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How to Clean Printer Head and Ink Cartridge

Tiny bits of dust, debris and dried ink clog the tiny holes in the printer head and now your print results are streaky, with white lines where there should be color. Your inkjet is only partially ejected.

Ah! Streaks! Missing colors! White lines!

Nothing upsets inkjet users more than the dreaded clogged printhead.

Some inkjet printers clog more often than others.

Speculation has been circulating on the Internet that the micro-perforations in Epson’s printheads produce sharper prints, but clog more easily.

Canon PIXMA inkjet printers clog less frequently because they run a preemptive printhead cleaning cycle.

But no matter what brand of inkjet printer you use, print head clogging is inevitable.

The 3 types of clogs

There are basically three types of printhead clogs you will encounter:

  1. Simple clogs: These can usually be resolved by performing a printhead cleaning cycle and nozzle check on the printer.
  2. Stubborn clogs: When nozzle inspection/head cleaning doesn’t work, you may need to use the windex method (see below for details).
  3. Hardcore clogs: The windex doesn’t work? Ugh. It’s time to use the big guns.

Where are your printheads?

Your inkjet printer’s printheads are traditionally mounted on the bottom of a plastic carriage inside the printer called the printhead assembly.

The printhead assembly carriage holds the ink cartridge and moves back and forth with the help of a belt and stabilizer bar to spray ink onto the paper.

Cleaning printer heads with a soft cloth

Clean the printhead with a soft, lint-free cloth, but do not touch the electronics.

Simple clogging

The print head contains microscopic holes that shoot out colored droplets of ink.

If you don’t run your printer often enough, the ink can dry out and clog your printheads.

Even air bubbles in the ink cartridges can clog the printheads. However, a simple clog can often be remedied by running a printhead cleaning cycle and nozzle check on your printer.

In fact, run two printhead cleaning cycles before performing a nozzle check.

There should be no missing lines on your printout. If there are, run another print head cleaning cycle.

a clogged hp ink cartridge

Stubborn Clogs (Windex Method)

Sometimes you have to physically treat stubborn clogs.

Warm water will usually loosen the dried ink on the nozzle.

Other times, you will need windex or other ammonia-based solvents for a deeper cleaning.

  1. Turn on your printer. It will begin running its initial startup process. Once the print head starts moving on the slider track, unplug the printer from the wall. This will keep the print head loose (unparked) along the slider track, making it easier to move and work with.
  2. Remove all ink cartridges from the printer. It is a good idea to wrap them in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out while you work.
  3. Fold half a paper towel lengthwise into quarters and moisten it with warm water or a cleaning solvent. There are several third-party cleaning solvents that allow for more thorough cleaning. In the video below, YouTuber Robb’s Homemade Life makes a homemade printhead cleaning solution with 8 parts Windex and 2 parts rubbing alcohol:

 

  1. Place a wet paper towel on the print track under the printhead assembly cart. Move the printhead back and forth on the wet paper towel. You should see ink residue on the paper towel.
  2. Get a new paper towel and repeat steps 2 and 3 until no residue appears on the wet paper towel when you rub the print head assembly carriage over the wet paper towel.
  3. Replace the ink cartridge and power on the printer. Cross your fingers and perform a test print

Hard Core Blockage

It seems to be a cosmic joke. You spend thousands on a top of the line inkjet printer and it clogs up more often than your $100 inkjet printer! Did you know?

High-end inkjet printers use pigmented ink, which dries and clogs more easily than standard ink. They also use ultra-fine printhead holes to provide the desired detail, but these small holes can clog quickly.

To remove the core clog from the printhead, you will need to perform many of the same procedures as you would to fix a stubborn clog, except you will first need to remove the printhead assembly from the printer.

Removing the printhead assembly is a separate article, but once it is removed, you have a few options for clearing those stubborn clogged printheads.

One of the most thorough methods is to soak the printhead in a solution of water and ammonia for a few hours, then rinse the printhead under warm tap water to get it clean. We have seen others have success with this method and it is cheaper than replacing the nozzle assembly.

Other methods of “blasting” stubborn clogs include using needles and syringes to flush the cleaning solution with:

and/or warm water over the printhead, and blowing air through the printhead with a straw or rubber hose:


Cleaning the printer head by printer model


How to clean HP inkjet printer heads

Have you run a cleaning cycle on your HP printer, but you are still getting spotty prints? You may have a clogged print head that must be cleaned manually.

Here is how to clean the HP print head:

To begin cleaning the HP print head, remove the cartridge from the printer. The HP inkjet print head is located in the cartridge itself.

Wet a paper towel with soap and water and place it on a shallow tray. Carefully place the bottom of the cartridge on the damp paper towel and let it sit for five minutes.

This will loosen any dried or clogged pieces of ink. Dry the cartridge with a clean paper towel and replace it in the printer.

That’s how to clean an HP inkjet printer head!

How to Clean Brother Printer Heads

Your beloved Brother printer needs a head cleaning!

This is how to clean Brother printer heads:

This process is a bit more involved than cleaning the HP print head because the print head on Brother printers is mounted on a fixed carrier inside the printer.

Therefore, you can’t simply pull out the cartridge and soak it in a cleaning solution like you can with HP cartridges.

However, removing and cleaning Brother’s print head is not difficult.

For beginners, run a print cleaning cycle. Once the cart has moved to the center of the printer, unplug the power cord from the wall outlet. This will turn off the printer so that the print heads are in the center of the machine so that you can easily reach them.

Place a folded piece of paper towel under the print head. You will be pumping a cleaning solution through these Brother print heads and you don’t want a mess inside your printer.

Speaking of cleaning solutions, you can buy print head cleaning solutions online or make your own.

