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How to clean a printhead

To achieve a high standard of printing, no matter what the model or age of the machine, performing printer maintenance is important. Any machine can break down if you don’t take proper care of it – especially when it comes to inkjet.

No matter if you use branded, compatible or reused cartridges, there is a chance of the ink drying out and clogging the nozzle. This can cause further problems if not addressed properly and could even cause your printer to break down. However, this can be solved by cleaning the printhead.

Here are some of the ways you can clean the printhead both manually, from a PC or Mac and via a programmed system.

How do I know when I need to clean the printhead?

If your printer is printing blank pages but your ink levels are normal the problem will, more than likely, be the printheads. If it has been a while since your last print, some of the ink in the cartridges may have dried out. This blocks up the printheads and allows no ink to pass through onto the paper. To fix these issues, the printheads will need cleaning.

Another sign is if your printouts are faded and not reaching the standard you’re used to, or if your documents are blurry. If this is the case, you may find that when you print images you’ll noticed that the image is missing one colour overall. This is due to the CMYK cartridge not producing all of its dot work.

A printer works by layering tiny dots in various formations, using CMYK to create the broad range of colours we see with the naked eye. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key, which is usually black. Each colour has its own nozzle, so if one is blocked such as, yellow, this will alter the layering technique of the dot work and affecting the colour produced on the page. Cleaning the printhead will help improve the quality of the printout.

It’s important to try to avoid cleaning the printhead as little as possible as it consumes quite a bit of ink. Only clean the print head when the quality of the print has declined and is noticeable.

You can clean the printhead either manually or from your printer or computer. Before you start, you’ll want to perform a nozzle check to ensure your printhead needs cleaning, as this will save ink.

How to perform a nozzle check

You can perform a nozzle check either from your printer’s control panel on the machine, or via your computers utility settings.

Via the printer’s control panel:

  1. You’ll need to locate the maintenance screen – this is usually through the setup page via the printer’s home button.
  2. Select Print Head Nozzle Check and make sure you have paper in the loading tray.
  3. The printer will print a CMYK colour chart made up of lines. If these lines are blotchy, with gaps, you’ll need to clean the printhead.


Via a computers utility settings:

  1. Locate and open the printer utility. This can usually be found through System Preferences, or Settings, via the task menu.
  2. Once you’ve opened Printers & Scanners, select your printer and open the Printer Utility.
  3. Select Nozzle Check and see if the printout is clean with no gaps or blotches in the lined colour chart. If the printout is not precise, you’ll need to clean the printhead.
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