Printing with a clean head: How to recognise a malfunction in your ink cartridge printhead.

06-12-2012 by

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Has the quality of your prints begun to suffer? Does everything look faded when you print? Do you get streaks or dots whenever you try to print a full page? Does it look like your colour ink cartridge is out of a colour even though your computer is still telling you it has ink? Chances are you’ve got a blocked printhead.

Printheads become blocked for various reasons; most often it’s a result of infrequent use. Over time ink has dried and blocked the nozzles in your printhead making it impossible for ink to escape. Most inkjet printers have an automatic print cleaning option. Look around for “maintenance” or “trouble shooting” in your printer’s option menu and you should find a function called “clean printhead”.

During this process your printer will attempt to shift the blockages in the nozzles of the printhead by forcing ink through them. As a rule of thumb you should only ever use the printhead cleaning process two or three times in a row. If this still doesn't work to sort out your problem you will need to take some extra steps.

Printheads come in two varieties, Lexmark ink and HP ink printers typically have their printhead attached to their ink cartridges, whereas Canon ink and Epson ink printers generally use the cartridge as an "ink tank" and have separate printheads. Check your owner’s manual to be sure where the printhead is located before proceeding.

In the case of printers where the printhead is part of the ink cartridge, the most obvious step is to just replace the it, but this can be costly and may also be unnecessary. First, try removing the ink cartridge and carefully soak the printhead with a paper towel (use hot water or surgical spirits). This should increase your chances of shifting any clogs and you can now re-try a couple of printhead cleaning cycles. If the cartridge still doesn’t perform as it should, then it may well be time to replace it with a new original ink cartridge or with a high quality compatible ink cartridge.

In the case of a printhead being located in the printer, you will want to remove your ink cartridges and apply a few drops of surgical spirits into the ink receptacle area (this is the area where the ink cartridge connects with the printhead. It should be visible once the cartridges are removed). You might try running a few printhead cleaning cycles to help the process.

In both cases the hope is that the ink will be softened and leached from the nozzles of the printhead. If you still have problems after trying these troubleshooting tips, then you will need to replace the ink cartridges or even the printhead (if it is separate from the cartridge).

The best solution to avoiding blockages in your printhead is to print regularly, to turn your printer off when it's not in use, and to use only the highest quality compatible or original ink cartridges.

At Inksaver we can guarantee you that all of our ink cartridges are the highest quality.

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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