Cleaning an Inkjet Printer

Inkjet printers use a liquid ink held in small cartridges attached to a printhead, which moves across the page to apply ink to the paper in small droplets.  The internal cleaning system of inkjet printers typically focus on the printhead.  Because of its central purpose, the inkjet printhead experiences a lot of wear and tear and can accumulate excess dried ink.

There are actually many important components in an inkjet printer that do not get cleaned by the internal cycle and could negatively impact quality.  If you are experiencing problems, it may be beneficial to try cleaning it yourself.  This article will list the parts you need to know, the supplies you need to have and the process you need to follow to clean the inside of your inkjet printer.

List of Supplies:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Glass cleaner
  • Cotton swabs
  • Paper towels
  • Printer/copier oil (WD-40 will work if nothing else is available)
  • Long hook or pencil

List of Components:

  • Printhead – applies ink to paper.
  • Stepper motor – controls the movement of the belt that moves the printhead.
  • Stabilizer bar – keeps the printhead and motor evenly lined up.
  • Paper rollers – pulls the paper through the printer
  • Interface ribbon – carries information to the printhead about the task at hand.

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Take the cartridges out of the machine, turn it off, and unplug it.
  2. Fold a paper towel in fourths, dampen it with isopropyl alcohol and wipe the part of the cartridge that releases the printer ink.
  3. Fold another paper towel in fourths and dampen with glass cleaner.  Carefully wipe the ribbon, which should be located right behind the printhead.
  4. Because the ink cartridges dock on one side of the machine when not printing, a mess can form beneath them.  This can be difficult to reach, so use your long hook or pencil to scrape the ink residue from the floor of the printer.
  5. When the stabilizer bar is dirty, you may hear grinding noises when the printhead is moving.  Pour a few drops of oil on the bar and manually move the printhead back and forth to evenly spread and coat the oil.
  6. Because the feed rollers can be tough to reach, use cotton swabs damp with isopropyl alcohol to wipe excess dirt or ink off the rollers.  For more in-depth detail, see Cleaning Printer Rollers.
  7. Once the inside has been cleaned, use your paper towel and glass cleaner to wipe down the outside of the machine.

There is always a risk that comes along with performing tasks like this yourself, so proceed with caution.  Even though inkjet printers are not overly expensive, you still want to get as much life out of them as possible.  By cleaning your machine using these steps, you can hopefully improve the quality of documents and prolong the life of the printer.

Greg Gladman
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.

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