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How do I Clean My Printer Heads?

written by: Steve McFarlane•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/27/2010

A dirty printer head will generally waste ink and make your printed documents look messy and unprofessional. Here is how to clean print heads...

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    Even though a clogged print head impedes the regular flow of ink to the printer, in the long term it contributes to waste, forcing reprints of smudged documents and ink leakage from the cartridge itself. Sometimes it is necessary to take steps to manually clean the printer head if the automatic or software cleaning option does not work.

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    Prevent Print Head Clogs

    You can determine if the printer head needs cleaning if prints are smudged or look messy. or those prints look faint even while the ink cartridges are still full. A printer head may become blocked for a number of reasons, but the most common cause is that the ink has dried and clogged the head. To prevent print head clogs, never leave an empty inkjet cartridge in the printer; as the lack of moisture will most likely cause a blockage.

    If you don’t intend to use the printer for a while, seal the printer head in an airtight bag until it is needed again. While putting a few drops of water in the bag with the printer head will keep the humidity high and reduce the chance of blockage, you risk causing some rusting if the print head has metallic parts.

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    Software Printer Cleaning

    Most printers now ship with software-based print head cleaning utilities, but while using these printer head maintenance utilities can solve some minor issues, the process tends to waste ink, so it is something that you may not want to do on a routine basis. Review your user manual for specific information on how to start and run the cleaning process.

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    How do I Clean My Printer Heads?

    The software cleaning process may not work, or may take a long time and cause excessive waste of ink and paper. To clean inkjet printer heads that are excessively clogged, you may need to do a manual clean. Here are some techniques that have been known to work very well:

    • Clean with isopropyl alcohol - For best results, soak the printer head overnight in the alcohol. If the head is’n’t easily removed or accessible, use a cotton swab and alcohol to gentle wipe the printer head until you are satisfied that the clog or excessive ink build up is cleared. If old ink has hardened and block the printer head, consider putting a few drops of alcohol into the head to resolve the problem.
    • Soak in hot water – Put the head in hot water (not boiling) and leave it overnight.
    • Use an ultrasonic cleaner – Jewelers and others use ultrasonic cleaners to clean small and delicate items. you can use them to clean a printer head if you have access to one.

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    Printer Head Replacement

    It may be necessary to replace the printer head when a software clean isn’t working, or a manual clean is too much of an effort, especially in cases where old ink has hardened in the print head. Fortunately, in some applications the print head is actually integrated into the cartridge, so replacing the head is a simple matter of replacing the cartridge, but in more expensive printers the print head may be part of the printer itself.

    In any case, replacing the printer head on anything but high-end printers will not be cost effective because it may be cheaper to buy a new printer than buy replacement parts.

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    How do I Clean My Printer Heads
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    Summary

    Clean print heads not only make prints look more professional, but clean printer heads can also prevent wastage. In instances where using the software cleaning utility doesn’t work, manually cleaning the heads or replacing them may be an option, if it is cost effective to do so.

    Credit

    Image: "How do I Clean My Printer Heads." antigone78