Ok peeps, this post is something I have been contemplating for awhile. You all know that I LOVE SPRAY PAINT! I love it sooooo much, and for good reason. When I paint something, I don’t want brush marks. I don’t want it to take 50 hours to paint a dresser, and I want the paint finish to look professional when I get done.

Well, the hubsters and I have been talking about trying out a paint sprayer for years. YEP, I said YEARS! But, he knows how picky I am about spraying. So, I’ve borrowed a few sprayers here and there from friends and I have yet to find one that meets my expectations. We’ve used a few different sprayers, but I don’t know the other brands and specific models of the other sprayers. All I know is that they didn’t do the trick for me compared to my trusty can of Krylon, KILZ, and 220 grit sand paper. If you want to find out everything I know about spray paint, you should check it out!

This Ryobi cordless sprayer started out as the closest thing we’ve found yet. Dan bought this bad boy for me for Christmas. Yep, that’s right. I’ve been trying to figure out if I liked this thing since CHRISTMAS! The first time I was impressed. I painted a few chairs. I loved that it was cordless and it made things easy to paint at all angles. I liked how the nozzle can be rotated just like the Krylon nozzle, and I loved how the tip allowed the paint to spray out a flat stream of paint instead of round. {It actually has a tip to do both, but I prefer a flat stream}.

I also liked that the paint didn’t need much thinning {per the instructions}, but we followed the advice of the paint guy at Lowes and thinned it just a bit prior to using itRyobi
As I painted the chairs, I got the hang of it right away. It sputtered a few times, but nothing too serious. The battery died before I could paint four chairs in a ten-fifteen minute period. {TERRIBLE BATTERY LIFE}, and I noticed that it was using A LOT of paint. In fact, to paint the four chairs, I had to fill the paint container twice {which was a half gallon of paint}. For your information I used paint plus primer from Lowes. :)

Right off the bat, I knew that Dan would have to be the one to clean it out after every use because he is METICULOUS when it comes to small parts. Me, notsomuch! So, after that first use we took the bad boy apart and followed the directions perfectly. In fact, I was thinking the whole time, “Man, I’m glad Dan is doing this because if I would have done the cleaning, it probably wouldn’t work after this because I wouldn’t have done a good enough job.”

Fast forward a few months. The paint sprayer sat in its box for three months before I used it again. I wanted a spare battery because I don’t do projects that last less than ten-fifteen minutes. So, I finally had some mula for the extra battery and FINALLY remembered to charge both the batteries. PLUS, I had even picked up a gallon of the perfect paint color because after all, I couldn’t start the project until I had the PERFECT color, right!?!?

After all the preparation, I started spraying this adorable dresser for my girls’ room.
refinishing furniture I decided to start painting at 6:45 am one morning after I got home from the gym, and I was soooo excited. I had already washed the surface thoroughly and taken off the doors and removed the drawers before embarking on this quest.

Well, first things first…I couldn’t get the paint to come out. I poured in the paint, assembled the sprayer exactly correctly and NO PAINT WOULD COME OUT!! I was thinking, “What am I doing WRONG!? Am I really THAT pathetic, and am I going to have to wake up Dan at the butt crack of dawn to help me with this!?!?”

I struggled with the darn thing for 30 minutes. I took it apart, read the instructions a ba-dillion times. I tried to see if the nozzle was somehow plugged {remember that we cleaned it out perfectly the time before}. It would NOT work. I had to wake up Dan. I felt horrible. But, I had already gotten the sprayer dirty and I didn’t want it to be in vain.

Dan woke up and with his magic “fix it” fingers. He had it working in about five minutes. I started spraying and within five minutes of regaining control of the sprayer things started going badly. VERY. BADLY. This picture illustrates the result. Look closely, you can’t miss the problems. paint sprayerThe paint sputtered and streaked to say the least.

I was instantly mad {that was an understatement because I had just fiddled with the darn thing for a half an hour}. I thought, “Well, this has been a HUGE waste of time. Because now I am going to have to wait at least an hour for the paint to dry and then SAND down all the sputtery mess and try again! Awesome!”

