We’ve all been there before: we need to urgently print a document for school or for work, but the printer shows an error and it’s not something you can dismiss to continue. Regardless of what brand of inkjet printer you use, clogged printheads are inevitable, and seem to happen at the worst possible times. We will try to help you clean your print head and get your document printed as soon as possible. 

What type of Clog are you dealing with? 

Generally speaking, you’ll encounter three types of printhead clogs:

It is possible to fix simple clogs by running your printer’s head cleaning and nozzle check cycle.

A stubborn clog might require a Windex treatment when nozzle check/head cleaning didn’t work.

The Windex wasn’t able to clear your clog? That’s awful. The time has come to unleash the heavy hitters to clear your serious clog.

Where to find the Print head

The printheads of an inkjet printer are normally mounted on the bottom of a plastic carriage inside the printer, which is called the printhead assembly or head assembly. 

This printhead carriage is attached to the printhead assembly and is used to hold ink cartridges and move back and forth as well as spray ink onto the paper, all controlled by a belt and an internal stabilizer bar.

It is normal, on occasion, for dust, debris, and dried ink to block the tiny holes in the printhead, causing your prints to appear streaky, with white lines where the original color should have been. The problem gets even worse since some inkjet printers clog much more often than others. 

Simple Clogs

The printhead is made up of microscopic holes from which droplets of colored ink are emitted.

The ink inside your printer dries out if you do not use it that frequently, thus clogging the printheads. Occasionally, air bubbles can even cause nozzles to become blocked in an ink cartridge. In many cases, you can resolve simple printer clogs by running the printer’s head cleaning cycle and nozzle check after the simple clog has been cleared. 

I would recommend that you do a nozzle check twice before running the head cleaning cycle. It is important that your printout contains no missing lines. If there are, you will need to run another head cleaning cycle.

More Stubborn Clogs 

If the above methods don’t help, you may have to get more physical to clear the clog. 

The ink that has dried on nozzles can often be loosened by washing them in warm water. Sometimes you will need Windex, or some other ammonia-based solvent, to provide a deeper level of cleaning.

Make sure your printer is turned on. As soon as the initialization process is completed, the startup process will start. Once the print heads start moving along the carriage track, it is time to unplug the printer from the wall. In this way, the print heads will remain free (unparked) along the carriage track, making there easier to work on and move around.

You will need to remove all the ink cartridges from your printer. When you are working on them, it is a good idea to wrap them in plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.

In order to do this, fold half a paper towel lengthwise into quarters, and then dampen with warm water or cleaning solvent. Some third-party cleaning solvents are available that can be used to perform a more thorough cleaning. 

The damp paper towel should be placed on the print track beneath the carriage of the printhead assembly. Over the damp paper towel, move the printheads back and forth. On the paper towel, there should be ink residue.

Continue repeating Steps 2 and 3 until no impurity appears on the paper towel when you rub the printhead assembly carriage across it.

Install the new ink cartridges and turn on the printer. Finally, run a test print and hope for the best. 

Serious Print Head Clogs

Inkjet printers that are used for high-end prints come with pigment ink, which tends to dry out and clog quicker than standard ink. Also, they use ultra-microscopic printhead holes that deliver detailed images, but due to their size, these holes can become blocked very quickly.

You’re going to have to perform a lot of the same procedures to effectively clean a hardcore clog on a printhead as you would if it was a persistent clog. However, first, you’ll need to remove the printhead assembly from your printer. 

We’ll cover how to remove the printhead assembly in another post, but once it’s out, you have a few options for removing stubborn clogs.

Printheads can be thoroughly cleaned by soaking them in a solution of water and ammonia for several hours and then washing them under warm running water. This method has worked for others, and it’s also cheaper than replacing the printheads. 

Other options for clearing tough clogs include using needles and syringes to flush cleaning solution through the drain. 

The Best Solution Is Regular Maintenance

You are responsible for cleaning the print heads of your printer; this is a nagging chore that comes with inkjet printer ownership. The more expensive your printer, the more care you should put into its maintenance. We recommend you run your inkjet printer at least twice a week, if not more. Also, don’t forget to run the clean printhead feature on your printer monthly, and you’ll have better prints and less wasted ink in the long run. For more help and printing resources be sure to check back on Blue Dog Ink often.