Tank Sprayer Safety

A Word of Caution

Pump up tank sprayers are such common items around the garden and greenhouse that we seldom give them a second thought.   I keep two or three around all the time.   The plastic varieties have gotten so inexpensive that I keep several to mix various things in rather than have to rinse and wash one out between applications.  I typically have one that I use for compost tea, one for Neem oil and one with 10% vinegar solution that I can pick up and spot stray as I see the need.   Very convenient.

Be Cautious

However.   Just like anything mechanical, tank sprayers need to be maintained and used according to the manufacturer’s suggestions.  I was reminded of this most spectacularly a few days ago, and I wanted to share with you this experience.

I had been spraying compost tea in the garden.   I finished the application and left a small amount of the unused tea in the plastic tanks sprayer and set it on the potting bench in the greenhouse.  I left and got busy with other chores and forgot about it.

The Confluence of Circumstance

Later that evening, my daughter came over to pick up some plants.   We entered the greenhouse, and my wife commented that the potting bench looked damp.  I checked it out and found the tanks sprayer laying on the floor of the greenhouse.  When I picked it up, I found it in the condition in the picture.

I was shocked.   As you can see the tank is split from top to bottom and fractured into several pieces.  I picked up several fragments of the plastic quite a distance down the greenhouse.  It was evident that the tank had suffered a catastrophic pressure failure.  I really can’t say what occurred, but I can make an educated guess.

The cause of the failure was a combination of things that worked together to raise the internal pressure of the tank to the point that the plastic failed explosively.

Chemistry, Biology, and Physics

The tank had compost tea mixed with water.  I,t was still fresh and full of live organisms.   They were continuing to feed, which produced some gasses.  I had not released the pressure in the tank via the relief valve when I had put the tank sprayer on the potting bench.  The tank was in direct sunlight through the greenhouse covering.  A recipe for some excitement.

A Fortunate Outcome

I was fortunate that someone was not working in the greenhouse at the time.  I am not sure how lethal a fragment of the lightweight plastic would have been, but it certainly could have been enough to do serious damage to an eye.  NOTE:   Eye protection is a good idea anytime you are working in the garden or greenhouse I don’t care what the circumstances or the chore.

I failed on several accounts, so I must shoulder the responsibility on this one.   I didn’t release the pressure on the tank.   I left compost tea in the tank, fully intending to return and empty it and rinse it out.  I left the tank pressurized and the pump securely sealed.  I set it in direct sunlight and left it.

What should I have done?  The tank should have been depressurized when I was through spraying.  I should have unscrewed the pump, dumped and rinsed the remaining mixture and left the tank open to dry.  I should have stored the tank sprayer in its normal place, under a bench and out of the direct sunlight. 

So, at this point, no one was injured.  I am out a 2-gallon tank sprayer that I will replace, and I am reminded that even the simplest gadget can be at least a little dangerous if abused or neglected. 

Be safe.  Take care of your tools and equipment.  Don’t be lazy

Links and Resources

For more information about organic gardening, lifestyles, and living, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.

If you found the information here helpful, you might also find these articles on our website of interest.

Foliar Spraying and Drenching

Building Healthy Soil

The Organic System – Soil Bacteria

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