How To Unclog Spray Paint Can (10 Ways + Prevention Tips)

Spray paint is the most convenient type of paint to use. Unlike other traditional painting methods, you don’t need other materials to use this paint.

In some situations, the nozzle can get clogged and may hamper your painting process. This can be an annoying situation, especially if you’re in the middle of work and have no other backup spray paint cans to use.  

This article will discuss the different methods on how to unclog a nozzle paint can and tips to prevent it from clogging, so you can spray nozzle paint anything hassle-free. 

1. Use a Needle 

If you’re in the middle of a painting job and your spray nozzle paint can have stopped spraying, the quickest way to clog the spray nozzle is by using a needle. There’s no special needle you need to use for the clogged nozzle. Anything will work just fine. You just need to ensure that you can insert it into the nozzle deep enough to remove any paint that blocks the opening. 

Once you’ve inserted the needle, swirl it around to clear whatever is stopping the clogged nozzle paint. Do it a few times to ensure that you’ve gotten everything out.  Unlike the spray nozzle, which can be taken off and cleaned easily, the only real way to clear a clog inside the straw is to blow it out with compressed air.

If you don't have access to an air compressor, you might have to get a new paint can. If you have access to air compressors, you'll need to find a quick tip that will fit into or onto the spray paint can and make a decent seal. If you have something lying around, perfect.

Soak it in mineral spirits/white spirits/mineral turpentine or paint thinners to soften up the gunk, and then try to blow it out with an air compressor, or clean it with a thin wire. 

While you may scrape out the loosened paint with a needle or toothpick, please note that this is not universally recommended. When ready, apply some pressure to the nozzle and wait for the can to start spraying its contents. Inserting a sharp object in the nozzle may damage the spray system.

 As you use spray paint, the paint can accumulate around the nozzle's opening. Clean the nozzle's opening with warm water. Wipe the nozzle's opening with the damp rag.

While it’s the easiest method, it may not work all the time, especially if the clogged nozzle badly. If you’ve tried this and nothing happened, don’t worry. Just move on to the following method.  

Spray Paint Can Won’t Spray

2. Use a Hairdryer 

A hairdryer can come in handy when it comes to unclogging a spray paint can. Thanks to the heat, it melts away any paint residue, clearing any blockage on the clogged nozzle. 

But before you do this method, make sure you put newspaper or cardboard to protect the area around your workstation. In some cases, the paint may spurt out of the clogged nozzle, so it's best to take a preventive method.  

To do this, place the nozzle near the exhaust of the dryer and turn it on. Be careful not to expose any other parts of the can as the heat may melt them or alter their form. Do note that this method may only work on some blockages. If your nozzle is heavily blocked, it may not work properly.  

Another way to do this is to remove the nozzle from the can and directly attach it to the hairdryer. This will allow you to distribute the heat and reach any other clogs. Just remember not to expose the nozzle too long, or it may melt.  

3. Soak The Nozzle in Paint Thinner 

If the sewing needle and the hairdryer didn’t work, you’d need a more powerful solution. We all know that paint thinner helps thin out paints, so why not use that to unclog the paint debris on the nozzle instead? 

All you have to do is remove the nozzle from the can, pour some thinner into a bowl, and soak it in paint thinner for up to 24 hours, depending on the severity of the blockage. This will thin out the paint debris on the nozzle.

After soaking it, use a sewing needle or wire hanger to remove the remaining clogs. Remember to be careful when handling the nozzle, or you might completely ruin it.  

4. Soak The Nozzle in Alcohol 

If there's no paint thinner around, another solution you can use to clear the spray paint can nozzle is alcohol. Since it’s usually available at home, you don’t need to run to the store to fix the problem.

Like the paint thinner method, all you need to do is remove the nozzle, pour some alcohol into a bowl, and soak it in the solution for up to 24 hours. Then, insert a sewing needle or wire hanger into the nozzle to remove the remaining debris.  

5. Soak The Nozzle in Vinegar 

In case you don’t know, vinegar is a powerful solution that can help disinfect and clean several things, such as spray paint can nozzle. However, its acidity can damage plastic, so be sure to thoroughly clean out the nozzle to preserve it when using this method.

To unclog a spray paint nozzle using vinegar, pour some of the solutions into a bowl, remove the nozzle from the can and soak it in. Leave it for up to 24 hours, and once done, rinse the nozzle several times with water to ensure that there’s no vinegar left. If you don’t, it will make the nozzle brittle and damage it.  