Well, after a few minutes Dan had the sprayer working pretty well for a minute, and I decided to do a little investigation work. I was soooo impressed (or the opposite) of what I found, that I had to video it for proof.


You can’t miss the middle THREEish inches of paint that isn’t covering in the middle of the stream. If you can’t see the result in the video, let me give you another look. Darn.

The sprayer also LEAKS all over the place no matter how hard you try to stop it.

I hope you can see how terrible it looks from the photos because I was so frustrated by the time I got done that the dresser is still looking like this and is laying in my garage while I take a break from this project.

I just don’t want any of you to ever have the same frustration as I did, so I am publicly saying DO NOT BUY the Cordless Ryobi Sprayer. You will regret it.

The good news? Home Depot took the sprayer back and I got store credit to buy another sprayer someday. If you use a sprayer, please, please, please tell me there is one out there that I am going to LIKE!! I’m starting to wonder!


  1. says

    I think these kinds of "cheaper" sprayers (in the 100-dollar range) all have their issues. I have the Wagner one (I can't remember the exact model number – email me if you wan tme to look it up for you!), and its not too bad, but towards the end of the quart of paint that you have in it, they all start to sputter. I've found if I don't want any sputtering, I just don't let it get very empty. And yes, they all use a lot of paint (I think that might be par for the course with paint sprayers, though?). I didn't properly clean mine after about the 5th time using it, and had to buy another one. I ended up buying pretty much the exact same one, and i've learned how to use it to my advantage, but it has taken practice. I also like to keep a foam roller on hand when i am spray, that way i can immediately roll out any of the splatters. I feel your pain!!!!!

  2. says

    I have the Harbor Freight HVLP sprayer, and I am a fan. Not a HUGE fan, but a fan. The sprayer itself costs less than $20 on sale, but it requires a good air compressor (no less than 8 gallons) in order to sustain a spray. Cleaning is always a bugger. Sometimes, no matter how good I *think* I've done, I still find it clogged after non-use, but I can usually get it back running again with a little effort. The nice thing about these non-electric models–there is less "stuff" to get gummed up.

  3. says

    Wow – so glad I read this. I've been considering buying a sprayer for a long time now, so it's always good to cross off one more option. Thanks for sharing! As I don't yet have one of my own, I can't recommend one that works any better. I was going to recommend the one that Natalie from Natty By Design uses, but just discovered it's in the over $400 range, which is out of my price range for sure. Let us know if you ever find one you love!

  4. says

    My fiancee and I are fixing to start working on our new house in a couple of weeks. It was built in the 70's and has popcorn texture on the ceiling. I've done a lot of research about popcorn texture and I have decided that I might want to spray it rather than remove it (it will depend on the absorbency of the texture). Long story short, my fiancee's brother-in-law has a paint sprayer that we are going to try to use to paint the ceiling. I will let you know if I like it!

  5. says

    Thanks for the warning! That would probably frustrate me to high heaven. You should send them a strongly worded letter and maybe they will correct it, fix it, toss it, etc.!


  6. says

    I had similarly HORRIBLE results with both the Ryobi and Wagner sprayers that I tried (4 or 5 of them!) Then I got the el cheapo Harbor Freight spray gun for $15 and I loved it for a long while! It eventually gets to a point where it's clogged and you just can't get it clean enough to work well, but at $15, I figure it's a disposable tool, similar in price to some good Purdy Paint Brushes. You get your use, then you replace it. I upgraded to a self contained HVLP unit from Rockler ($100 on sale) and I've had good luck with that one too. (There's a link on my sidebar to the Rockler one I currently use.)

  7. says

    I have to agree with Ann Marie.
    I can't really say for myself but my husband has tried. A Wagner electric, at least two air compressor sprayers from Lowe's. And we have painted a lot. All the doors in two different houses, a dresser, our exterior and more. He loves the Harbor Freight spray gun best-it's also the first gravity feed sprayer he's used ($15-$20 it's purple in color and was just on sale last week might still be) but if you don't have an air compressor get one! He loves it bc of how well it paints the price is just an awesome bonus.

