how to clean clogged printer heads

The DIY Guide to Getting Your Printer Back in Working Order

If your printer is full of ink and not working the way it should be, don’t run straight to your local repair shop! Believe it or not, troubleshooting problems with your inkjet is easier than you think. With just a little know-how, you can learn how to unclog your printer heads and be the hero for all your co-workers or family members. 

Sounds great, doesn’t it? So, follow along below to learn exactly how to clean a clogged printhead in just a few simple steps. 

How Do Clogged Printheads Happen? 

Most printer heads are composed of microscopic holes that release droplets of colored ink onto your paper. If a printer hasn’t been used recently or contains old print cartridges, the ink can dry out in certain holes, causing clogs. These clogs aren’t noticeable when looking at your ink cartridge, but they are easily identifiable once you print something. 

White streaks, faint lines, or spotty prints are all common signs of a clog. And while you could just go out and buy new ink cartridges, the problem is fixable most of the time with just a little effort. 

How to Clean a Clogged Printhead

A clogged printhead is typically caused by dried-up ink that settles and obstructs the flow within a cartridge. These clogs can happen even if a printer cartridge is full. Clogged printer heads lead to poor printer performance and need to be fixed before attempting to print again. 

When it comes to inkjet printers, there are usually varying degrees of clogs. Based on the severity of the clog, it will change the process for how to clean the printer heads. 

  • Easy clogs - Most easy clogs can be remedied by troubleshooting your computer and running a printer head cleaning cycle.
  • Challenging clogs - When a simple cleaning doesn’t fix the issue, you may need a DIY cleaning solution. 
  • Impossible clogs - In this instance, you can either invest in new print heads or try another more detailed method of how to clean clogged print heads. 

The best way to determine the severity of your clog is by troubleshooting your printer. Troubleshooting allows you to help you identify issues with your printer so you can fix them quickly and get back to printing. 

Easy Clogs: How to Clean Printer Heads

When it comes to a simple clog, all you need to do is to follow the instructions included in your owner’s manual. By learning more about the printheads for your specific printer model, you can find out how to easily run a cleaning cycle and fix any issues. 

Easy clogs can be rectified by running a cleaning cycle and a nozzle check on your printer. Below are the steps to troubleshoot your printer and perform a quick cleaning:

  1. Check the levels on your ink cartridges. Make sure they are both full - ink runs out faster than you think.
  2. Access your printer’s utility program through the control panel of your desktop computer or laptop. From here, you can follow any manufacturer’s instructions to clean the print heads on your specific printer automatically. We always recommend running this cycle twice. 
  3. Always print a test page. Sometimes, a printer can have trouble printing one page, but the next is fine. If the problem appears to be fixed, then your job is done! 

If troubleshooting your inkjet printer did not solve your issues, then it’s time to move onto the next step in the process: cleaning manually. 

Challenging Clogs: How to Clean Printer Heads

Most printers use self-cleaning mechanisms to push air through any blocked printer heads to release clogs and flush the nozzles. The air works to dislodge any dry ink and push it out so fresh ink can flow freely. But, if the self-cleaning process didn’t work, your clog might need additional air pressure. 

How do you go about increasing the air pressure inside your cartridge? This is the fun part! 

Handheld Vacuum Method

Most handheld vacuums can do the trick. Simply attach the pipe of a handheld vacuum (make sure it’s the right size) to the cartridge’s nozzle and blow air into the cartridge or suck the dry ink out. Pay attention to little bits of dried ink coming out the other end. This is a good sign! Nozzles are somewhat delicate, so be careful about the amount of air pressure you use from the vacuum. 

Isopropyl Alcohol Method

If you don’t have a handheld vacuum cleaner, don’t worry! You can use Isopropyl Alcohol to dissolve the dry ink. However, when it comes to stubborn clogs, you might need to turn your attention to the sponge on your ink cartridge. This very delicate sponge is responsible for the delivery of ink to paper. If a cartridge sponge gets blocked with dried-up ink, it can impact your print jobs. 

Isopropyl alcohol is the ideal solution for cleaning your sponge as it is delicate enough not to damage the sponge but is strong enough to dissolve any dried ink. Using a dropper or syringe will ensure you only get the alcohol on the sponge. Be generous when pouring the alcohol into the blocked printer head so it can do its magic to dissolve the ink. 

Impossible Clogs: How to Clean Printer Heads 

If all of those previous ideas fail, don’t get discouraged! There is one last method you can use to tackle even the most impossible clogs. By soaking blocked printer heads in the water, you can dissolve the dried ink and get back to printing. While this method might be the slowest, it’s often the most effective. 

Use these steps to carefully unclog even the most impossible clogs: 

  1. Detach the blocked printer head from your printer and lay it on a paper towel
  2. Use a shallow plastic dish or bowl lined with a paper towel or microfiber cloth to protect the printhead
  3. Heat clean water so that it is warm but not scalding and mix it with ammonia in a 1:1 ratio
  4. Pour a half-inch of the water mixture into the plastic dish and gently place the printer head on it
  5. Rotate the printer head as needed, and over time, you should see ink bleed out of the blocked printhead

How to Prevent Clogs in Printer Heads 

While these methods will work every time your printer head is clogged, you might be wondering how to prevent it in the first place. The number one reason printheads get clogged is from lack of use.

If you don’t use your printer regularly, the printheads can easily dry out and cause frustration. So, what’s the solution? Print more often. Even if you don’t need to print something, we recommend printing a test page at least once a week to prevent clogs and to keep your printer cartridges clean and ready for use. 

Find the Right Printer for Your Needs at Ink Genie

Ink Genie® is one of the leading ink and toner suppliers to businesses, government institutions, schools, and homes in the country.  We have thousands of customers that we consider part of our family and always offer them our best service, satisfaction, and savings! Learn more about Ink Genie and shop our selection of name-brand ink cartridges and toners.

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