How To Clean Clogged Printer Heads

Sometimes, after a good while of printing, you will start to notice that there are streaks and blurred lines on your paper. If you have never experienced this before, this is because your printer’s print heads are clogged.

White lines amongst prints and flawed prints are some of the easiest ways to know when your print head needs a good clean.

But most people don’t know why this happens, how it happens, and most importantly, what to do when it happens. Some just like to hit the machine a few times in the hopes that it fixes itself, but of course, that does not help.

So if you want to know how to clean clogged printer heads, then we suggest you keep on reading. You will find out about all the different types of clogs that can occur, and how you can clean them.

What this does is that it helps you save up on ink, since you can now clean the heads for better ink, instead of getting a new one.

What Are The Kinds Of Printer Head Clogs?

What Are The Kinds Of Printer Head Clogs?
What Are The Kinds Of Printer Head Clogs?

There are three kinds of clogs you will come across mostly. Let us break down these three types, so you know which one you are facing, and how you can tackle each kind when they arise.

1. Plain Clogs

As the name suggests, these are plain or simple clogs that do not take too much work. This usually occurs when you don’t run your printer for long periods of time.

The printheads have microscopic holes through which the ink passes. When you haven’t used it for a long time, the ink at the ends of these holes can dry out and eventually clog the heads. Other than this, another reason can be air bubbles at the nozzle, which can also cause blockage.

When you are faced with these, you can most times get rid of the clog by running a nozzle check, or a head cleaning cycle. And if the problem is not fixed after this, you can simply run a second nozzle check.

2. Stubborn Clogs

Sometimes clogs get a little stronger and they don’t go through the nozzle check no matter how many times you run it. This is when you need to use warm water, any ammonia-based solvent, or Windex.

  • You have to start by turning the printer on, as it needs to run through its startup process. You have to keep a keen eye out and unplug the printer when you see the print heads moving. This is to be done so the print heads remain loose on the carriage track, which will make it easier for you to work on.
  • Now you must remove the ink cartridges and keep them wrapped in plastic to prevent them from drying out.
  • Take a paper towel and fold it into quarters lengthwise. Now damp it with either warm water, or any ammonia-based solvent, or any other cleaner that you have in mind. Place this damp paper towel beneath the printhead assembly carriage.
  • After you have successfully placed it, you can move the print heads to and fro to see the clogged ink residue come off on the paper towel.
  • Of course, since there is decent buildup here, you are going to have to repeat the process a few times by changing out the paper towel. Do it until no more residue appears, and your print heads will be cleared up.

3. Extreme Clogs

Extreme clogs are ones that do not always go away even with the Windex method. And the irony here is that this mostly happens to more expensive printers.

The thing is, expensive printers tend to carry smaller and finer printhead holes. This is done so that they can provide better details in the print, but this also becomes the reason for more clogs.

There are a few things you could do here. To start off, you can perform the same method as you would for stubborn clogs, which would loosen the clogs up a bit.

Other options include soaking the printheads in an ammonia and water solution for a few hours. After this, you can run it below a tap to wash away the ink.

Ways ToClean Clogged Printer Heads

1. Self-Cleaning Mechanism

One of the simplest ways is to use the self-cleaning mechanism that comes with the printer. If your printer has a light blockage, this can come in handy. Different models have it a little differently, and you can look up how you can activate it through your user manual.

2. Add Air Pressure

For the self-cleaning mechanism, these printers usually use high-pressure air which blows the clogged ink out. However, if your ink is stuck too strong, or the air pressure is not enough (which it usually is not), you can add air pressure on your own.

You can use a vacuum cleaner and connect the end to the cartridge nozzle using a pipe that fits. However, do make sure to not go overboard, and increase air pressure slowly, because otherwise, you risk damaging the nozzle channels.

How To Prevent Clogged Printer Heads?

Now that you know how you can clean your printer heads, you should also know how you can prevent this from happening frequently. Of course, you cannot eliminate the phenomena entirely, but reducing it is also an option. Things you can do include:

  • Allow the ink to flow freely by using the printer a few times a week
  • Every month run at least one head cleaning cycle to keep it clean
  • Every month or so, put in papers of different thicknesses so that any extra ink present rubs off on it
  • Try to always use genuine OEM ink cartridges
  • Some printers come with a Maintenance Cartridge or a Cleaning Cartridge. If you have those, use them.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How To Clean Printer Drum?

Answer:To clean the printer drum, you can start by opening the front cover of the printer. After this, you need to remove the drum unit from the machine, as well as the toner cartridge. Flip the drum unit over and place it down. See if the drum unit gear appears on the left side, then it is okay.

Now you can gently wipe the surface of the drum unit using cotton swabs until you see that it has been cleaned.

After this, you can assemble the whole thing back into place.

2. How To Clean Laser Printer Drum?

Answer:Laser printer drums can accumulate a lot of foreign particles over time. You clean them quite easily. All you have to do is open up the printer to remove the toner cartridge and the drum unit separately. Then turn the drum unit over to the other side and place it down so you can clean it.

Start cleaning it with something soft yet effective such as cotton swabs. Once clean, you can place everything back in their places and close the printer up.


A lot of times, the cartridges still have ink left in them when you see that they are clogged. But since most of us are unaware of the ways to fix this issue, we simply head out and get a new ink cartridge, which seems to be the easier way out.

But that really is not the solution, and it wastes a ton of ink and money over time. So what do you do? You learn how to unclog printer heads. This way, you are getting more out of your ink because let us face it they can be pretty expensive.

About Dror Wettenstein

Dror Wettenstein is a software engineer and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. He is the founder of TechTreeRepeat, a company that enables technical writers to publish their work faster and share it with readers across the globe. Dror has a master’s degree in computer science from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from UC Irvine.

When he’s not working on software projects, Dror enjoys writing articles and essays on various topics. He also likes playing guitar and spending time with his wife and two young children.

Leave a Reply

Check the FREE Gifts here. Or latest free books from our latest works.

Remove Ad block to reveal all the secrets. Once done, hit a button below