In addition, you may want to invest in a Brother print head cleaning kit. Either way, you’ll need a small syringe and a rubber tube to clean your Brother printer head.

Open the front panel of your Brother printer and access the ink cartridge. Remove the cartridges and you will see the ink port at the back of each cartridge.

Fill the syringe about halfway with cleaning fluid and attach one end of the flush tube to the ink port you want to clean.

Slowly push the cleaning solution through the ink port. You should see liquid and dried ink debris in the paper towel location under the ink cartridge.

Once you have cleaned all the print heads, plug your Brother back in and run a standard cleaning cycle.

Clean your Brother printer heads regularly to ensure optimal print quality.

A clever YouTuber bought empty cartridges for his Brother printer and filled them with a cleaning solution. He put the custom cleaning cartridge in the printer, ran the cleaning cycle, and everything was clean as a whistle! Very creative!

How to clean an Epson print head

Like the Brother printers, the print head of the Epson printer sits on a fixed bracket.

You will need to print a page or run a cleaning cycle with the printer unplugged in between in order to get the print head in position for Epson print head cleaning.

How to clean the Epson print head manually

  • Remove your ink cartridge and set it aside.
  • Place a folded paper towel under the print head and place it in the middle of the printer.
  • Fill the syringe with cleaning fluid and attach the rubber transfer tube to the tip of the syringe. Print head cleaning fluid for Epson printers is available online, or you can make your own.
  • Connect the other end of the transfer tube to the ink port located at the back of the cartridge.
  • Slowly pump cleaning fluid into the ink port until you see the fluid on the paper towel.
  • Repeat this process for each color cartridge.
  • Replace the cartridge and restart the printer.
  • Print a test page. If your Epson print head cleaning is not successful, repeat the above steps to clean the Epson print head.

One suggestion to facilitate Epson print head cleaning is to soak the Epson printer’s print head cleaner tube in a bowl of hot water. This will warm up the cleaning solution and make it easier to clean the Epson print head.

This is how to clean the Epson print head nozzles that are clogged or blocked.


How to clean the Canon print head

Ah, Canon, how we love you! But we hate your clogged print head! But we hate your clogged print head! Don’t be afraid!

Follow the steps below to get a clean Canon print head!

To clean the Canon print head:

  • Turn off and unplug the machine.
  • Open the top cover and the inner cover and lid to access the cartridge.
  • Place the cartridge holder in the center of the machine and remove the cartridge.
  • Grasp the print head assembly from the front, behind the strip that has four colors of ink. Push to the right and pull forward.
  • Lift the entire tray out of the printer. This is the printhead assembly.
  • Remove the rubber gasket from around the printhead sponge.
  • Cover the computer chips on the printhead assembly with tape to protect them.
  • Soak the printhead in the cleaning solution.
  • Flush the printhead with a sink nose or hose to remove stubborn clogs.

This is how to clean the print head of the Canon Pixma and other models of Canon printers.


How to Clean Dell Printer Heads

Cleaning the print head of a Dell printer is fairly simple. The print head on Dell printers is similar to the Canon models in that it is removable.

Start by opening the top of the Dell so that you can access the printer’s ink cartridges. Pull these cartridges out and set them aside.

Now, pull the print head assembly up and out of the printer.

Soak the print head assembly in the cleaning solution for about 15 minutes. Then pull it out and pat it dry with a clean paper towel.

Reinstall the print head assembly as well as the cartridge and run a test page.

Hopefully you got it all unclogged! If not, repeat until you are satisfied.

Preventing Clogged Print Heads

Perhaps the best way to avoid clogged print heads is to stop them from happening.

Keep the ink flowing freely by:

  • Using your inkjet printer at least twice a week
  • Running a printhead cleaning cycle at least once a month
  • Occasionally running different thicknesses of paper through your printer to remove excess ink from the printheads
  • Insist on genuine OEM ink cartridges
  • Occasionally use “clean cartridges” or “maintenance cartridges”, if your printer model has them

Clean the printer head – Conclusion

Ink Cartridge manufacturers will tell you differently (often bragging about their technological advances in print heads), but they really don’t mind if your print head clogs.

Wasting ink to check the nozzles? That’s cool for them. It means you’re buying more ink, which makes cartridge manufacturers happy.

It’s your responsibility to keep the print head clean, which is a hassle that comes with printer-owner pride.

Use your inkjet printer at least twice a week, if not more, and run the clean print head feature on your printer every month and you’ll have better prints and less ink waste in the long run.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is a printhead?

A printhead is a nozzle where ink is transferred from the cartridge to the paper.

These printhead nozzles are usually a series of small, almost microscopic holes. As you might imagine, these small holes can easily clog, especially if you don’t use your printer very often.

To avoid clogged printer heads, perform routine printer maintenance once a month and use your inkjet printer at least once a week.

The first step you should take when you think your printer head is clogged is to run an automatic printer cleaning cycle. You may want to do this two or three times to see if it clears the clog. The auto-clean cycle forces additional ink through the print head to unclog any clogs or blockages.

Auto-cleaning is a good start, but it’s not always enough. Sometimes you have to get in there and clean your printer head manually.

Print head cleaning solutions

There are various options for print head cleaning solutions online, as well as kits with syringes and tubing that will make the job easier. But for the do-it-yourselfer, creating a print head cleaning solution is simple.

We’ve seen some videos of people using 100% isopropyl alcohol as a print head cleaner. While this is effective, it seems a bit harsh to us. However, if you have a stubborn clog, go for it.

Otherwise, use a print head cleaning solution recipe consisting of 50% water and 50% alcohol.

We also like a homemade print head cleaning solution that is 8 parts windex and 2 parts alcohol. This print head cleaning solution works great and it’s cheap to make!

For more information updating please pay attention to weemay.com.

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