Airless Painters Can Spray Havoc

Jim Mallery

An airless paint sprayer moves paint from the bucket to the wall infinitely faster than a brush or roller. But it also may be fraught with hassles and dangers. Here are six tips for a DIY-er's safe use of an airless sprayer:

  1. Protection #1. Though most of the paint lands on its intended surface, much of it will waft back and become airborne, landing on an unsuspecting surface. Use plastic and tarps to cover shrubs, decks, barbecues, cars, and neighbors' cars. And don't spray on a windy day. If you have a surface that is difficult to cover, spray it with water before you paint, and then wash it with water again after you paint to get most of the particles off. If you have taller bushes or trees near the house, put stakes into the ground and use a rope to bend the tarped plants away from the wall.
  2. Pressure. Adjust the gun's pressure according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Beginners tend to use too much pressure, which may lead to more mist thrown into the air.
  3. Protection #2. You need to cover every inch of your skin, hair, and face. A hooded painter's suit from a home improvement store is a good start. Wear gloves, and cover your shoes. Most importantly, use a canister-type respirator designed for spray painting instead of a paper dust mask held on by rubber bands. Have replacement filter canisters on hand--they will plug with paint particles as fast as your lungs would. If you don't use a full-face respirator, wear goggles. Keep your goggles damp and wash them regularly. Coat any skin that may still be exposed with petroleum jelly--it will make washing up much easier.
  4. Dehydration. Be very aware of dehydration, especially if you are painting on a warm day wearing a paint suit (as you should). These suits don't breathe, so you should be careful not to get overheated.
  5. Protection #3. Keep the safety on when the gun is not in use. It also should have a trigger guard and spray shield around its tip. Consider the gun a loaded weapon, and never point it at yourself or someone else. Paint can be toxic, and it sprays out of the tip with up to 3,000 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure. Be careful not to injure someone.
  6. No pressure. Relieve the pressure in the spray gun when not painting so nobody can say they "didn't know the gun was loaded."

Airless sprayers can be a boon to the DIY-er, but they may mean a headache to the careless user. Take these steps for safety.

About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing, and rebuilding homes.

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