How to Clean a Dirty Print Head

If you notice that the print quality of your documents has decreased considerably or if you are bringing an old inkjet out of retirement, you need to clean the print head to ensure you’re getting the best from your printer.

A dirty or clogged print head will hinder a regular flow of ink from the ink cartridge to paper.

The first step actually knows where the print head is and what it does. As you print a document, ink droplets leave the ink cartridge through the cartridge’s nozzle and go to the print head. The print head then lays the ink on a precise point on the paper. As you print, tiny droplets of ink can get stuck around the print head opening. If these drops get time to dry, they can form a crust around the print head opening and cause it to print poorly.

  • Clean It With Software

Check your printer’s manual for ways to clean your print head. Or, go to your printer’s official website and download a software for cleaning.

  • Clean It Yourself

First, remove your ink cartridges from your printer and then dip a cotton swab in hot water or isopropyl alcohol and rub it against the print head. This should loosen any crusted ink. Some printers, such as many Canon models, feature removable print heads that give you easy access to the print head and its nozzle(s). Many other inkjet printers don’t have this feature, so you’ll have to do your best to work around parts in your printer. Be careful, especially if you use isopropyl alcohol to clean your print heads: Some printers use rubber gaskets; if you get isopropyl alcohol on the gaskets, it could dry them out.

If you have a removable print head, remove the ink cartridge from the print head and take the print head out of your printer. Put some isopropyl alcohol or hot water into a saucer and set the printer head in the saucer. Let it soak for at least an hour. If it’s really dirty, it might be a good idea to let it soak overnight. Let it air dry, reinstall it in your computer, and run a cleaning cycle. This should get rid of any dried ink that was loosened during the soaking.

Don’t Panic!

Printing problems happen to us all sooner or later, but it’s important not to panic when you realize that something other than an empty ink cartridge is vexing your printer. The next logical step, cleaning your print head, is a straightforward process that can give your printer and your documents new life. Though most printers include software or a button that can clean print heads, if that doesn’t work, the do-it-yourself method is simple enough that it’s worth giving it a shot. Before you scrap an old inkjet printer that yields shoddy printouts, give the print head a quick cleaning. It may end up paying major dividends.

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