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How to fix clogged detailing sprayers

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Over time, certain detailing products clog spray heads. Typically this is due to either the thickeners in cleaners congealing and blocking the orifice, or sealant polymers curing inside the spray head assembly. Either way, a clogged spray bottle can render useless a perfectly good detailing product, and possibly prevent you from completing a detailing task. This is a guide on how to remedy this issue.

Required Tools & Supplies

  1. Large Tempered-Glass, Heat-Resistant Measuring Cup (Large enough to hold the spray head.)
  2. Kettle or Saucepan for Boiling Water
  3. Strong, All-Purpose-Cleaner or Degreaser (Industrial or Automotive Grade)
  4. Disposable Rubber or Nitrile Gloves
  5. Safety Glasses or Goggles
  6. Heat Resistant Kitchen Tongs, Serving Spoon, or Similar Sturdy Utensil
  7. Isopropyl Alcohol (‘IPA’; Minimum 70% Strength)

Unclogging Congealed Cleaners

The following instructions are useful for clearing spray bottles used for applying Traffic Film Removers (TFR’s), Upholstery Cleaners, Wheel Cleaners, Iron Removers, Citrus-Based Tar Removers, and similar cleaning products designed to ‘cling’ to vehicle surfaces.

Note: Before conducting any process involving the heating of chemical residues, be sure to ensure adequate ventilation, and take appropriate measures to ensure your protection! Wear chemical-resistant gloves, and at a minimum safety glasses or goggles in case of splashing.

Start by heating some water as if to make tea; not quite boiling, but hotter than what you can get out of the tap. While you are waiting for the water to heat, disassemble the spray head by unscrewing the adjustable nozzle from the main body, and disconnecting the transparent pickup tube. Place these items in a heat resistant container (A Pyrex measuring cup works very well.), and slowly pour the hot water over them until the parts are fully submerged. The spray head will try to float to the surface, but this is fine providing the inlet and outlet orifices stay submerged. If need be, push them underneath the surface of the water with a pair of kitchen tongs, or similar device to keep your hands from getting scalded. You will notice a slow bubbling coming from the spray head as the air escapes, and the hot water floods the passages. Eventually the water may take on a slightly milky appearance as the product residue blocking the sprayer is dissolved. This process should only take a few minutes, and when you no longer see any air escaping from the spray head, you can fish it out from the water for testing. Reassemble the spray head, and check to ensure it functions, spraying in a fine, evenly atomizing pattern. If the blockage persists, disassemble it again, and return it to the water for a longer soak.

Unclogging Cured Sealant Polymers

For the clearing of clogged spray bottles used for the application of Quick Detailing Sprays, Spray Sealants, Interior or Exterior Dressings, and similar products, the following process may be useful.

Follow above instructions regarding heating water, and disassembling the spray head. However, mix the hot water with a heavy-duty All-Purpose-Cleaner or Degreaser (Some companies give a recommended dilution ratio for stripping wax or acrylic sealants; follow this instruction if provided.), and repeat the above listed procedure for submerging and clearing the spray head. More time may be necessary for the detergents and solvents in the cleaner to break down the cured residue inside the spray head, but in principal the operation is the same. When completed, rinse spray head thoroughly with water until pumping discharge turns clear, flush with Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) to displace the water, and allow to thoroughly air dry before putting back into service.

Preventing Future Clogging

Sometimes clearing the spray head by inverting the spray bottle and depressing the trigger until the pickup tube is empty, or removing the head assembly and spraying its contents back into the bottle is sufficient to prevent future clogging. However, other times this exacerbates the clogging problem, by letting air more easily reach the residues inside the spray head. The only truly effective way to completely prevent spray bottle clogging on detailing products prone to this is to thoroughly clean out the spray head with clean water, flush it with Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA), let it dry, and then reinsert it into the bottle for storage without priming the trigger pump. This is not overly practical for most detailers, however, so on clog-prone products you may simply have to periodically repeat the clearing procedures outlined above when the sprayer(s) become inevitably clogged.

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