Backpack Sprayer Maintenance

Managing invasive weeds and other vegetation is important to help maintain your property.  Backpack sprayers can be one of your most important tools for managing difficult invasive weeds and other unwanted plants on your property.

It is important to keep your backpack sprayer in proper working condition.  Proper maintenance can prevent problems but also keep you and your property safe by stopping spills and leaks before they happen.

Before handling herbicides or spray equipment make sure you are wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing listed on the herbicide labels.  A few extra steps will make sure your spray days are good days!

Daily Maintenance Tasks

Some maintenance tasks should be carried out daily to ensure that your backpack sprayer stays in proper working condition.

  • Remove and clean nozzles and filters. Leaving nozzles and filters in place will prevent debris and precipitates from being flushed from the system.
  • Flush the tank, hose, and wand with clean water. Options for disposing of the rinse water include:
    • Save the rinse water to use for further applications. Be careful with this strategy, especially when using multiple herbicides.  Mixing rinse water with other chemicals may lead to compatibility issues that can clog sprayers.  Dirty rinse water can also reintroduce debris and residue into your sprayer.  Make sure to leave the basket strainer in place when adding rinse water to the tank.  This should stop large pieces of debris from getting into your spraye
    • Apply the rinse water to a site that is listed on the label. Many herbicide labels allow for products to be applied to driveways, building perimeters, and other non-crop sites.  Remember the label is the law.  Be sure to follow the label at all times.
    • Collect the rinse water and dispose of it as hazardous waste.  This is the least desirable outcome, but may be necessary especially if the tank is dirty or fouled.
  • Clean the tank’s breather valve. This valve is usually located on the tank lid.  Debris and other residues can clog it or keep it from properly sealing.
  • Inspect and clean the tank lid gasket.  Look for cracked or missing gaskets and replace them as needed.
  • Inspect hoses for signs of damage.  Focus on areas where hoses can be pinched or kinked.  Replace any hoses that are cacking or showing signs of excessive wear.
  • Hand-tighten connections.  When tightening connections, make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Over-tightening can damage O-rings and other gaskets.
  • Don’t store mixes in sprayers. The products you add to the tank can react with the materials in your pack over time, leading to corrosion and damage over time.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks

  • Lubricate moving parts.  Review the manufacturer-recommended lubricants.  Petroleum-based lubricants may cause damage to gaskets and other seals.  Make sure you are using a product that is compatible with your sprayer.

Annual Maintenance Tasks

  • Winterize your backpack.  When fall spraying is complete, help protect your backpack by fully draining your pack and clearing hoses of any water.  This may not always be feasible; in this case, you can use antifreeze to protect your sprayer. This method can be useful especially if you store your sprayer in unheated areas, where freezing is likely.  Make sure to circulate the antifreeze through your entire sprayer.  With the pack on the ground, you can circulate the antifreeze by spraying back into the tank to limit waste.
    • RV antifreeze.  These products are pink and made to winterize water systems. The non-toxic nature of this antifreeze typically means that no special disposal is needed.  Be sure to read and follow the antifreeze label for safe handling.  Some products can be corrosive if left in your sprayer for an extended period.
    • Automotive antifreeze – These products are toxic.  Take precautions to keep these products away from children and pets.  Remove automotive antifreeze from the sprayer before use in the spring.  You can save and store this antifreeze for reuse or properly dispose of it as hazardous waste.

Consult your manual

There are many brands and styles of backpack sprayers on the market with differing construction and function.  Depending on the sprayer and the amount of use, maintenance may be recommended more than once per year.  Following the recommended maintenance can help to keep your sprayer in working condition for seasons to come.

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