Spray nozzles are one of the smallest, yet most vital pieces of equipment in a commercial farming operation. Cleaning and maintaining your spray nozzles will help ensure that you save precious time and money.
However, you may wonder: "How can I detect wear or damage on my spray nozzle tips? What is the proper way to clean them? How should I winterize my nozzles?" Let's answer those questions, and more, in the following sections.
Signs of Wear or Damage
There are several indications of wear or damage on spray nozzles. Worn or damaged spray nozzle tips can lead to either increased or decreased flow rate, as well as flow output at erratic angles. Sometimes damage is hard to spot with the naked eye; however, you may notice signs that indicate there's a problem with your spray nozzle tips, such as:
- Running out of chemicals earlier than expected
- Uneven application of chemicals on your crops
When these or other indicators come to your attention, how can you determine the extent of wear or damage?
Determining the Nozzle Tip's Condition
Generally speaking, your nozzle tip's orifice should have flow rates within a 5% plus or minus tolerance of the standard. To see whether your worn tip's flow rate falls within that threshold, you'll need to calibrate your sprayer.
There are several ways to verify your sprayer's calibration. For instance, the simplest way is to fill up your tank with enough chemical liquid to spray 1 hectare or acre. Then, go spray that acre! If you run out of chemicals before you come to the end of your acre, then your spray nozzle flow rates are almost certainly out of tolerance levels.
However, the most accurate way to determine nozzle flow rates is the timed output method. This measures the actual output per minute of each spray nozzle. You'll have to do some math for this method, or use an electronic calibration vessel that does the math for you.
How can you tell when your nozzles need to be cleaned, and when they need to be replaced? If your nozzle's flow rate is 10% higher or lower than it should be, it definitely needs to be replaced. You may even decide to replace all nozzles that have deviations of 5% or more.
Typically, any nozzle that has a flow rate within 5% of what it should be can be cleaned for further use. So then, what is the proper procedure for cleaning your spray nozzle tips?
Related Content: How to Calibrate Your Sprayer
How to Clean Your Spray Nozzle Tips
Here is a step by step process you can follow when cleaning your spray nozzle tips:
- Put on your safety gloves.
- Take off all nozzles, rubber gaskets and tips.
- Put these items in a large bucket and soak them in warm water.
- Drain the bucket.
- Fill a second bucket with the same cleaning agent used for the sprayer. Vinegar is a good choice.
- Scrub the caps, gaskets and nozzles with a soft bristle toothbrush to remove any residue. Take apart any nozzles as needed for ease of access.
- Let the parts soak in the cleaning agent or vinegar.
- Drain the second bucket.
- Gently rinse the parts with warm water.
- Reassemble the nozzles.
It is good to keep in mind that nozzle tips are delicate pieces of equipment molded to very exacting standards. Therefore, care in the cleaning process is vital to their longevity. A series of rinses combined with gentle scrubbing, as described above, is the most effective way to clean spray nozzles.
How to Winterize Your Spray Nozzle Tips
If the time has come to winterize your spray nozzles, then it's always a good idea to first clean them thoroughly, following a process like the one described above. After you've finished the cleaning process, make sure your nozzles are completely dry. Store your spray nozzle tips and any strainers in a dry, safe place, which will prevent corrosion. Alternatively, you can store your nozzle tips in a can of light oil, such as diesel fuel or kerosene. Above all, be sure to keep them out of the air, to prevent moisture-related damage.
Cleaning, replacing, and winterizing nozzle tips will help your sprayer to maintain high performance throughout its lifespan.