Sprayers of all kinds will always repay neglect with irksome malfunctions. As we round the bend into this year’s outdoor invader season, when we’ll depend on sprayers for spider, occasional invader and ant treatments, here are some pointers on keeping handheld, backpack and power sprayers in good health and ready to serve you.

Nozzle Worn?

Chances are you haven’t replaced the nozzle on your handheld compressed-air sprayer recently. After a couple of hundred hours of regular use, the opening in a sprayer nozzle becomes enlarged. It will put out significantly more material than a new nozzle would.

Do a simple calibration exercise comparing the one-minute output of your current nozzle (try coarse pin stream, fine pin stream, coarse fan pattern and fine fan) to that of a new sprayer. Spray water from your sprayer into a graduated measuring cup for a minute, then empty it and spray from a new sprayer. If your sprayer’s output varies by more than 5 percent from that of the new sprayer, replace the nozzle. You’ll ensure that your applications match what is allowed on the labels of the products you use; and your company will save money.

Strainers and Filters.

Do you know where the in-line filter screen is on your compressed-air sprayer? Your backpack sprayer? Your power-spray rig? Today’s microencapsulated, wettable and suspension pesticides may contribute to a build-up of goo in the strainers. When this is happening, you’ll notice a reduction in the flow to the nozzle. Don’t crank up the pressure — remove and clean the inline screen.

Grease is the Word.

Backpack sprayers have a grease reservoir that supplies lubricant to the hand-pump mechanism. Learn where this is on the model your company uses, and properly grease the sprayer’s moving parts before each use.

Repair Kit.

Have you noticed that it never rains when you remember to carry an umbrella? Carry a spare-parts kit for your sprayer, including an extra tank gasket, soft-seat gasket, nozzle-orifice gaskets (Multee-Jet in the case of the B&G sprayer), and pump check valve seal. Maybe you’ll never need spare parts in the field; maybe you will.

Water is Water, Right?

If you’re applying large volumes of water to fill power spray tanks (e.g., when performing weed control, turf and ornamental applications or barrier treatments around buildings) the quality of the water you use matters. Consider purchasing pH strips, which measure how acidic the water is (pH lower than 7) or how alkaline it is (pH higher than 7). You can get a whole season’s worth of pH test strips at a Grainger store (an industrial supply store) for about twenty bucks. Chemical buffers are available if the water source you’re using is too acidic or too alkaline.

The ideal water for any given pesticide varies from one product to the next. As a rule, water that is slightly acidic — pH of 5.5 to 6.5 — is ideal for most pesticides.

Practice Makes Perfect.

The best time to become fully acquainted with all of the parts of any sprayer, whether handheld, backpack or power sprayer, is before you have a problem. Enlist the help of an old-timer if necessary, and fully disassemble, clean and reassemble the flow components of each sprayer you routinely work with. Then, when it’s time to troubleshoot, you’ll know your way around.

The author is technical director at Plunkett’s Pest Control, Fridley, Minn., and a member of the Copesan Technical Committee. He can be reached at jbruesch@giemedia.com.