ICS Magazine

Sprayers: Choose Your Weapon

April 12, 2007


“It uses too much chemical.” “It doesn’t spray evenly.” “It’s too slow.” “My pressure’s not consistent.” “I get tired lugging it around.” “The cleanup is time consuming and messy.” “I hate the constant pumping.” And the list goes on.

These are complaints we hear about sprayers – all types of sprayers. It might be a pump, electric, or some other type of sprayer. It is argued on the bulletin boards, between technicians in the same company, and even in our own minds: what is the best kind of sprayer for me?

For the sake of this discussion, we will look at the pros and cons of hand pump sprayers, electric plug-in sprayers, electric battery sprayers, and injection sprayers. I have my own opinions, but it’s a decision you have to make yourself, and as it can affect your quality of work every day, choose carefully.

If I were setting up my truck today for general carpet, upholstery, and tile and grout cleaning I would carry an injection sprayer as my primary pre-spray applicator. For my protector application and upholstery pre-spray I would us an electric battery sprayer with an easy-change attachment for hand spraying. For upholstery protector, usually solvent based, I would carry a 1-gallon pump-up sprayer with an extension hose and hand gun. As a backup and for unique situations I would carry a 2-gallon pump-up sprayer.

Whoops! I just committed to having every kind of sprayer on my rhetorical truck. If I’m not careful, you will think I sell sprayers for a living. But the truth is, this is exactly what I would do so I could do the best job possible for my customers and be as efficient as possible for myself. It is exactly what our crews had on their trucks when we ran our cleaning company.

Pump-up Sprayer

This is the old workhorse that has been around for years. You can get them from the hardware store or from your local professional supplier. Pump-up sprayers run the gamut from cheap to expensive and small to large. The most popular size for the professional is the 2-gallon model.

Pros: A good, quality professional model will last a long time, particularly if you are willing to replace a few parts once in a while. The good ones will take a pretty good beating rolling around in the back of the van. They are completely portable and fairly easy to carry around. If you want to keep it simple and inexpensive, this is the sprayer for you. Specialty pump-ups like those used with extension hoses and hand spray guns are good for wall cleaning, upholstery pre-spray, and specialty chemical application like solvent protectors or coatings.

Cons: Pump-up sprayers never maintain consistent pressure. You never get consistent application because the pressure is always diminishing as you use it. Pumping up the sprayer takes time and muscle you might want to use more efficiently. Cleanup can be a pain as you work to get everything rinsed and flushed out preparing for the next chemical.

If you choose a pump-up sprayer, don’t waste your time with cheap. Buy a professional-strength model with brass trigger and wand, t-jet spray jet, and a pressure relief valve. Make sure replacement parts are available from your distributor.

Electric Plug-in Sprayer

I first used an electric sprayer for carpet cleaning 29 years ago. This particular sprayer was designed for even application of protector to the carpet. I soon bought a second unit to apply my other chemicals so I wouldn’t contaminate my protector (this was before the debut of the injection sprayer).

Pros: The most important advantages here are even spraying and exact dilution. You know exactly what you are spraying and you get the same pressure throughout the job. So as long as you are consistent, you know your sprayer will be. With its constant pressure, you can move relatively quickly. These sprayers are simple, so for the most part they are trouble free.

Cons: The biggest issue is dealing with the cord. Finding an outlet and then moving to the next outlet as you work takes some time from your productivity. Some units may have fairly low pressure, so you are not able to apply as quickly as you should.

Electric Battery Sprayer

When these were first introduced, we used them on our trucks and loved them. Unfortunately, the technology that enables the batteries to last and take numerous charges was not yet developed. As it stands today, the batteries are much improved and the battery sprayer is becoming more and more popular.

Pros: This has the exact same advantages of the electric plug-in model described above with the added advantage of unfettered mobility. Moving this sprayer anywhere without worry about a cord makes for great productivity. Some sprayers now come with wheels and a higher 3-gallon capacity so more spraying can be accomplished from one reservoir. Several other innovative features like charging from your van or truckmount battery also add to the convenience of these sprayers.

Cons: These sprayers are more complex than the simple plug-in models. Charging can be an issue: you think you are getting a sufficient charge, then get to the job site and find you have little to no charge at all. Spraying capacity is limited by the charge on the battery and the size of the solution tank.

Injection Sprayer

I may be a little biased on this sprayer. I was the first person in the world to use an injection sprayer designed and commercialized for our industry. That’s because I designed it and commercialized it. Considering that many thousands of these sprayers have been built and sold over the past years and that thousands continue to be sold each year, we can safely say that many professionals find them very useful.

Pros: Like the electric sprayer, the injection sprayer puts out consistent pressure from beginning to end. In addition, since the water feed is coming from your portable or truckmount, the water can be hot all day long. The jug that holds the chemical holds a concentrate that is diluted by the water coming from your machine. This means that, depending on the model and draw setting, you could spray in excess of 40 gallons of pre-spray from one 5-quart container. The injection sprayer also puts down chemical at a higher rate than other sprayers. That adds up to high efficiency.

Cons: The injection sprayer needs to hook up to your solution line to work. For two-person crews this could reduce efficiency while the wand person waits for the pre-spray person to finish. There is some loss of chemical dilution accuracy depending on a few factors, but this is generally not an issue if conditions such as extreme high temperature are controlled.

As a professional, you have to weigh the features, benefits, and drawbacks of each type of sprayer and decide which is best for your situation. If you are not sure, most of your local distributors will have a rental or demo model to let you try.