How to Clean Print Cartridges

By Jason Gordon

  • Overview

    The most important part of an inkjet printer is the printhead. It's sometimes built into the ink cartridge and sometimes separate, but if the printhead becomes dirty or clogged, the quality of printouts will decline. In fact, the ink may not show up at all. There are two ways to clean a print cartridge to correct this problem.
    Ink Cartridges
    • Step 1

      Use the printer's built-in cleaning program. All modern inkjets have the ability to clean themselves. If the printer has power, run a cleaning cycle from the printer itself or software on the computer. This can usually be found under Control Panel>Printers>Properties>Maintenance.
    • Step 2

      If the printer has no power or the cleaning cycle fails, attempt to clean the cartridge(s) manually. Remove the cartridge from the printer and place on a covered surface.

    • Step 3

      Dampen the cotton swab with distilled water and run it over the contact strip on the cartridge. Do not touch the nozzle or printhead itself, as this may result in clogs.
    • Step 4

      Continue to wipe the contact strip until no ink or dirt residue appears on the cotton swab.
    • Step 5

      Re-insert the cartridge into the printer. Print a test page to check the effectiveness of the cleaning. If the cartridge still does not work, it will likely need replacement.
    • Skill: Moderately Easy
    • Ingredients:
    • Paper towel
    • Distilled water
    • Cotton swab
    • Tip: Sometimes running multiple cleaning cycles will clean a stubborn clog.
    • Warning:
    • Do not leave the print cartridge outside the printer for over 30 minutes, as it may dry out.

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