The spray nozzle on an aerosol can seems like a great idea until it clogs, turning instead into a great frustration. Whether the can contains spray paint, cooking oil or a household cleaning product, one of several methods can usually unclog the crud and get the spray flowing once again.
Before trying anything else, check the spray can itself for the product manufacturer's recommended way to unclog the nozzle, since it depends both upon the substance in the can and the construction of the nozzle housing. Not all spray cans contain this information, however.
Unclogging a Spray Paint Nozzle
Spray paints and sealers sometimes clog during use and are prone to clogging if the nozzle isn't cleared after use. Two methods work to clear these aerosol nozzles; the best method depends upon how quickly you address the issue.
- If the nozzle plugs while you're spraying paint or a clear sealer, flip the can upside down and spray it with the can facing away from you and nearby objects. Spray until the mist comes out clear. This method works while the nozzle clog is caused by a buildup of liquid, not hardened paint or sealer.
- A paint or sealer nozzle clogged by dried material requires a bit more care. Remove the nozzle from the can, then pick away the hardened paint or sealer -- sometimes a large blob comes off in one chunk. If unable to remove the hardened material, soak the nozzle in mineral spirits for several hours. Remove the nozzle from the liquid while wearing rubber gloves, then poke a needle through the hole in the nozzle to remove the softened paint or sealer. Place the nozzle back on the spray can and hold the can upside down, spraying it away from you. If that doesn't clear the nozzle, place the nozzle on a can of spray lubricant and spray the liquid through it, then place the nozzle back on the paint can.
Cooking Oil Spray Nozzles
Aerosol-based cooking oils and similar food products also suffer from clogged spray nozzles. Clear these using only materials that are safe around foods, such as water or vinegar.
- Remove the nozzle, if possible, and run it under hot tap water. If unable to remove the nozzle from the can, tip the can so the nozzle is lower than the rest of the can when it is under the water. Pat the nozzle and can dry with paper towels.
- If the oil doesn't come off completely in hot water, soak the nozzle in a shallow bowl of vinegar. If necessary, prop the can upside down to soak the nozzle still intact on the can. Wipe the vinegar off with a damp paper towel, then pat the entire can dry with dry paper towels.
Other Spray Cans
Unclog other types of spray nozzles by starting with the gentlest methods first. Run the nozzle under hot water for items that may be softened or flushed away with water. If not, soak the nozzle in either vinegar or rubbing alcohol; both materials have the power to dissolve some types of clogs. Rinse the nozzle afterward with hot water, then dry it thoroughly before replacing it on the can.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.