6. Dissolve In Warm Water 

If you don’t have access to any of the above solutions, warm water will also work. Like the hairdryer, the heat will help unclog any paint debris in the nozzle. Basically, it softened paint, and once it’s soft, the sewing needle method will be more effective. 

Use a sewing needle or wire from a twist tie to clear away softened paint from the tiny tube at the nozzle bottom; be careful not to enlarge or distort the tube. Rinse the nozzle under water to clear out the softened paint.

Just soak it in hot water for a few minutes, then unclog it using a sewing needle. Be careful when handling hot water; you don’t want to burn yourself in the process.  

7. Spray The Can Upside Down 

If the methods above still don’t work, another way you can try is to spray the can upside down. With the help of gravity, the liquid at the bottom of the can will push any dried paint into the nozzle, removing any blocks from the nozzle. 

Just make sure you’re not shaking the can during the process, or you might leave a big mess that will be very difficult to clean.  

All you need to remember is to hold the can in an upright position after the process to stop any paint from dripping away. If it does drip, just clean the nozzle. Also, it’s best to protect the area when you try to do this method.  

8. Shake The Can Well 

Another way to remove any debris from the spray paint can nozzle is by shaking the can. It may sound like a bad idea, but it does work, and most of the time, it’s all you need to do. The viscosity and consistency of spray paints vary depending on the brand; some may be thicker than others. 

If you bought one with a thicker consistency, shaking it will make it easier to spray the paint. It’s also best practice to shake the can before storing it, allowing the paint to be distributed evenly in the can. Just remember not to overdo it, or paint may leak out of it.  

9. Hit the Bottom Of The Can 

This may sound silly, but hitting the can helps remove the blockage from a spray paint can. Before you do it, make sure you are gripping the can properly, so it won’t be thrown out and hit something or someone else. If you are strong enough, your hands will work just fine, but we recommend using a hammer to release any debris on the nozzle.  

10.  Apply WD-40 

If all of these methods fail, WD-40 is proven to clean and remove debris from spray paint nozzles. WD-40 is known to aerosol lubricant for almost anything, so it can help loosen up the clogs from the nozzle.  

Apply an aerosol lubricant to the clogged nozzle. Place the nozzle onto the end of a spray tube from a can of aerosol lubricant. Remove the nozzle from the can of aerosol lubricant and replace it with the clogged spray paint nozzle. Press down on the nozzle to force the aerosol lubricant through it.

All you have to do is spray it directly into the spout of the can. Once the dried paint is loosened, just remove the remaining bits of dry paint with a needle. Let the nozzle dry and reattach it to the can.  Alternatively, you can try to remove any small pieces of dry paint or blockages with a pin.

How To Prevent A Spray Paint Nozzle From Clogging 

Clogged nozzle spray paint can be annoying and can hamper your productivity. However, you can prevent this by ensuring you properly store your used spray paint cans. 

Luckily, it's easy to do this and won't require much time and effort. Here’s how you can keep your spray paint cans from being clogged nozzle in the future:  

  • 1
    After using the can, turn it upside and press the nozzle until a clear mist comes out of it.  
  • 2
    Once done, store it in a place with a temperature of 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping it at a colder or hotter temperature than recommended can affect the color of the paint and might make it unstable.  
paint sprays on table

Unclogging Spray Cans FAQs 

How long do spray paint nozzles last? 

Spray paint nozzles will usually last much longer than the can of paint will. You should be able to use the whole bottle of spray can unless the nozzle gets damaged.

How do you spray paint without a nozzle? 

If your spray paint doesn’t have a nozzle, the best way to use it is to replace it with another one. While there are other ways to use it without the nozzle, it’s a complicated process and usually not worth your effort and time.  

Can you replace a spray paint nozzle? 

Yes, you can buy a replacement spray can nozzle if your old one isn’t working. 

How do you unclog a Rustoleum spray paint can? 

You can follow any unclogging methods mentioned above to unclog a Rustoleum spray paint can.  


Hopefully, these methods will help you unclog your spray paint nozzle. If none of them works, you can always replace the nozzle with a new one.

If you always work with spray paints, it's best to keep extra nozzles in case the one you're using fails.

Lastly, to prevent this from happening again, ensure that you store your spray paints properly.