Turf & Rec

Features Agronomy
The importance of keeping sprayers clean

May 6, 2016  By  Mike Jiggens

By Ryan Beauchamp

The largest operational expenditure for a turf manager, outside of labour, of course, is the products applied through a turf sprayer. This includes fertilizers, surfactants and plant protectants.

It remains critical that managers capitalize on this investment through proper application and avoid many issues when equipment isn’t running as smoothly as it should.

Why is sprayer cleanout important?


Sprayer cleanout removes fertilizer and pesticide residues that may linger in your equipment causing lines and nozzles to clog and/or cause turf damage during subsequent applications. Sprayer cleanout allows your equipment to continue to perform properly each and every time.

When should you clean your sprayer?


Sprayers should be cleaned after each application is completed and before switching to a new product application. Sprayers should be cleaned at the end of every workday to prevent buildup of residues in the equipment that may then be more difficult to remove at a later date. New, demo or borrowed equipment always requires an initial cleanout. You should also clean and winterize your sprayer prior to winter storage.

What do you do to protect yourself and the environment while performing a sprayer cleanout?

Always wear personal protective equipment, including chemical-resistant gloves, boots, apron, and face shield or goggles. Be certain your protective equipment is clean and worn correctly.

Clean your sprayer in an area not used by people or animals, and not in an area that is close to water sources such as ponds, ditches, creeks or wells. Do not have catch basins nearby where rinsate may enter and contaminate water courses. Avoid leaving rinsate water puddles where children or animals may come in contact with them.

What should you clean?

Clean the entire sprayer, including tank, chemical inductor (side tank), valves and hoses. If the end of the boom extends beyond the last nozzle, residues may collect in this area. Remove boom end caps and collect any solids that have accumulated. Label this container as agricultural chemical residue, store safely in your pesticide storage and dispose of the product properly at the next obsolete pesticide collection program in your province. Replace the boom end caps. Missing any of these areas during cleanout could result in damage during later applications. Following the first rinse, use gloves to inspect and place all screens, filters and nozzles into a pail and clean with a small brush using the same solution as used in rinse number two (see below). Use this pail only for this cleaning and label it as such.

Rinse these items with clean water prior to replacing them into the sprayer for the third rinse. Place rinsate from the pail into the sprayer for disposal. Don’t forget to clean your measuring containers at the same time and in the same manner.

* Improper mixing sequence creates additional application issues.

What products do you use for cleaning your application equipment?

Each pesticide label will have directions about what cleaning product to use, quantity to use and how to use it. Usually this information is located near the end of the label. If you cannot find the label directions, contact the manufacturer listed on the front of the chemical label for advice. Each product has specific recommendations for best cleanout results. Follow the cleaning product label’s directions for safety and mixing directions. Some labels may require the cleaning solution to remain in the tanks and hoses for extended periods, such as overnight. Remember, your goal is to remove dried residues, solubilize oily residues and reduce corrosion.

Clogged nozzle damage

Typical cleaning products used per 100 gallons:
• Water only, if not specified on the label, or
• 3 kg (TSP) trisodium phosphate cleaner detergent, or
• Commercial tank cleaner, such as “Inside- out” from Precision Lab Inc. (follow instructions).

What cleanout procedure do you use?

Cleaning a sprayer is similar to cleaning pesticide jugs for proper disposal—triple rinse!

Rinse One: (Rinse) Fill tank 10 per cent full of clean water and circulate in the sprayer for a minimum of 10 minutes. Remove boom ends where possible, and flush out booms, filters, screens and nozzles. When tank is empty, remove nozzles, filters and screens as outlined above.

Rinse Two: (Clean) Fill tank 10 to 15 per cent with clean water and then add the cleaning product (as directed by label). Be certain to rinse any chemical inductors while doing each of the three rinses. Run the sprayer for a minimum of 10 minutes, flushing the cleaning solution through each boom and the entire sprayer.

Rinse Three: (Rinse again) Replace all screens, filters, nozzles and repeat rinse number one as outlined above, and run solution through all booms. Wash the exterior of sprayer with soap and water.

Where do you dispose of the rinsate from the three sprayer cleanouts?

It is recommended that the sprayer rinsate be applied on the area where that chemical was just previously applied. Application here allows any tank residue to break down in a known manner, and does not apply product above the recommended label use rate.

How do you winterize a sprayer?

After the final rinse, add a plumbing anti-freeze mixture (never use automotive anti-freeze) into the tank. Use a product such as Recochem Inc. “Sprayer Winterizer for Farm Equipment.” Follow your sprayer manufacturer’s directions. This usually includes circulating this mixture through your entire sprayer (including booms and nozzles) using agitation for at least five minutes, and then drain. Make certain there is no water left in the system. Consult your municipality for proper disposal of the plumbing anti-freeze, or follow the manufacturer’s directions for disposal of the product.  

Regular sprayer cleanout will keep your sprayer performing effectively and promote longer sprayer life.

No cleaning is 100 per cent effective. Always read and follow label directions!

Ryan Beauchamp is a turf specialist with Syngenta Canada. ryan.beauchamp@syngenta.com .

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