If you are using an inkjet printer and you have started noticing a decline in print quality, it is possible you have clogged printheads. There are a few types of printheads, so be sure you refer to your printer manual if you do not know which type your machine uses.
What causes this?
Sometimes it just happens, but typically printers that are only used occasionally are more likely to encounter a clogging issue. Because inkjet printers use liquid ink, when the machine isn’t used for a while, the ink can dry and clog. Once there is a blockage of dried ink, the number of ink dots ejected through the nozzles and applied to the page will drop, reducing overall quality.
Even if you used your inkjet printer every single day, if you have stored a replacement ink cartridge for too long or in a less than desirable location, the ink may already be dried when you install it. Ink cartridges do have a somewhat short shelf life.
Most machines offer an internal cleaning option, which is a fairly simple process. The printhead is heated and uses small blasts of ink to clear the clog. If this doesn’t work, repeat it just a few times, but not too many as you will end up wasting a lot of your ink.
Though all printers and operating systems are slightly different, the following process should make it simple for you to find the internal cleaning option for Windows machines:
- Click the Start Menu.
- Click Devices and Printers.
- Select your machine, right click.
- Choose Properties or Preferences.
- Select the tab that says Cleaning or Maintenance or Service.
Cleaning by Hand
If running the internal self-cleaner doesn’t fix the problem, you can try unclogging the printhead manually. Here is where it is necessary to know what type of printhead your machine uses.
For printheads attached to the printer, not the cartridge:
First you will need to remove the cartridges, then get some hot water or isopropyl alcohol. You can either use a cotton swab to rub the water or alcohol on the printhead or you can pour no more than 10 drops on the inkjet printhead. This should loosen the dried ink. It may take a few attempts and requires patience. Print a test page to check quality. If the documents are still printing out with poor quality, repeat.
For printheads attached to the cartridges:
Remove the cartridge/printhead assembly and leave it soaking in hot water overnight. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can soak a washcloth and leave the cartridges on that. Make sure it is completely dry the next day and resinstall. Print a test page.
Here is a video of the step-by-step process of cleaning a printhead:
If you have tried everything and you are still have quality issues, you may be due for a new cartridge, new printhead, or even a new printer.