PC-Hardware

What to consider when cleaning the nozzles of your printer

A major disadvantage of inkjet printers is the vulnerability of the printhead nozzles. If you do not use your printer for a while, ink can dry up here. This results in unclean print results and, in the worst case, can even lead to a defect in the print head. To prevent this problem, the nozzles should be cleaned regularly. But this has to be learned. So that you don’t leave any unnecessary damage to your printer, we would like to show you what you should pay attention to when cleaning the print head nozzles.

Clogged nozzles lead to many problems

Besides an unclean printout, clogged nozzles can also cause another major problem. For example, the clogging often leads to a much higher consumption of printer ink. After all, more ink has to be pumped into the nozzles in the course of the dried ink. It doesn’t matter whether you have a high-end inkjet printer or a low-budget device. The consequences of a clogged nozzle always look the same. But even if you use your printer regularly, sooner or later you may experience dried ink. At the latest when your device suddenly prints unclean images, you can assume that there is contamination. In order to maintain the print head of your printer effectively and promisingly, you should definitely use the right materials when cleaning it.

Regular cleaning programs are expensive

Of course, the manufacturers of inkjet printers know about the Achilles’ verse of their devices. Accordingly, they also offer the option of taking advantage of practical cleaning programs. During printhead cleaning, the printer pushes lots of ink through the printhead. What may be useful and effective in many cases, however, is usually one thing above all: expensive. After all, regular printhead cleaning also ensures high ink consumption. Before you know it, you have to change the ink cartridges again. Cleaning programs are particularly annoying when they do nothing at all. This is often the case with particularly stubborn dirt. Then you’ve just wasted expensive ink and gained no benefit from it. If it should be possible, you should therefore regularly convince yourself whether and if so, how much the printheads are dirty.

Why does the print head get dirty?

There can be several causes of clogged printheads. However, the main cause is the chemical properties of ink. When it is not in motion, it becomes more viscous over time. Eventually, the fluid dries up. In addition to the ink itself, there may be other factors that further fuel the clogging. In addition to paper fibers, these include dust deposits. Since the ink itself is where the main problem lies, it quickly becomes clear that cleaning programs are not a permanent solution either. You’d better look for a cost-effective and, above all, efficient method.

Not every chemical cleaner is suitable

Partly you meet in Internet forums on the craziest cleaning agents for printers. Here, users sometimes advise brush cleaners, nail polish remover and sometimes even hydrochloric acid. However, it is by no means the case that you can use any cleaner for the print heads. The choice of cleaner should be carefully considered. Otherwise, there is a risk of serious damage that can affect not only the print head itself, but also the printer as a whole. You should never use harsh chemicals. The risk of damaging the printer’s electronics is simply too great.

A nozzle cleaner (here: JETlifetech Printhead Cleaner Nozzle Cleaner to clean for all inkjet printers) is perfect for cleaning.

Set instead on special nozzle cleaners. These are gentle on the print head and are effective for fighting dirt. Alternatively, distilled water is also suitable. However, you should avoid using water from the tap. This contains small suspended particles and, depending on the region, a lot of lime. These can also cause damage to the printer and blockages in the print head nozzle. Printers whose print heads can be conveniently removed allow practical cleaning. Here, you do not have to work on the printer itself, but can perform the cleaning quite specifically on the print head.

Good cleaning doesn’t have to be expensive

In contrast to a cleaning program, manual cleaning is not only far cheaper, but also more efficient in many cases. The prerequisite for this is that you carry out the cleaning conscientiously and correctly. How you do this in the best case, we show you in the following step by step.

    1. Loosen the lock of the print head and remove the print head.
    2. Then spray the special cleaner for the nozzles on a microfiber cloth.
    3. Now dab the nozzle plate of the printer.
    4. Finally, you should spray some of the nozzle cleaner into the ink sieves.
    5. Finally, put the ink tanks or cartridges back into the printer.
    6. Optional: Run another cleaning program of your printer. So you achieve a perfect result.

In the case of very stubborn dirt, even after the procedure described above, you may get a poor print result. In this case, you need to go one step further. So it may be advisable to soak the print head. To do this, it is best to use a shallow bowl, a saucer or a pot lid. Then fill the container with nozzle cleaner and place the print head in it. The cleaner should cover the print head to a height of about two to three millimeters. Then soak the print head in the cleaner for several hours. In the best case, the print head will be in the liquid all night. After the time is up, let the print head dry and put it back into the printer.

Dirt is not always to blame

The most annoying effects of dirty printheads are the unclean print results. But it doesn’t always have to be a clogged nozzle that’s responsible for the poor print product. Sometimes, damage to the print head can also lead to poor results. You should definitely take this into account when investigating the cause. If this is the case, you can clean the print head as often as you like. The results will still be unsatisfactory. One or more defective nozzles often lead to streaks on the printed image. The general electronics of the printer may also be defective. In this case, you don’t have to clean the print head, but replace it with a new one. Depending on the model, this can lead to high costs. Sometimes it is even cheaper to buy a new printer than to replace the printheads.

