How To Unclog A Spray Paint Nozzle – 8 Easy And Useful Ways

spray paint nozzle

I love spray paint DIYs because they are easy, fun, and provide excellent results. So, it’s no wonder I have many different spray paints stored away in my garage. However, I realized that most of my cans wouldn’t spray when I tried to use them for a recent project, and the culprit was: a blocked nozzle.

You can unclog a spray paint nozzle by soaking it in warm water, vinegar, alcohol, or paint thinner. Giving it heat with a hairdryer can also do the trick, but you must be careful not to melt the plastic. If nothing else works, you could also use a needle or an aerosol lubricant to clean the nozzle.

I knew I had to unclog the nozzle of my spray paint cans to make them usable again, so I searched for different ways to clean them. Let me share with you what I found and how I unclogged my spray paint nozzles.

What Causes Spray Paint Nozzle to Clog?

The main reason spray paint can nozzles become clogged is due to dry paint. The nozzle can get clogged if it isn’t properly cleaned after a paint job, and the excess paint dries up inside it. As the build-up hardens, it blocks the passageway of the paint, and it can get difficult to spray.

Sometimes, the nozzle can get blocked while you’re spraying. This usually happens when the paint has not been mixed properly, or when they are new. Thicker substances get stuck in the nozzle as you start spraying. The best way to avoid a blocked nozzle is to shake your spray paint can thoroughly for 5 to 10 minutes before you start.

How To Unclog A Spray Paint Nozzle – 8 Simple Ways

When I was unclogging my spray paint nozzles, I discovered 8 simple tricks that got the job done. They are very easy to implement and give quick and effective results. Here are my picks:

1. Give It Heat With A Hairdryer

hair dryer

An efficient way to soften the paint on your nozzle is to apply some heat to it with a hairdryer. Place the can on a newspaper or cardboard to avoid unnecessary mess inside the house, or take it out in the open. Next, position the nozzle over the exhaust and turn on the hairdryer. If the dried paint isn’t too much, it should quickly melt off.

In case the hairdryer doesn’t clear out the nozzle completely, you can take the nozzle off the spray paint can and blow hot air into it from the rear end. Whichever method you use, make sure the nozzle and the valve don’t touch any hot object directly. Also, keep changing its position as the plastic material can melt due to prolonged heat exposure.  

2. Use A Needle

When people realize their can of spray paint is clogged, the first thing they reach out for is a needle. That’s because a needle, safety pin, or wire hanger is readily available in every household.

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You can use a needle to gently scrape off dried paint that you can visibly see on the outside of the nozzle. If that effectively removes the blockage, your can is ready to spray paint, but if it doesn’t work, you will have to insert the needle into both ends to dislodge the dried paint.

You must proceed cautiously at this stage because the needle’s sharp edge can damage the nozzle. If you’re not careful, you could end up ruining the nozzle entirely.

Although this method works to unclog spray paint nozzles, it is not recommended every time as it may cause more harm than good.

3. Immerse In Paint Thinner

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Another trick that works most of the time for cleaning clogged nozzles is using paint thinner. All you have to do is separate the nozzle from the spray paint can and place it inside a bowl filled with paint thinner.

Make sure the nozzle is completely immersed in the thinner solution, so you don’t miss a spot. Allow it to soak for 2 hours to let the dry paint melt away. Don’t keep it dipped in the paint thinner for too long, though, since the nozzle can get damaged.

Once the paint thinner has worked its magic on the nozzle and softened all the paint, use a needle to remove any residue. Don’t use a lot of pressure when using the needle, as it could ruin the nozzle’s mechanism.

4. Dip It In Warm Water

Warm water is one of the easiest ways of unclogging a nozzle. Take a bowl of warm water and soak the nozzle in it until the water loses heat. You can also take a rag soaked in warm water and wrap it tightly around the nozzle.

The heat from the water will help soften the dried paint and make it easier to clean the nozzle with a needle. However, there is a downside to this method– it doesn’t always work on the first go, so you might have to repeat the process until you get the desired results.

5. Soak The Nozzle In Vinegar

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If you’re wondering ‘how to clean spray paint nozzle,’ another trick that worked for me was soaking it in vinegar.

Fill a bowl with vinegar and allow the nozzle to soak for 24 hours. Once you remove it from the vinegar solution, clean it with warm water and then try spraying again.

While vinegar is an effective way to dislodge any dried paint, repeated contact with the solution can cause damage to its plastic exterior. It can cause your nozzle to become brittle over time and break apart. Therefore, use vinegar sparingly for nozzle clean-ups.

6. Clean It With Rubbing Alcohol

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If you’re facing trouble with your spray paint not spraying, you can clean its nozzle with running alcohol and try again. The cleaning method is similar to vinegar; you must soak the clogged nozzle for a couple of hours in a bowl of rubbing alcohol.

Rinse the nozzle with warm water and return it to the spray paint can. If it still doesn’t start spraying, repeat the steps until all the dried paint is removed.

Rubbing alcohol can denature any type of paint, so you should be careful when you attach the nozzle back to the spray can. Let it air dry completely, or use a hairdryer to speed up the process.

7. Use an Aerosol Lubricant

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An aerosol lubricant is a valuable addition to your spray paint arsenal as it’s a great tool to unclog nozzles.

You will need to replace the nozzle on an aerosol lubricant can with the blocked one from the spray paint. Press the nozzle to force the lubricant through it. You can try this a few times until the clog is completely gone.

If that doesn’t work, you can try another method. Remove the nozzle from the can and spray the lubricant directly into the nozzle. Make sure to cover both ends of the nozzle openings. Once the nozzle is entirely lubricated, place it again on the aerosol lubricant can and press it a few times. This should help clean up any blockage.

An aerosol lubricant is usually very oily and greasy; therefore, wear gloves to avoid staining your clothes or other fabrics.

8. Replace The Nozzle

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If none of the methods work, the final solution to ‘how do I unclog a spray nozzle’ is to replace the nozzle of your spray paint can with a new one. If you have an empty can lying around in your garage, you can simply remove its nozzle and place it on the other can. It always helps to have a few spares if a situation arises.

When replacing the nozzle, you should make sure that you pick one from a similar brand and type of paint because different paints have varying viscosities.


Why does my spray paint keep clogging?

The nozzle can keep clogging up when you don’t shake your spray paint can thoroughly before you start spraying. It can also be the result of a spray paint nozzle block.

Is it okay to store spray paint in the garage?

It is okay to store your spray paint cans in the garage as long as the temperature is between 55 and 80°F. Higher or lower temperatures can affect the formulation of the paint and deteriorate its quality.

How do you store spray paint after use?

If you haven’t finished all the paint in a spray, you can store it in a flammable safety cabinet in your garage. Make sure the spot you choose is not too hot or cold.

Final Word

It can be frustrating to find your spray paint nozzle clogged when you want to start a new project. But with some patience, you can easily unclog it with the methods mentioned above.

If you are interested in how to avoid this problem from the beginning, click here to check out our blog on “How To Avoid Spray Paint Nozzle From Clogging.”

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