How to Unclog a Dried Up Ink Cartridge Printhead

25-08-2014 by

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Clogged ink cartridge printheads can cause a whole host of print quality issues, from missing colours to streaky prints. Often, the solution to the problem is to run a printhead cleaning cycle, but sometimes, the printer ink has dried up too much and can’t be cleared out during the cleaning cycle.

Don’t throw your ink cartridge out and get a new one though, a simple deep clean will often remove the clog and get you back to printing. We take a look at what you can do to fix a badly clogged printhead.

How can I fix a dry ink cartridge printhead?

Ink cartridges that have the printhead built into the cartridge, like most HP ink cartridges and some Canon ink cartridges, are most likely to experience clogged printhead issues. Ink cartridges with a separate printhead don’t usually experience this problem. 

Before trying anything else, try running a printhead clean to see if this helps resolve the issue. Your user manual should give you step by step instructions on how to run a printhead clean. You can usually find a digital copy of your user manual on your printer manufacturer’s website.

If the printhead clean doesn’t help or you find yourself having to run multiple printhead cleans then soaking the printhead may help. Take a few paper towels and fold them into a thick rectangle. Wet the paper towels with warm, distilled water. You can get distilled water from your nearest pharmacy.

Place the ink cartridge printhead side down on the damp paper towels. Be careful not to touch the chip or the printhead with your hands as the oils on your fingers can cause damage to these sensitive parts. After a minute or so, lift the ink cartridge off the paper towel. If there are clear lines of ink on the paper towels, pat the ink cartridge dry with some more paper towels or a lint free cloth, put it back in the printer and print a test page.

If this doesn’t help, you may have to soak the ink cartridge. Put the cartridge printhead side down in a bowl of warm, purified water. Wait a few minutes and check to see if any ink has flowed into the water. If it hasn’t, you can take a cotton bud soaked in warm water and rub it gently along the printhead to help unclog the nozzles.

As soon as ink begins to flow into the water, take the cartridge out and dry it gently with a paper towel or lint free cloth. Insert it into the printer and print a test page. If you find yourself having to soak the cartridge more than twice, it is likely that the clog is too large and the cartridge will have to be replaced.

If you need any help running a printhead clean or if you have any questions about unclogging your printhead, feel free to contact us.

Nic Venter

About the author

Nic Venter+

 is the founder and director of He started the business in 2009 with the idea to sell ink and toner cartridges online and to provide you with a quality product, value for money and convenience. He regularly blogs on about printing and technology. Part of his philosophy is having fun and making sure that he and his team think everything ink, so you don't have to.

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