A Good Way To Clean Clogged Inkjet Printheads

The chances are, you, just like me, have an inkjet printer at home. The chances are you use the printer occasionally to print several pages of text or a bunch of photos. The chances are next time you going to use the printer, it won’t work for the printhead are clogged.

Of course, the best way to get rid of clogged jets is to prevent them. Some say you should print regularly (daily/weekly or else), some would advise you to get a laser printer instead. But when you’ve already got this problem, how to troubleshoot the cloged printer?

There is a way to bring your inkjet printer back to life.

The essence of problem with clogged printhead is that ink dries inside the printhead jets, letting no liquid ink from cartridge tank to go out. Given that, the essence of unclogging a printhead lies in dissolving that dried ink.

There are arguments about what is the best solvent to clean inkjet heads. People naming this or that solvent are both right and wrong. The thing is there no best solvent, there is one that dissolves the particular type of ink.

Understanding printer ink

Before we start, there is something to know about printer inks. In one of previous posts I cited one good article titled “Debunking the Myths of Digital Inks” by Tony Martin. If somehow you have not read the article yet, I will brief you on it.

In general, in any printer using water based inks, whether they are dye, pigment or hybrid colorants, they tend to have similar formulations.

They use mainly water, a colorant or mixture of colorants, dye, or pigment or both, a wetting agent like glycerin that allows the liquid to flow and allow the ink to enter the paper surface, a product to slow down drying on the heads like glycol, and often an alcohol to speed drying on the paper surface. Some inks with pigments require an adhesive to attach the particles to the paper surface, so they use a resin, usually acrylic.

This all gives us the idea of what reagents to use for dissolution (at least I strongly hope it does.)

Selecting a solvent

How would one know what exact solvent is suitable for his or her case? That’s pretty easy to figure out.

Usually there’s decent amounts of ink spilled everywhere in these situations. Instead of risking your potentially expensive heads, try your various solvents on dried ink outside of printing head. If you don’t already have spills to clean up, then intentionally make one. Let it dry and then clean it up… with “whatever” you’re contemplating running through the printer.

If it doesn’t work outside the printer, neither will it unclog the head from inside. If it dissolves the ink, then you have a much better chance of success.

A troubleshooting advice

To help you dissolve dried ink in printhead, here is a receipt that should work on the majority of water based inkjet printer inks.

The mixture uses either ammoniated window cleaner (which uses glycol, alcohol, water and ammonia) with extra isopropyl alcohol, or in places where ammoniated window cleaner isn’t available, use ammonia mixed to about 1% concentration, and adding the isopropyl.

However, there are some inks that use different technologies and may not work with these solvents.

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