Most of us have tried the different types of sprayers available and settled on what works for us. We choose from hand trigger, hand pump, large pump-up, compressed air, electric plug-in, electric battery-powered, in-line injection and other specialty sprayers. Since we have so many sprayers to choose from, and hundreds of applications where they might apply, we'll limit today's look to hand and pump sprayers and their application and limitations. We'll hold electric and in-line injection sprayers for a later date.
We sell far more hand-trigger sprayers (Image 1) than all the others combined. This makes some sense when you consider that they are quite inexpensive and semi-disposable. However, I suggest you limit the use of this sprayer, because it limits you.
Hand-trigger sprayers put out a small volume of spray with every pull, and can be adjusted from a straight stream to a fine cone-shaped mist. Part of the problem is in the cone spray. The pattern is often sporadic, with the outer edges being semi-covered and a hollow spot in the middle receiving little or no spray coverage. This leads to uneven application.
Hand-trigger sprayers are often used to apply cleaners to glass or hard surfaces. The uneven spray is not such an issue in these situations, as wiping the product spreads it to the unsprayed areas and results in a good cleaning. However, with soft goods, application of product in an uneven and incomplete spray results in the chemical absorbing unevenly into the fabric.
A suggestion: hand-trigger sprayers are useful for application of cleaners on hard surfaces. Move the sprayer while pulling the trigger to spread the spray as evenly as possible. Do not use this sprayer for application of pre-sprays or protectors to upholstery or other soft surfaces. If it is used to apply spotting solutions, be aware that even application will be a challenge.
The hand-pump sprayer (Image 2 and 3) is usually available in a 1-to-2-quart size. The solution is put into a small container, the lid is screwed on and the container pressurized by pumping. A trigger is pulled to release the solution.
These sprayers are heavily utilized in our industry, and offer a nice alternative to trigger sprayers. They hold more volume and expel more volume of solution. This creates better speed and efficiency. Hand-pump sprayers usually come with a standard straight fine-mist adjustable nozzle, though some suppliers make available an optional fan-pattern nozzle. We have found that, when sufficient pressure is built up in the sprayer, the stock nozzle generally does a pretty good job of putting out an even spray pattern. The fan-pattern nozzle provides an opportunity for an improved, even application of solution.
Hand-pump sprayers can be used in place of trigger sprayers for just about every application. Many professionals install the fan-pattern nozzle and use this sprayer for application of pre-spray and/or protector on upholstery. I have seen this type of sprayer used effectively, using a fine mist, for applying concentrated neutralizing treatment to carpeted areas. If this sprayer is to be used with solvents, or products that have solvent additives such as citrus oils, it should be fitted with Viton gaskets and check valves.
While this group of sprayers (Image 4, 5 and 6) contains hundreds of choices, here the axiom "you get what you pay for" usually holds true. Some professionals believe they get good value by going to a large hardware store and buying a cheap sprayer. Remember, most of those sprayers are designed for the homeowner who will only use them four or five times a year. You often use your pump sprayer four or five times a day, every day.
One of your first considerations should be size. They are generally available with 1- to 3-gallon tanks. The most popular are the 2- and 3-gallon sizes. If you are using the sprayer for large-volume application, consider the 3-gallon size; otherwise, the 2-gallon model is easier to carry and will put less strain on your arms and back.
Pick a pump sprayer that uses a flat-fan spray jet. Cone jets do not allow for even application. For the heavy-duty use a professional expects, consider a sprayer that comes with a re-buildable brass or stainless trigger assembly.
Keeping pump-up sprayers pressurized requires a lot of effort. An oft-ignored problem with pump sprayers is the differentiation of just-pumped-up high pressure and been-spraying-for-a-while-without-pumping low pressure. A freshly pumped sprayer may hold 40 psi. The technician may let that same sprayer get down to 20 psi before he notices much of a difference. But he has been moving at the same speed through the whole spraying process, applying twice as much solution at the beginning and dwindling down to half the volume before he decides to re-pump. This leads to uneven cleaning, protection, or deodorization. Pump sprayers need to be pumped frequently to maintain even application of the solutions being applied
When using acid-based products, such as those used on tile and grout, or some neutralizing agents, a plastic sprayer that includes an all-plastic wand and trigger assembly should be used. Even inhibited acids will gradually corrode metal. If an absolutely even application of product is required, an electric or injection sprayer should be considered. Always keep a backup pump sprayer in your van in case your main sprayer fails.
For application of wall cleaners, upholstery pre-spray, upholstery protector, or for spraying into tight places where mold treatment products may be needed, consider using a pump sprayer with an extension hose and hand-trigger gun for application (Image 7 and 8). These sprayers can be fitted with fine spray jets that put out a very fine and light mist. For those who apply solvent-based fabric protectors, this sprayer is a must. The sprayer can be set on the floor, and a 10-foot hose gives you the reach needed for many specialty applications.
These types of sprayers are available in either a plastic version or stainless steel. You may like the industrial look and durability of a stainless tank or the price and practicality of a plastic model. Whatever your choice, this type of sprayer could be one of the best investments you will ever make.