How to Clean Printer Cartridge Nozzles

Written by gideon sarantinos
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How to Clean Printer Cartridge Nozzles
Regular maintenance can avoid blocked printer nozzles. (printer cartridge image by hugy from Fotolia.com)

Nothing is more frustrating than printing a document only to find it coming out smudged, fuzzy or otherwise unpresentable. Like all mechanical devices, printers require regular maintenance to allow them to continue printing crystal-clear pages. Modern printers usually have built-in maintenance and troubleshooting functions driven by their software. Alternatively, you can remove the printer cartridge and manually clean it to optimise your printer's performance. The most common causes of problems are crusted ink, air bubbles and dirt blocking the print nozzle.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Printer driver software
  • Solvent such as methylated spirit/ isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • Warm water

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Click on the maintenance or utility tab of your printer's software menu. You will find a variety of options such as gauging printer cartridge ink levels, aligning the printer heads and cleaning out the nozzles to optimise performance.

  2. 2

    Click on the appropriate option and allow the printer's automated mechanism to flush out the ink nozzles.

  3. 3

    Print out a test page. This usually consists of an image or a series of arrows, dashes and lines. In older model printers, users must select the highest quality to finalise the calibration process.

  4. 4

    Print an actual page of a document to confirm the printing quality.

  5. 5

    Repeat cleaning procedure if necessary.

  1. 1

    Remove the cartridge from the printer.

  2. 2

    Hold the printer cartridge from its outer plastic casing only. Avoid touching the circuitry or rubber seals with your fingers because they contain grease and dirt.

  3. 3

    Carefully dip a cotton swab in warm water and dab around the printer head to loosen and remove encrusted ink.

  4. 4

    Replace cotton swabs as soon as they become dirty.

  5. 5

    Repeat the process with a solvent to dissolve grease and dirt. It is acceptable to clean your printer nozzles with solvent only rather than water.

  1. 1

    Oftentimes, inkjet printers randomly skip a character during printing. This often indicates an air bubble rather than an ink block. Repeat the automated and/or manual cleaning steps a few times.

  2. 2

    Holding down the "ink drop" button on your printer will cause the ink to be sucked back through the head, often freeing air bubbles.

  3. 3

    If the previous steps don't work, remove the printer cartridge and gently tap it to remove any air bubbles.

Tips and warnings

  • Use high quality cotton swabs so cotton fibres don't block the nozzles.
  • If there is no cleaning function available from your computer interface, check the user's manual. Some machines have self-cleaning functions that launch from their control panels.
  • Always opt for the self-cleaning function if available.
  • The nozzles can't easily be accessed from the printer head in most printers. Work around them with your cotton swab.
  • Excessive isopropyl alcohol or other solvents can ruin the rubber seals in cartridges that have them.
  • Manual cleaning can physically damage the delicate printer head and circuitry if not performed carefully.

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