Spraygun Cleaning Systems

Here's a wide-ranging discussion on solvents and equipment for cleaning sprayguns. February 1, 2015

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I know there have been some abbreviated discussions in the past on spray gun cleaning systems but there didn't seem to be any clear recommendations. I'm more interested in spending a couple hundred dollars on an ultrasonic cleaner but would possibly spend up to several hundred more for a commercial gun cleaner if that was a clear consensus. Do any of you have experience with spray gun cleaning systems? What kind of system do you use, how much did you spend and what kind of results do you have? Also, what do you use for cleaning solution?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
I got an ultrasonic cleaner from Cabela's. Lyman Turbo Sonic TS-6000 Sonic Cleaner is the one I got. I use it with ML Campbell's water based line cleaner GLC-10. I set it for 140F and run it for quite a few full 30 minute cycles. Paint isn't something that an ultrasonic cleaner is really supposed to take off, but it does work and I got my Kremlin MXV gun spotless. It took a long time to get the 1/8" buildup of paint off the line to the supply. I use it more often now and it works in a few cycles. The interior gets cleaner much quicker than the exterior.

From contributor X:
I also use an Ultrasonic cleaner. My experiences are similar to Contributor G's.The first time took several cycles, but if you do it routinely you can keep it spotless with less cleaning time. I use an RCBS and it's made for cleaning gun cases for ammunition, but really works the same as any other ultrasonic cleaner. Just do your homework on cleaning solutions. Some are corrosive like Simple Green. If you have a Kremlin then don't worry about the Ultrasonic damaging anything because they actually recommend using them to clean their guns.

From contributor D:
I just started using Simple Green since it seems safer than other stuff I have tried. Some attack aluminum air caps pretty good and leave them dull and matte finished. Challenger will attack the gun body coating on CATech stuff. My red cougar gun is now pink.

From contributor X:
Simple Green does make a non-corrosive formula, it's their Air Craft formula. You can get it at Home Depot. I think the Home Depot version is purple. The label should say non-corrosive.

From Contributor P:
The original formulation of Simple Green was not allowed in aircraft since in concentrated form it could seep between the riveted aluminum panels, and ultimately corrode. The second version was called Simple Green Extreme, which was not-corrosive. The original version was phased out. Eventually the Simple Green Extreme took on the plain Simple Green name. So the only time you have to worry is if you have some very old Simple Green.

From contributor X:
A few months ago I cleaned some metal parts with their standard all-purpose cleaner and ruined the finish on some aluminum pieces - they turned black. The cleaner I used was not old, I just bought it a few months before. After looking into the problem I got on Simple Green's website and see in their industrial line that the Extreme Aircraft cleaner is specifically designed to be safe on aluminum, rubber and other alloy's. I have heard people with expensive polished aluminum wheels on their car's use the Extreme version to clean them over the all-purpose cleaner. After my experience with the all-purpose version I won't be using it on metal anymore.

From Contributor S:
I had read somewhere (I think the DeVilbiss website) that using an ultrasonic cleaner on spray guns is a very bad idea. I see some of you are doing it without issue though. Any idea why it might be a bad idea?

From contributor G:
I was told Kremlin techs use ultrasonic cleaners after they put the guns in stripper. I put my AirMix in a line cleaner solution (30%) in the ultrasonic cleaner and it didn't seem to affect it other than cleaning it. I stripped out everything I could and then stripped those of all soft parts if they could be removed. I try not to ultrasonic O rings, just to be on the safe side. One thing I noticed is that the airmix air cap bubbled a lot in the U.S. cleaner. Looking at it closely it looks to be a cast piece. Itís full of little holes, which of course the U.S. cleaner is going to get into. My solution turned the aluminum darker. Wasn't happy about that, but after my normal storage of it in thinner it turned back to its bright (really bright after cleaning) normal aluminum color. I've also U.S. cleaned my Kremlin lower end and ball/cage which really made the pump smoother in action.

From Contributor T:
CATech uses ultra sonic cleaners for their guns. They advised against corrosive chemicals they are harmful to the hard parts and some solvents will harm soft parts. Use hot water and mild detergent.

From contributor G:
One problem about using a mild detergent is it won't clean out the paint. U.S. cleaners don't do paint, they will clean the surface of the paint very well, but that doesn't get the gun nice, shiny and new like you want it to be. The interior of the gun might be different, a little. Just because it should be a wet environment at all times. The outside of the gun however is prone to paint buildup. I know after five plus hours in the spray room I'm not in the mood to clean the outside of the gun and I refuse to use one of those plastic baggy covers because in tight spots they are going to drag in the paint on your substrate, eventually.

From Contributor S:
Thanks for the thoughts on the u/s cleaners. I'm always looking for a better way to clean these guns. I would eventually like to get one of those machines that you plug the gun into and it has a timer run pump and filter system that runs cleaner through the gun. I spray waterbased coatings and the pigmented waterbased lacquers are a real pain to clean if they get any more than a few minutes to dry. Right now I use lots of methyl hydrate as itís the only compatible solvent I've found to not harm the gun and actually work on the waterbased stuff, especially where it dries on the air cap and nozzle. I tried a 30% mixture of ammonia and water once, boy was that a mistake.