How Can You Open Cans of Spray Paint When the Spray Is Broken?

Spray cans often clog or malfunction, but they can usually be fixed or salvaged.
Spray cans often clog or malfunction, but they can usually be fixed or salvaged. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

For those that use spray paint or other aerosol cans often, it is a common occurrence for a can to suddenly stop working. Considering that you have paid for the can and there is still plenty of usable paint within, this can be an extremely frustrating experience. However, depending on what kind of can you have and what has gone wrong with it, you have a few methods available to extract the paint from a broken can.

Things You'll Need

  • Spray paint can
  • Protective goggles or glasses
  • Actuators (optional)
  • Screw or fishhook (optional)
  • Receptacle (optional)
  • Hammer (optional)
  • Ice pick or punch (optional)

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Replace the Actuator

Remove the actuator -- or the tip -- from the top of the can.

Look at the top of the can. If there is only a hole and no tube, you can easily replace the actuator. If the actuator has broken in the can, move to the second section of this article. If there is a tube sticking out of the hole in the top of the can, move to the third section in this article.

Find the appropriate sized tip for your can. The easiest method is to take the tip off of another can of the same kind. Some hardware stores also carry actuator replacements. You can also try tips from other kinds of spray cans.

Broken Actuator

Get a thin screw or a fishhook.

Insert the screw or fishhook into the broken piece of actuator in the top of the can. Only insert the screw or fishhook a few millimeters in.

Carefully pull the broken piece of actuator out of the can.

Take your broken actuator tip to a hardware store.

Find a fitting replacement tip.

Outie Cans

Take the actuator off of your can and check the opening in the can. If there is a tube sticking out of your can and the actuator is not broken on the bottom, you have an outie can.

Go to or set up an area where you don't mind if paint gets spattered.

Hold the can upside down and press the tube sticking out of the can into hard ground so that the tube depresses. If paint comes out, stop immediately. Get something to catch the paint in, and repeat the process inside the receptacle. If nothing comes out, move on to the next step.

Get a drill or a screwdriver and a thin screw.

Drill through the tube in the top of the can slowly with the can in the upright position. Once you hear a hiss, stop drilling and let the can release its propellant. When it stops, empty the paint into a receptacle.

The Hole Punching Method

Try all other methods first.

Get an ice pick or another sharp object with a circular tip and a hammer.

Set the can upright and flat and brace the can. Pick a spot below the seam where the top of the can meets the body, and lightly use your hammer and punching tool to punch a very small hole into the can.

Let the propellant release from the hole.

Empty the paint into a receptacle.

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