A printhead can become clogged over time due to a buildup of dust or dried ink within the nozzle. The proper steps for unclogging a printhead vary depending on the sort of printer you own. Printheads can either be built into the printer, or be a part of the cartridge. Printers with a fixed printhead in the machine will have to be replaced over continued use, and cartridges that have a printhead built-in, are replaced every time you buy a new cartridge.
Many HP ink cartridges, like the HP 65 series for example, are integrated printhead cartridges where a printhead is built into each cartridge. Individual ink cartridges like the Brother LC203 series, function with a printhead that is built into the printer. These cartridges are often smaller than an integrated cartridge and are typically equipped with a small chip to monitor ink levels.
Troubleshooting Integrated Ink Cartridges
The first way to troubleshoot a clogged printhead is with the paper towel method. To start you will need to have a damp paper towel and a dry paper towel at the ready. Take the warm, damp paper towel and blot the cartridge with the printhead side down onto the towel. The printhead is located on the end of the cartridge where the ink comes out and is typically a gold or copper strip. You should see ink appearing on the paper towel after blotting a couple of times. Be careful not to confuse the printhead with the gold and copper contacts or dots. After blotting onto the damp paper towel, hold the cartridge against the dry paper towel for 30 seconds to a minute. This process wicks out any dried ink that may be preventing you from a quality print. Once complete, slide the cartridge back in the machine and run a test print. If you still have trouble, repeat the process again. If the second time doesn’t still gives you trouble, try our second tip, printhead cleaning.
Most printers come equipped with a cleaning function built into the machine. Consult your printer’s user guide to find the appropriate steps for your printer. Most cleaning functions are found under the “Tools” menu of your printer’s display. A printhead cleaning usually takes 2 or 3 minutes. Once it is complete, print out a test page to compare print quality. If the quality is still poor, try running a second cleaning. If you run the second cleaning and still have trouble, it may time to get a new ink cartridge. Running multiple cleanings in a row will quickly deplete the ink in your cartridge, and it is not recommended.
Troubleshooting Individual Ink Cartridges
Since individual ink cartridges work with the printhead that is built into the printer, you will not be able to attempt the paper towel method on them. Your best troubleshooting option is the aforementioned cleaning function that you will find on your printer’s display. If you are getting an error message that says “Printhead Problem” or “Printhead Appears to be Missing or Damaged” it might be a signal that it is time to replace your printhead. Replacing a printhead can get expensive, so be sure to weight your options before you buy. Sometimes it can be cheaper to buy an entirely new printer instead of a single printhead.