General cleaning tips

If you choose to clean the printhead manually, you will get the best results. However, this is only true if you do the cleaning correctly. To avoid costly mistakes on your part, we’d like to give you a few general tips for cleaning.

Tip 1: Take a look at the manual

When cleaning, you should not show overconfidence. This can be expensive for you. Depending on the manufacturer, the print head is installed together or separately with the cartridges in the printer. For this reason, you should take a look at the manual in advance.

Tip 2: Take your time

As with almost all electronic devices, you also run the risk of breaking something in the printer if you open it incorrectly. Depending on the device, the print heads can be cleaned in a simple or complicated way. In order to prevent incorrect hand movements, you should definitely take your time when working on the device. The best way to clean the printheads is when the printhead is directly on the cartridge.

Tip 3: Disconnect the power connection – with proper timing

Another rule when working with electronic devices, not only protects the printer, but also you. Namely, before you start working, you should disconnect the power connection of the device. With the printer, however, you can also take advantage of a practical peculiarity. A comfortable position of the print head makes it easier to clean it. Turn off the printer and open the printer cover. Now you can see the print head. Since the printhead often changes position when the cover is opened, you should disconnect the power cord at this point. The print head is now in the optimal position.

Tip 4: Start careful cleaning

Once the print head is in the right position, you can start cleaning it. Here, the focus is on the contact pads. Take your microfiber cloth sprayed with cleaner and remove the dirt and ink. Always make sure that you work very carefully. Sometimes the use of a cotton swab can also be suitable for cleaning.

Tip 5: Carefully reinsert the print head

Once everything is clean, you can plug the power cord back in. Your printer will tell you that the print head is not in the printer. Put it back in and wait for the machine to re-initialize.

Tip 6: Check the result

Whether soaking the printhead is necessary depends on the result of the cleaning. You can easily check this with a test page. If the page still shows annoying streaks, the cleaning was not successful. Then a defect or however a persistent contamination stands in the area.

Ink jam is problem number 1

If you take a closer look at a print head, you quickly notice how delicate they are. First and foremost, the extremely fine nozzles sometimes look impressive. But, what may look exciting is also extremely vulnerable. During the printing process, the viscous ink makes its way through the print head nozzles. This causes an ink jam, so to speak. With ever higher resolution printers, this problem only gets worse. The reason for this is that high printer resolution is also accompanied by thinner nozzles. To stop this problem, the nozzles should be kept as moist as possible. This can be achieved by regularly printing test pages.

Example of a test page (Image: HP Support)

If you know a bit about the subject, you can interpret a lot into the test pages. For example, light stripes that appear sporadically are a typical indication of an ink jam. This indicates that there might be dried ink on the print head. The same applies if the test page shows a generally pale image. This is at least the case if the ink cartridge levels are all still well filled. If the test page shows one of the two cases, it may be worthwhile to clean the print head (see above).

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If the ink has not yet dried out, but merely jammed, an automatic print head cleaning is advisable as an acute measure. After all, the device’s own cleaning solutions are now very sophisticated. However, if a test page after self-cleaning still indicates an ink jam, there is probably no way around extensive manual cleaning. However, since modern printers no longer regard their printhead as a wearing part, but rather as a long-lasting component of the printer, you should make the effort. Otherwise, you run the risk of having to buy a new, expensive print head.

The bottom line: cleaning is worthwhile

If you have to clean the print head, this is not only a time-consuming job. On top of that, you have to do it with a lot of care. Otherwise, there is a risk of expensive damage to the print head and/or the printer. But cleaning is worthwhile. It doesn’t matter whether you use the expensive self-cleaning function of the printer software or a cheap and efficient manual cleaning method. Printheads are a very expensive spare part in modern inkjet printers. Accordingly, they often cost almost as much as a completely new printer. Anyone who is very bothered by this problem should seriously consider whether an inkjet printer is the right device for their personal requirements. Alternatively, laser printers are becoming more and more affordable. These rely on toner, which cannot dry out. You can find out which printer suits you here.

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Bad Segeberg.

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A major disadvantage of inkjet printers is the vulnerability of the printhead nozzles. If you do not use your printer for a while, ink can dry up here. This results in unclean print results and, in the worst case, can even lead to a defect in the print head. To prevent this problem, the nozzles should be cleaned regularly. But this has to be learned. So that you don’t leave any unnecessary damage to your printer, we would like to show you what you should pay attention to when cleaning the print head nozzles.
Clogged nozzles lead to many problems
Besides an unclean printout, clogged nozzles can also cause another major problem. For example, the clogging often leads to a much higher consumption of printer ink. After all, more ink has to be pumped into the nozzles in the course of the dried ink. It doesn’t matter whether you have a high-end inkjet printer or a low-budget device. The consequences of a clogged nozzle always look the same. But even if you use your printer regularly...

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