A printer drum, also referred to as an imaging drum and a photoconductor, is an essential component of a laser printer as it serves as the catalyst for creating text and images. The drum hosts a positive charge and the text or image is written on it with a negatively charged laser. The positive charge of the toner is attracted to that negative charge and clings to the drum. That toner is then applied to the paper and fused into the paper’s fibers with a heated fuser.
As you can imagine, the drum does take a beating and will inevitably need to be replaced. However, if you start to notice quality issues such as blotchiness and streaking, you may want to consider cleaning the drum before purchasing a new one. Keep in mind, the surface of these drums are extremely sensitive and you should only attempt to clean it if you are willing to risk damaging it further.
There are primarily two types of drums: Ones that are built into the cartridge itself, such as a Canon L50 toner cartridge, and ones that the cartridge actually snaps into, such as a Brother TN115BK toner cartridge. You may want to consult your manual or manufacturer if you are unsure which type of drum your model uses. Most drums have a similar look, which is generally a long, green cylinder.
To clean the drum, you will need a soft lint-free cloth, standard rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs and potentially a set of tweezers.
Be sure to turn off and unplug your printer before following these steps:
- Remove the cartridge or drum assembly from the machine.
- If applicable, remove the cartridge from the assembly.
- Inspect the drum surface. If obvious damage is detected, such as a scratch, this cannot be cleaned. A replacement will be needed.
- Use the tweezers to remove any chunks of toner or debris. Be careful not to scratch the drum surface with the tweezers.
- Soak a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and wipe away any visible toner or dirt particles.
- Slightly dampen the cloth with rubbing alcohol or warm water and gently wipe the entire drum unit, including the cartridge if conjoined.
- If applicable, reattach the cartridge.
- Put the drum or drum assembly back into the machine and print a few test pages.
- If the same issues are present, consider replacing the printer drum.
Cleaning your printer drum on a fairly regular basis could potentially reduce the number of replacements that are required over the lifespan of your machine. It could also limit issues with quality. To reiterate, cleaning the printer drum yourself comes with a risk of damaging the sensitive surface and might mean you will need to replace the drum.