    Side note most of the sprayers we got at Lowes with a warranty pretty much were no longer carried a year later when we needed it replaced.


  8. says

    I have heard great things about the Harbor Freight HVLP as well..the beauty of the HVLP is that you can spray in a cavity and not get blow back.
    I like to soak the nozzle and needle in either lacquer thinner, mineral spirits or water [depending on what type of topcoat you are spraying]for a day or so after use, just to be sure they are residue free.

    Great heads up on the ryobi..thanks for sharing.

  9. says


    I totally hear your frustration. I have been there and done that and been super ticked after starting a project that should only take a few minutes and ends up taking a few weeks. After reading your post I called my dad who is the most knowledgeable fix it man I know. This is because he's a general contractor and has dealt with loads of these frustrations himself. So this is what he told me. He has used many different spray guns, but the only one that has given him the results that he's wanted was the Graco spray gun from kwal paint. This gun is now available at lowes and home depot but it's spendy. You may be able to find one used. My dad went through two cordless Graco spray guns, but said he will only buy the one that is not battery operated for two reasons. First the batteries run low very fast and they are expensive to buy a second, and charging is too time consuming. Second after a little while the battery charged spray guns don't seem to work as well because the batteries just don't give it the power that it needs to do a great job any longer. We used the Graco spray gun to paint the interior of my house as well as my front door and all the other doors in my house and it worked masterfully. I know you're thinking something that costs $250.00 is so not in your thrifty budget nor would it be in mine, but I know that you are the thriftiest shopping queen around and if anyone can find a fabulous deal it's you. Also, if you spoke to someone at one of these places and told them all about your amazing website you could do some kind of trade for advertising or something to that effect. Just an idea. You are the inspiration for all my thrifty decorating projects. You gave me the confidence I needed to transform my bla house into a place I love. It has brought out a creativity in me that I didn't know existed. Thank you Brooke for everything!

  10. says

    @ Brenda Watts – this is the second good review I've heard about that sprayer/compressor combo. My husband mentioned a while back wanting a compressor, and I figure spending $200 on something that you can use with other tools is better than $200 on just a paint sprayer! I think I'll go your route!

  11. says

    I got a cup gun sprayer (one you have to hook up to an air compressor) off Craig's List for $30 bucks a while back. Not sure on the brand or any of the details, but it has 3 different size "cups" to hold paint (for different size jobs!) and a couple different sprayers. I have done a few art projects and have been really pleased. Agree with everyone else that you should get one that you hook up to an air compressor. Then you can always and easily keep your bike and wheel barrow tires full too!

  12. Classy Clutter says

    Brooke! I had a Wagner power sprayer similar to the ryobi and I HATED IT! I don't like those guns at all. Do you have an air compressor??? I got a $15 spray gun from Harbor Freight that hooks up to my air compressor and it is a dream!!!

    I didn't have an air compressor but I invested the $200ish for the compressor so I could get this gun and I'm so so so pleased with it.

    I use the 20 Oz. HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun and it is $15.99! If you have a compressor GET THIS GUN NOW! If not, seriously consider getting the compressor and the gun! Not kidding. With as much painting as you do, you definitely need it. You thin the paint with water. It has an absolutely stunning, gorgeous finish (like spray paint) but its latex!! It's flawless!


    Your daughter's dresser looks like it is going to be amazing once it gets painted!

    xoxo, Mallory @ Classy Clutter

  13. says

    I have a Wagner HVLP sprayer that I LOVE. It works with our air compressor and I bought it online for about $140 or so. I used it to paint my kitchen cabinets (we're talking about 50ish doors and drawers), and it was a dream to work with. Best DIY tool I have in my arsenal!

    Here is a link to my kitchen redo if you want to see the results I had.


    Sorry you had such a bad experience with a tool that should make life easier, not more frustrating!

  14. says

    We have gone through sprayers too. My husband says the only ones that really work are the ones we don't want to fork over that much money for.


  15. says

    Good to know! I've wanted a sprayer for some time but am very much afraid of spending money and having problems. I don't do well when I get irritated with equipment. Thanks for the advice.

  16. says

    Brooke….I have a furniture painting business, so my spray gun gets TONS of use (usually 2-3 pieces a day). I use the Graco 2900 HVLP spray gun and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. I actually bought a second unit a year ago just in case the motor on my first one went out, but after almost 2 years of daily use, it is still going strong and the second one is still in the box. The best thing is that the "motor" part sits on the floor, so the gun is only as heavy as the amount of paint that is in it. You do have to thin the paint before use, but I just thin the entire can when I buy it and I'm ready when I need it. The only drawback is you can only buy accessories on line–Lowes carries the units, but nothing else.

  17. sugardotsbyd says

    Wow I am REALLY glad that I read this post today. I was JUST discussing paint sprayers with my friend a couple of hours ago and she hasn't found one that she loves yet either.

    I think I'm going to take try the Harbor Freight one and see how I like that. It might fit with the amount of spray painting I actually get to do, now that it's so hot here in NC.

  18. says

    Wow! Thank you SO much – the Ryobi is on clearance at my HD… I actually wondered to myself "what's wrong with it that it's on clearance?" but then I thought it might just be an older model and maybe this was my chance to snatch up a paint sprayer at a great deal price. Perfect timing for your post!! Thank you, as always, for your helpful and practical advice.

  19. says

    Ok, I have to tell you, I have done some serious research on spray guns! I have tried cordless, regular feed, gravity feed etc. I have a 100.00+ paint sprayer that I unfortunately got stuck with. After talking to my boss (He owned a furniture restoration/paint shop) and a few other well known furniture painters they all seemed to really like this one. http://www.harborfreight.com/high-volume-low-pressure-gravity-feed-spray-gun-66222.html

    I LOVE IT!! I originally got the same gun, but without the regulator. Then quickly realized that my 6 gal compressor ran out of air too quickly. So I set my regulator on my compressor to high, and then set the regulator between the 30-60 psi that it calls for. It works So perfectly. It has little to no over spray, it uses a very small amount of paint (1 quart $15.00 for 1 large dresser, desk, and 1 chair). I know that its not cordless, it also does not have a completely flat spray setting (although you can get it pretty close) it would totally make you happy. It is such a great price, its actually cheaper in the store here in Orem. Any way, I hope that helps! I love the color you chose for the dresser!

  20. says

    I'm sorry to hear about your frustrating project, but glad that I'm not the only one who has had serious problems with that sprayer. My husband bought it for me thinking it would be awesome and we had a very similar experience with ours. I finally gave up last week and bought a Kobalt air sprayer that I have used with homemade chalk paint with great results! Link is below for the sprayer, I highly recommend it!


  21. says

    We spent $100 on the "Wagner Power Sprayer" several years ago and it was HIDEOUS! Used it once and then couldn't use it again. Don't buy that either!

    I always appreciate a good "heads up".

  22. says

    I'd have to put in my vote for a compressor sprayer too! Well worth the money and effort. By effort I mean prepping and lugging around the compressor and hose. My DH ended up buying us a little pancake compressor and I love it because our big compressor scares the begeezes out of me. The pancake compressor is perfect for lugging around to do small jobs and it's light enough for me to carry around on my own.
    We've used our compressor powered sprayer A LOT and it's never failed. Paint jobs always come out perfect. LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!

  23. says

    I work at a local hardware store and have had many customers say the same thing. I am personally a fan of the graco brand of sprayers. They have a good customer service line, and will help you with any problems you have. I would stay away from the lower end and use the middle price range, they tend not to waste as much paint.

  24. says

    We use an Earlex spray station. Around $300, it is very pricy, but does not use a battery or a compressor. It is super easy to use & fairly easy to clean. It gives professional results. My husband has used it much more than me and swears by it.

  25. says

    We also like our spray gun that hooks up to our air compressor. We painted all the doors in our house with it, some shutters, and trim for our house. Works great! I think we bought the kit at Lowes. Good luck!

