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How To Clean Canon Printer Heads

how to clean print heads on canon printerCanon printers have a removable printer head that holds the ink cartridges. It is important to print a few pages in both black and color at least once per week in order to keep the ink flowing and prevent clogging.

Here's how to clean printer heads. If the printer head nozzles are blocked or dried out you will need to dissolve the dried ink. An inkjet nozzle has a diameter of about 45 microns which is about 1/2 the width of a human hair. Normally you can clear up minor clogs and streaking by running the cleaning cycle found in your printer's software utility.

However if the cleaning cycle doesn't do the trick in clearing up poor and incomplete output, don't give up and assume you'll need to buy a new printer head (which can cost more than a new printer). Canon owners have reported multiple ways to resolve this problem at little or not cost - some of the most popular methods are described below.


Steps for Manual Print Head Cleaning

Step 1 - Remove the ink tanks and printer head. Remove the ink tanks from the printer head (tank holder) and seal them in a zip lock or other sealable plastic bag. Set them aside, preferably propped upright.

Next remove the printer head (it snaps out). NOTE: You may want to wear latex gloves to help keep ink off your hands.

Step 2 - Soak the printer head. There are multiple suggestions on ways to clean the printer head and all have some variation on the following:

  • Get a small, shallow pan and lay down a layer or two of paper towels in the bottom of the container to protect the printer head circuitry from contact damage.
  • Heat up (via microwave) enough purified/bottled water to cover the paper towels. You can also use a 50/50 mixture of ammonia and distilled water (about a pint will do). Heat the mixture in the microwave for about a minute or so - it should NOT be boiling.
  • Slowly pour the water or mixture over the paper towels so that you have approximately 1/2 inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
  • Set the printer head into the container on top of the towels. You should see ink 'bleeding' out. Move the print head to several different spots (about a minute each spot) and shake gently. This will dissolve the ink clogs.
  • If the printer head is badly clogged let it soak for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. You can move it slightly to a different spot every hour or so.

Alternative Soak Method:
Mix a 50/50 solution of warm water and Windex and place in a shallow container, enough to cover the base of the printer head and ink ports. Leave for 2 hours while agitating the unit occasionally. Remove from the mix and lightly scrub the base and internal ink ports with an old soft toothbrush. Do not scrub the gold contacts but don't be concerned if they get wet. Return the unit to the mix for another 2 hours and agitate occasionally. Remove and scrub again as before.

Step 3 - Flush the printer head with water.

  • Hold the unit under a softly running warm water tap. Place your finger over the tap to create back pressure to allow you to squirt the water into all crevices of the printer head. You should see the gunk build up flow out. Do this until the water runs clear.

    Step 4 - Dry the printer head and replace.

        • Remove the printer head and rinse it thoroughly with distilled water. Shake it dry and set it on folded paper towels to air dry. (Some folks use a hair dryer on a low setting to dry the printer head.)
        • Reinsert the printer head and ink tanks. The printer should automatically do a "Printer Head Alignment." If it doesn't, manually perform "Printer Head Alignment" through the printer's utility. Next run a printer head cleaning cycle or two followed by printing a nozzle check pattern to check your progress.
        • Repeat as necessary.

    Variations on the Above Steps

        • Soak the printer head in one of the proprietary solutions (Cartridge Flush, Magic Inkjet Flush) specifically designed to clear print heads. Soak the print head for about 10 minutes to overnight depending on the degree of blockage. It has also been reported that you can clean the print head with an electronic toothbrush and cleaning solution for about 20 seconds with excellent results.
        • Use a full eye dropper to flush alcohol through the appropriate ink 'hole(s)' that show inside the printer head unit. Don't rush this: do a drop at a time or you might flood the inside of the unit.
        • Purchase an ultrasonic cleaner. Wash the printer head under the water tap to remove excess ink. Load the cleaner with the printer head and water so that the printer head rests lengthways in the cleaner with the electrical contact surface visible. Repeat the cleaning program a few times, using clean water in each program.
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    Preventive Maintenance
    It's a good idea to regularly conduct preventive maintenance on your inkjet printer to prevent it from developing clogged printer heads. Printer heads become blocked for a number of reasons, but the most common is simply that the ink cartridge and the printer head have dried out. Never let the printer stand with an empty cartridge. Either fit a fresh one, or seal the print head unit in a plastic bag with a few drops of water for humidity. Since print heads become clogged when not used for long periods of time, regularly print a page or two to keep the print heads clear. Some experts say that it is better to print one colorful page a week than to run a printer cleaning cycle, because doing so uses a lot less ink. Ideally, printer cleaning cycles should be started once a week to prevent the printer head from getting clogged.

    There are other more ink-efficient ways to be able to clean printer heads that will prevent their clogging just as effectively as running the printer's cleaning cycle:

      • Brush the printer heads with Q-tips soaked in water. Sources vary on whether alcohol would be more effective than water, but in the opinion of some printer experts alcohol can be harmful to printer heads and should thus be avoided.
      • Buy a cleaning kit and use it regularly on your printer. A typical cleaning kit usually has a tube of ammonia that you can spray on the printer head to remove dried ink.
      • Covering the printer when not in use to keep it free from dirt and debris also helps prevent the printer heads from getting clogged.

Hopefully this article about how to clean printer heads was helpful. If you are still having trouble or have questions, please contact us - we're here to help!