls (Graco 390).
I keep seeing a "Gallons Per Year" rating on many sprayers, specifically the homeowner sprayers. What does this rating mean? Will the sprayer just stop working if I go over this rating?The gallons per year rating is used as a general guide to help you pick the best sprayer. This is basically letting the user know that if you are going to be spraying 20 houses a year, you are going to need to purchase a larger sprayer than one that is rated for 125 gallons of paint per year.

And no, the sprayer will not just stop working! A few gallons here and there is okay, but generally you would want to keep it within this range, otherwise you may be overworking the motor.

The fuse in my sprayer blows for some reason, what could be causing that?Blowing a fuse in airless sprayers is not a common occurrence. A few things that can cause this to happen:
  • A small gauge and/or very long extension cord - You should use 12 gauge or bigger with most sprayers.
  • A worn electrical outlet Too many devices on a circuit.
  • A big spike or drop in power
  • Continuously running the sprayer when it is plugged or otherwise unable to move material - this could be:
    • plugged tip and/or filter(s)
    • smashed intake strainer
    • plugged valve
    • dried material in the system
    • spraying a material that is too thick such as elastomerics.


I was told by someone that I should not use my airless paint sprayer to apply chloride paint. Why?Most airless sprayers have aluminum somewhere in the system. When a chloride or chlorine (bleach) contacts aluminum a dangerous and toxic gas is produced which can also explode under high compression / pressure. Also the reaction from this destroys / breaks down the aluminum causing it to fail structurally. All these situations could cause severe injury or death.
What should I do if I accidentally spray myself?Skin injection can be a serious problem. Keep in mind that you may be spraying up to 3000 PSI. It might just look like a cut, but you potentially injected yourself with paint, which should be considered a serious injury, and one that should be treated by a doctor immediately.
Do I really need to wear a spray mask of respirator?Toxicity can be very dangerous with paint fumes. Any painter should use either a simple spray mask, or a respirator in order to prevent toxic fumes from entering your body.