  26. says

    Use the Graco TrueCoat Paint Sprayer from Lowes for $199. It is a little expensive, but I have done a bunch of painting, and it works WAY better than any other sprayer. It is electric, so you don't need an air compressor. You need a pretty good sized air compressor in order to make the air powered paint sprayers work. The Graco TrueCoat gives a very professional finish, and after looking at reviews for nearly every paint sprayer under $300, this was the best one. Love your blog. Thnaks.

  27. says

    I bought a couple of spray guns and I hated them so much that I have to return them. After reading the reviews online I decided to buy the Graco 2900 Spray Station. Let me tell you, I have used it a handful of times and I LOVE it. I have painted from baseboards to doors and I haven't had a problem. Because I know I will be doing more spraying after the first coat, I don't wash the sprayer instead I place it in a plastic bag until I am ready for the next coat and it works perfectly fine, I have kept the sprayer in the plastic bag for days and it was OK to use it the next time. Please read the reviews and see for yourself. Good luck!

  28. says

    I'm just getting caught up on blog reading (crazy summer!), and read this post. How very frustrating!!! And I had to point out the irony that there's a Ryobi replacement parts ad in the email version of the post. :)

  29. says

    After a couple of bad sprayers, I bought the Graco X5. It was more than I initially wanted to spend but it was well worth the money. Once I got the hang of it I was able to paint the entire exterior of my house in about 4 hours.

  30. says

    I have a Kobalt HPLV I bought at Lowe's…only about $60 (yep only $60!!) but you need an air compressor, I use mine with a small "pancake" style compressor that is easily moved to where ever I need it. It is super easy to operate and has an adjustable nozzle (side to side or up and down)and best of all it is easy to clean and uses very little paint…covers like a dream!! The best $60 I have ever spent.

  31. says

    I have a Kobalt HPLV, from Lowe's, cost about $60 (yep only $60)! You have to use it with an air compressor (I use mine with a "pancake" style compressor that I can easily move to where ever I need it.) but it sprays like a dream, has multi-directional nozzle and uses minimal paint (covers great), and EASY to clean (I am like you when it comes to meticulous cleaning…I hate it, but this I can handle. Totally worth every penny.

  32. Elaine Graves says

    With sprayers that require an air compressor don’t you get a lot of overspray? I was thinking that an airless sprayer is the best for using indoors or where you don’t want a lot of overspray in the room. Thoughts??

    • Brooke says

      I’ve decided that the only sprayer I recommend are the industrial grade sprayers. You can rent them for about $50 a day. I would rather have over-spray than have an uneven finish. I just hang up big pieces of plastic to mask off the part of the garage I’m spraying in. Good luck!

  33. Stephen says

    Used it once – Awesome!!! Just spent the past 45 min messing with my Ryobi cordless sprayer, after it being stored in its bag for two weeks since the last time I used it (I too cleaned it before putting it away). I still can’t get it to work. I decided instead of using my extended warranty I purchased – because of other comments I read before purchasing, I am just going to return it to HD. I can see myself wasting many hours in the future if I decide to keep it.

  34. Ed says

    I bought the new design Wagner HVLP, so new I could not find reviews on YT other than Wagner Company.
    My project was painting wood dooronly my house, some original some new. It was my first time to try this type of sprayer and it took me a little bit to get the hang of it. I found the paint sprayer worked great and covered the best if I thinned the latex paint and sprayed just enough to appear wet but moved on before too much paint caused a run. If I had a run, i wiped it off and sprayed over the spot.
    I learned it is necessary to always strain the paint, wipe down the spray tip regularly, I had to clean the spray head if I let the sprayer set more than an hour without using or it would sputter.
    I got best results when I used primer first, sanded smooth, then applied two coats of finish paint. The results were great. I am a satisfied user of this Wagner sprayer.

  35. steve says

    I own this sprayer and it’s great. I think all of the negative comments is not the product but “operator” errors in using it!

    • Brooke says

      We are all definitely entitled to our own opinion. But, now that I’ve used a commercial sprayer, I cannot deny that this sprayer does not even compare to the quality and finish that a commercial sprayer has. I wish I could say otherwise.

