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How to Clean Printheads

If you don’t use your printer often, sometimes your printheads can get clogged by dried up ink. This can be a problem, as clogged printheads can stop your printer from performing as it should.

One way you might notice you have a clogged printhead is if you print a page and one or all colours do not print (even though you know you have ink available). You might also notice that your ink is coming through patchy, rather than smoothly. 

The good news is that printheads are generally pretty easy to clean! There are both manual cleaning options, and printer software-based options that you can complete to clean your printer head. Today we take a look at how to clean printer heads. Read on to find out more.


Printer software self-cleaning


If you have noticed your print heads need cleaning, one possible solution is to do so using the printer’s self-cleaning software. This method can be done without ever having to touch the printheads themselves, and lets the printer handle the issue directly. It is best to first check your printer’s manual to see if a self-cleaning option exists, and if so, how to access it, however, if you cannot find that information, follow the steps below.


Printhead self-cleaning for Windows


If you have a Windows machine, follow these steps to get to start the printer heads cleaning process. 

Step 1: Open the Control Panel and click on “Devices and Printers”

Step 2: Right click the icon or name of the printer you wish to clean and select “Properties” from the drop-down menu

Step 3: Click on the “Hardware” tab. Note: if you don’t see this tab, look for a “Maintenance”, “More Options”, or “Tools” tab

Step 4: Click on the option that says “Clean Ink Cartridges”, “Clean Heads”, “Clean Nozzles”, or “Clean Cartridges” (the wording may differ, depending upon the printer)


Printhead self-cleaning for Mac


For those who have a Mac machine, the following generic steps should apply.

Step 1: Go to System Preferences and click on “Printers & Scanners”

Step 2: Click on the printer you wish to clean, then click “Options & Supplies”

Step 3: Select the “Utility” tab and click “Open Printer Utility”

Step 4: Click on the “Cleaning”, “Deep Cleaning”, “Head Cleaning”, or “Cartridge Cleaning” option (the wording may differ, depending upon the printer).


Manual printer head cleaning


If your printer doesn’t support a self-cleaning option, or you have run the self-clean and are still having issues with a clogged printhead, then it might be time to try manually cleaning your printer heads. 

To do this, you will need a few supplies:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Distilled or bottled water
  • Paper towels
  • A lint-free cloth
  • Plastic wrap
  • A shallow bowl or plate
  • Gloves

The most important element here is the isopropyl alcohol, as it works to dissolve the dried-up ink stuck to the printer head, causing the clog.

Step 1: Switch the printer off and unplug it from the wall to be safe

Step 2: Open the unit and gently remove the cartridges (or the one cartridge with the problem). Before doing this, be sure to consult your printer’s manual to see how to safely do this. If the print head is separate from the cartridges, remove the print head as well.

Step 3: Optional, but you may like to wrap your cartridges in plastic, to help keep them from drying out

Step 4: Locate the printhead. If the printhead is integrated into the cartridge, you may need to clean the cartridge itself. For other printers, the printhead is separate from the cartridges. 

Step 5: Before you begin with the isopropyl alcohol, try gently wiping the printhead with a lint-free cloth. This may dislodge any ink that has clogged the heads. If the clog won’t seem to budge from a cloth alone, don’t be tempted to wipe it harder, as this could cause damage to the printer heads. Instead, have a go at using a liquid to remove the blockage

Step 5: Mix one part distilled or bottled water with one part isopropyl alcohol in a shallow bowl. Place the printhead in this mixture. If the printhead is part of the cartridge, be careful to only submerged the printhead section of this part. If the printhead is a separate piece, gently place it into the mixture to soak the section with the clogs. Leave the printhead to soak for a couple of minutes

Step 6: Dry the printhead by gently dabbing it on a paper towel. Make sure it is completely dry before proceeding to the next step

Step 7: Once the printhead is dry, place it back into the printer, switch the printer on and print a test page. If the clog has been removed you should find that the ink is coming through smoothly and correctly onto the page


What to do if the printer head is still clogged


First, try not to worry. If you have attempted to unclog your printer using the printer’s self-cleaning process, and tried removing the clog manually but the dried ink is still blocking the head, take a breather, and run the printer’s self-cleaning function again. Sometimes it can take a few goes to remove stubborn clogs. If you have tried several times to no avail, consider taking your printer to a printer specialist as they may be able to lend their expertise to remedying the issue.

We hope this blog post has helped you learn a little more about how to clean your printer heads. A clogged printer head can generally be remedied using a few simple steps, and you should be back to printing pages in no time!