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How to Clean Print Heads When They are Not Built-in

This video from Castle Ink explains how you can quickly and easily clean your print heads.


You'll require a small syringe, 30cm (12") length of vinyl hose and some paper towel or rags for this procedure. If you don't have a small syringe handy, you can get them from most drug stores or Veterinary offices. You'll find it quite easy to obtain a short length of vinyl hose from any local pet store and most will be happy to help once you tell them what you intend to use the equipment for.

The cleaning or "parking" pads are the 1/2 inch X 1 inch foam pads located under the print heads or ink carriage when they are in the parked position, power off. These pads collect ink drippings with the expectation that the moistened pad will keep the print head from drying out. Do not contact the cleaning pads as they are spring-mounted and can very easily be knocked out of position. If you knock them out of position, your printer will require a visit to a repair facility.

TIP: Prepare the work area by placing a few rags under the printer to catch spills or drips. Here are the steps:

  • Power up the printer, open the lid and wait for the carriage to move toward the center.
  • Unplug the power source as soon as the carriage is past the center where it'll be out of the way and allow you to access the print head parking pad. You have to unplug the power since using the printer's on/off power button will send the carriage back to the parking pad before the printer shuts down.
  • With the ink carriage assembly out of the way, take your syringe, attach the length of vinyl hose and draw draw up a few milliliters of cleaning liquid.
  • Carefully insert the end of the hose above the parking pad and place 5 to 8 drops of liquid into the center.
  • Withdraw the hose, place the syringe on the paper towel or rag and close the printer lid.
  • Connect the power supply and power up the printer.
  • Use the printer's on/off button to power down the printer and return the ink carriage to the parking pad.
  • Let the print heads soak on the parking pad for an hour.
  • Power up the printer and let it run it's power-up cleaning cycle. (They do this every time they power up.)
  • Run another head cleaning cycle from the printer utility screen and print a test page.
    If you can see that your making progress, return to the printer utility screen and try two more cleaning cycles, one after the other, then print another test page.
    TIP: Since the printer uses suction to clear clogs, each sequential cleaning uses a greater degree of suction.
    If things don't appear to be improving, repeat the process and add another 4 or 5 drops of liquid to the parking pad. Power down the printer and let the head soak overnight. Be sure to try printing a test page.

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile