Paint booth & spray booth systems for aerospace, industrial mfg & large equipment industries. As a leading paint spray booths manufacturer, we provide quality booths at the right price.

Spray Paint Booth Filtration: Water Wash vs Dry Filter

Read time: 5 minutes


  • Manufacturers must account for adequate filtration systems when designing a spray paint booth for their operations.
  • Exhaust filtration systems capture paint overspray and other contaminants before they are vented to the atmosphere through the exhaust system.
  • There are two main types of filtration systems found in modern spray booths—water wash and dry filtration.
  • The vast majority of spray booths in the industrial manufacturing industry utilize dry exhaust filtration systems, which are less expensive than water wash systems.
  • Water wash booths trap paint overspray with curtains of water and deposit them into a collection tank, which must be cleaned of sludge periodically.
  • Water wash systems are ideal for operations with very high production rates while dry filtration systems are a better fit for most other operations.


When designing the perfect spray paint booth, the direction of airflow is not the only primary consideration. Among other things, manufacturers must account for adequate exhaust filtration systems when designing a booth for their operation. These serve the necessary purpose of capturing paint overspray and other contaminants before they are vented to the atmosphere through the exhaust system. In order to minimize downtime, maximize efficiency and maintain compliance, these filtration systems need to be customized for the specific production process they’re being integrated into.

There are two main types of spray booth filtration systems found in modern booths—water wash and dry filtration. While these two paint booth filter types are both designed to capture and contain hazardous compounds, there are numerous differences that have significant advantages and disadvantages depending on their intended use.

Free eBook: Are you ready for a new spray booth?

What is Water Wash Filtration?

Water wash spray paint booths use water as a filtration medium instead of dry filters. Paint overspray is collected and trapped in the water curtain or scrubber section of the washer and then is dropped down into a collection tank. The collection tank eventually becomes filled with paint sludge and then needs to be cleaned. A centrifuge or sludge removal system can help reduce downtime for cleanings: they can be designed into the booth system to remove the paint sludge on a continuous basis. Water wash filtration systems require a high initial investment but are ideal for operations using very high paint volumes that need a uniform and consistent airflow.





Water wash filters are composed of a series of metal baffles and reservoirs that force air to pass through multiple curtains of water before reaching the exhaust stack. These units are fabricated with galvanized steel components that resist corrosion from constant exposure to moving and standing water.

Manufacturers must be aware of stringent regulations on the draining and treatment processes for water with sludge. The water, which is chemically treated to bond with spray particles, separates the compounds through an ionization process that causes them to float on the surface or sink to the bottom as a sludge. Without a centrifuge system, floating compounds must be periodically skimmed from the surface to ensure consistent and smooth operations of the washer, and to remove the sludge to hazardous waste. The particles that sink to the bottom of the tank are shoveled out and disposed of as hazardous waste.

Advantages of Water Wash Filtration

Due to their durable and efficient design, water filtration systems are ideal for manufacturing processes with an extremely high rate of production: they can handle significantly more overspray volume compared to dry filters. Water wash is preferred by many occupational health and building safety codes and is appropriate for spray and finishing compounds of various viscosity and drying speed. Other advantages include:

  • Flexible for various applications
  • Clean and efficient collection
  • Accommodate high production rates
  • Water wash booths can maintain constant uniform airflow in the booth due to constant static pressure through the washer as compared to dry filters that load with paint
  • Eliminates recurring expense for dry filters
  • Reduces downtime needed to replace dry filters
  • Centrifuge available to eliminate sludge cleaning downtime

Notable Disadvantages

The apparent advantages of water filtration make it seem like an obvious choice for almost any application, however, there are some disadvantages.

  • The water must be consistently treated with chemicals, which can add further operating costs
  • Higher initial booth equipment and installation cost
  • Requires a sludge removal system (manual or automatic)

How Do Dry Filter Systems Work?

Dry filter booths use layered filters to separate the paint particulate from the constant airstream passing through the exhaust filter. There are many types of materials and designs available for dry filter media, dry exhaust filters and even reclaim systems available, each of which is ideal for certain volumes and applications. Buyers should discuss dry filter options with their booth manufacturer to ensure they choose one that will operate efficiently and up to code.

Dry filtration systems require dry filter replacements. Clogged filters redirect air to a different path of least resistance, which will effect uniform airflow in the booth. Dry filters have a relatively short life-span and must be replaced regularly to ensure efficient operations. Despite the periodic maintenance needed, dry filtration is the ideal choice for low- to medium-level production volume operations.

The vast majority of spray booths in the industrial manufacturing industry utilize dry filtration systems. Water wash booths can only be justified with very high production rates, so dry filters are ideal for most other operations.

Advantages of Dry Filters

Dry filtration is a popular choice in most industrial manufacturing sectors since it can easily accommodate fluctuating demand and changing part sizes. Advantages of dry filtration systems include:

  • Lower operating and maintenance costs than water filtration systems
  • Lower initial booth capital equipment costs and installation as compared to a water wash booth
  • Ease of operation as compared to a water wash booth
  • Reclaim systems are available to recycle powder coating finish, for example
  • All can result in a significant impact on the profitability of the production environment.

Notable Disadvantages

There are a few drawbacks associated with dry filter booths, but ultimately the right choice depends on the specific production process and volume. Disadvantages of dry filtration systems include:

  • Dry filter systems struggle to handle high production volume
  • Dry filter booths are not ideal for certain types of spray compounds
  • Require the recurring cost of filter replacements
  • Downtime is required to perform maintenance, replace filters and collect product from reclaim systems

Selecting a filtration system isn't just a matter of picking between wet and dry. Buyers also have a range of accessories, modifications and other options to choose from as they design their booth. As a premier manufacturer of spray paint booths, our team is dedicated to helping clients design the perfect spray booth for their needs as well as understand all of the implications of their booth’s design decisions.

We design and customize booths to fit industry and company-specific needs, so we are prepared to overcome the limits of convention to develop booths that are perfect for our customers' needs. Contact us to learn more about how our booths can benefit your operation!

posted on Thursday, January 24, 2019