How to Clean Your Printer Heads

by Guest Author on October 25, 2010

in Articles, Guest Posts, Guides/How-To

The print head for an inkjet printer is where the ink is sucked out of the cartridge and sprayed onto your paper through very small nozzles. When your print jobs start looking fuzzy, blurred, or streaked, those nozzles on your print head are either clogged or partially clogged. This happens because, over time, ink mixes with dust from paper and solidifies on your print head, resulting in blockages and reduced print quality.

Fortunately, when this happens there are things that you can do that can help restore your printer’s output to its original quality. You don’t need to put up with fuzzy, streaky, or erratic print jobs any more. Below you will find some simple steps that will show you how to clean your printer heads.

  1. Find your printer in Windows. Click the Devices and Printers option from your Windows start menu or click your Windows 7 start button and then type “Printers” in the Windows 7 search field. When the “Devices and Printers” window opens, look at the “Printers and Faxes” section (usually the second section from the top of the window) and find your printer.
  2. Find your printer driver utility. Right click on your printer’s icon and then choose the “Properties” option from the context menu. What you see next will differ depending on the printer you have, but somewhere you should have a tab that says “Maintenance”‚ “Tools” or something similar. Here you should see a “Cleaning” option.
  3. Click the “Cleaning” icon and your printer will start a routine that is designed to clear the nozzles on your print head. Your printer will start moving its print head and will sometimes even print some output on paper. When it is complete, print a test page to see if your print quality has improved.
  4. Some printers have a “Deep Cleaning” option that will go to additional lengths to clear your nozzles in case the regular cleaning doesn’t work. Because cleaning your print heads expends ink, you will want to start with the standard cleaning to minimize your expense. If your print quality remains poor, go ahead and run the “Deep Cleaning” option if you have one available. Otherwise, you may want to run the standard cleaning process again and then print another test page.
  5. If your print quality is still bad, look at your printer’s manufacturer Web page to see if your printer has its print head built into the ink cartridge or if the print head is a separate part of the printer. If the print head is part of the ink cartridge, you may want to install a new one as a simple remedy to your print quality problem.
  6. Try manually cleaning your print head. You can do this by removing your cartridge and placing a few drops of isopropyl alcohol in the bottom of the receptacle. Replace your cartridge and then run the cleaning routine again. The alcohol works to dissolve the blockages on the print head nozzles in the event of stubborn problems.
  7. Are you really having print head issues? After you have worked on cleaning your print head nozzles and still have print quality issues, consider some other factors that may affect your printing. First, try better quality paper. Low quality paper often wicks out the ink, making it appear fuzzy. Some paper may be too hard and fail to absorb the ink, allowing it to smear.
  8. If you are using re-filled or third party ink cartridges, you may be getting poor quality ink. Try an ink cartridge from your printer’s manufacturer to see if it resolves your print quality problem.
  9. If you are still having problems with print quality, consider taking your printer for service. If your printer is old, your printer head could be worn out. For very inexpensive printers, you may find that replacing the printer may be cheaper than having the print head replaced, so be sure to get an estimate before authorizing any work.

Now that you know how to clean your printer heads and what to do if your efforts are unsuccessful, try these steps on your printer. One way to help prevent future problems is to print at least one color and one black and white print job each week. Print heads tend to clog more when they are used less, so keeping your printer active may help you minimize future printing problems.

Guest post by: James Adams writes reviews of printer supplies such as LaserJet cartridges. He is also a regular contributor of guest posts around the web.

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