Unclog Inkjet Nozzles without Wasting Ink

Posted Monday, October 18th, 2010 by .

CMYKInkjet printers work via a series of small nozzles located on the printheads that eject miniature droplets of ink on the paper to create an image or text.  When one or multiple nozzles become clogged with dried ink, an automatic cleaning utility should be available for you to run.  This cleaning system will use bursts of ink to clear the nozzles.  Though this can solve the problem at hand, it ultimately leads to another – wasted ink.

Let’s say the nozzle used to apply black Brother LC51K ink has clogged and it is causing streaks or fading on your text documents.  Unfortunately, the cleaning utility cannot be set for a specific color.  Rather, all nozzles will go through the cycle, so the colors of ink that are not black – cyan (LC51C), magenta (LC51M), and yellow (LC51Y) – will be completely wasted for no reason at all.  Ink is not cheap, so this process seems unnecessary and uneconomical.

Ink Usage ComparisonInkjet printers have various print modes, typically consisting of a Draft or Eco mode, a Normal mode, and a Best mode, as well as a Photo mode for some photo printers.  To find out how to access these modes and what each one means, see Print Quality Modes.  Best or Photo mode is used when the highest print quality is required. To accomplish this, each color is applied in separate sequences rather than in one pass, like Draft mode. (This is why Draft mode often provides a faster output rate than the other modes).

Instead of running the cleaning utility to clear a clog in one nozzle, set the print mode to the best possible one.  Change the color of the text in a standard text document to the color of ink that is clogged and print it.   Because this will call for multiple blasts of ink, the clog should be cleared by the time the document is done printing.  Set the mode back to Draft or Normal and print a test page to see if the quality has improved.

There is no guarantee that this process will work, but it is certainly worth a try before pointlessly wasting ink.  Keep in mind, clogs that are really bad may require you to clean the nozzles manually.  Refer to Printhead Cleaning for simple steps for cleaning your printheads and nozzles by hand.

Greg Gladman

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Greg Gladman has two degrees from the University of Cincinnati and prides himself on managing the operations and customer service at Ink Technologies. With a mind like a vault, he is full of useful and useless information, making him an asset to the company and to his Tuesday night trivia team. When he is not working, he spends his time bowling and playing golf. Greg dedicates much of his free time to raising money and awareness in support of the fight against blood cancers. You can find him on .

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