How to Clean Clogged Inkjet Printheads

by Steve Dasseos on November 4, 2008

How to Clean Clogged Inkjet Printheads
by Blake W Patterson

A clogged print head on your inkjet printer is not a fine thing. Over time (especially when there’s long periods of no printer use) the many tiny holes that make up a modern inkjet printer’s head can become clogged with dried ink.

Most printers today have some sort of cleaning routine where either you instruct the printer to go through a cleaning cycle via a program on your computer or you press a sequence of buttons on the printer itself to begin the process. A number of these cleanings, in succession, will usually take care of a clogged head–but not always. I recently found my year and a half old Epson Stylus Color 600 unable to print coherently using black ink and no amount of standard cleaning-cycle runthroughs would fix the problem.

On some inkjet printers (HP’s for instance) the ink cartridge contains the print head, so changing the cartridge gives you a new, unclogged printhead. My Epson’s print head is part of the printer itself, and can only be replaced by a service technician, and the cost is usually very close to the price of the printer itself. I had to come up with something better than that, so I began searching the web to see what people in similar predicaments had done. I found that I my problem was not unique and there were some rather successful remedies floating around.

I discovered that isopropyl alcohol (I bought a bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol at the drugstore) is a great solvent for this sort of dried ink. There were those that recommended that I take an old, discarded ink jet cartridge, open it, clean it out with the alcohol, fill it back up with alcohol, reseal it, and place it in the printer for a few runs through the printer’s self-cleaning method. This proved to be a rather messy endeavor indeed, so I followed a bit of less-aggressive advice.

I simply removed the black print cartridge from the printer and dropped 7-10 drops of alcohol down in the ink-receptacle area where the ink cartridge normally sits (there should be a little hole down in there where the ink actually flows from the cartridge into the head), replaced the ink cartridge, and ran a few sessions of the printers head-cleaning routine. It took quite a few cleaning sessions (probably 15-20) with a few pages of text prints thrown in there just to try and move some ink, before it cleared up.

It actually had to sit overnight, with the last few cleanings done the next morning, before all was well — but well it is. Everything works perfectly now, and I don’t have to go out and buy a new printer.

To avoid such blockages, it’s a good idea to print something, both in color and black & white (if you’ve got a color printer), once a week or so just to keep things moving. But if you do end up cursed with a blocked print head — this method should take care of you.

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