Cleaning Sprayers After Use

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Sprayers must be thoroughly cleaned inside and out after use.  Ideally, a sprayer should be cleaned at the end of each day and especially before switching to a different pesticide.  Pesticide residues left on the outside of the sprayer can cause operator contamination. Residues on the inside of the tank or left over pesticides trapped inside the sprayer plumbing system can contaminate the operator and possibly lead to crop damage.  Growers should be concerned about this, especially if they are using one sprayer to apply different chemicals to different crops.  In some cases, only a small amount of a pesticide remaining in the sprayer can cause significant crop damage or lead to unacceptable residues on a crop. Crop contamination can even occur several months after a sprayer has not been properly cleaned. Where an airblast sprayer is used to spray different fruit crops, residue left in the tank can cross contaminate another fruit crop resulting in rejection by the processor.
Sprayers can also retain tremendous amounts of pesticide solution.  Depending on the size and design of the sprayer, there can be nearly 6 gallons of solution left in an airblast sprayer's plumbing. As illustrated in the following table, research conducted on boom sprayers has shown that, depending on the spray tank size, the total chemical solution retained in the sprayer ranged from just under 3 gallons to over 12 gallons.  The parts that retained the most chemical solution are the chemical induction bowl, the booms, the tank and the pump and its related piping.

Andrew Landers
Cornell University