  36. J Ash says

    I operate my own handyman business which includes cabinet and tub refinishing. Cheap airless sprayers are best suited for…well….nothing really. On the other hand, you don’t have to invest your life savings either. I use the Earlex 5500 and have done so for almost a year now. This is a $350 HVLP and with proper thinning and prep, will produce very nice results. It has an all metal gun which can be cleaned with harsh solvents and withstand a little abuse. Next, in the $150 range is the Wagner Flexio 590. Now, I’m not a Wagner fan by any means but I took a leap of faith on this one. Again, they claim you can spray unthinned paint….not recommended. Thinned by 10 percent or so will produce decent results. It also comes with two spray tips which are easy to disassemble and clean. Downside, turbine and paint reservoir are all one piece so you may experience hand fatigue during larger projects. Another plus to HVLP is that with a bleeder gun, it will blow off any dust on the surface prior to applying paint.
    Have fun!

  37. Eddie says

    This is really great information, thank you. Curious… where are ya’ll spraying? I’d be interested to know if you have a makeshift spray booth or spray outdoors on the grass.

  38. TK says

    Most of the electric sprayers under $150 are garbage. They will work the first couple of times but after that cleaning them is near impossible to avoid sputtering.

    I have personally tried a few of the wagner ones, a lowes branded one, and this Ryobi one mentioned since I have about 20 odd Ryobi 18+ tools.

    I too was most enthusiastic about the Ryobi as I have found most of the 18V One+ line to be pretty useful. For instance I received the caulk gun, radio, and tile saw as gifts. All items I avoided on my own because I figured they just would not work. I was actually impressed with all 3. I use the caulk gun non stop and it is great! The radio holds a charge all day on my big 18V LiIon and the portable tile saw is more useful then my $300 wet table saw because it can cut curves and angles better. Sure if I am tiling say a huge kitchen I will always bring my wet saw. But if I am helping a buddy tile a bathroom this Portable Tile saw is the bees knees.

    Back to the Ryobi painter, I too had similar problems after about 5 uses. I spent a good 2 hours cleaning it after sputtering and just finally gave up. Since then I have gone through 2 Harbor Freight Purple Specials (HVLP spray gun)
    The last time I bought one I believe it was $13.99! This gun is awesome for the price and the only reason I had to buy a second was not because it stopped working but I borrowed it to a friend and never got it back!. As long as you have a decent compressor (Minimum 5 Gallon per gun) you will love this thing. I can break it down and clean it in less than 15 minutes now. I feel like the guy in Full Metal Jacket taking apart his Rifle, I can have this thing disasembled cleaned and ready to go in no time. Sure if I am just spraying one or two things I will still stick to the rattle can. But If I have a few things to spray with one color I break out ol purple.

  39. mugg says

    hi… just wanted to let all you DIY ones out there…. this type of gun needs to have prep work done before not using for long time…

    when done with it you should run water thru it till all paint is gone!!! then some paint cleaner for 2mins min.. the more the cleaner..

    I all ways spray WD 40 in the intake and spray the sprayer so WD gets in the unit and sprays out the tip!! this keeps it from rusting and gumming up to make bad spray!! or no spray.. you must clean it before using it again!!!!!!!!!! but that keeps all my paint sprayers nice and working……

    always keep more then one batt!!!!!! a must

    I hope this helps some what!!

  40. says

    Thanks for sharing! As I don’t yet have one of my own, I can’t recommend one that works any better. I was going to recommend the one that Natalie from Natty By Design uses, but just discovered it’s in the over $400 range, which is out of my price range for sure. Let us know if you ever find one you love!

  41. says

    I got a cup gun sprayer (one you have to hook up to an air compressor) off Craig’s List for $30 bucks a while back. Not sure on the brand or any of the details, but it has 3 different size “cups” to hold paint (for different size jobs!) and a couple different sprayers. I have done a few art projects and have been really pleased. Agree with everyone else that you should get one that you hook up to an air compressor. Then you can always and easily keep your bike and wheel barrow tires full too!

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