Updated 09/04/2024

Does this sound familiar? You press print and walk over to your Brother printer only to see an error message on the LCD screen; Unable to clean: Brother Machine error 46 or just ‘Error 46‘.

You won’t believe how common this is, in fact, Error code 46 affects the majority, if not all Brother inkjet printers and there is a fix that you can try yourself to get your trusty printer working again before it takes a swan dive through the window.

Brother Machine Error 46

We’re going to teach you what you need to know to fix your Brother printer by changing the settings and without having to replace anything.

Here’s what you’ll learn from this post:

  • What causes Brother Machine Error 46 on my printer?
  • What is an ink absorber / why does my printer need it?
  • What is a purge counter & how do I reset it?
  • How to reset and clear the Brother Machine Error 46 on your printer

What causes Brother Machine Error 46?

According to the Brother support website, Error 46 on a Brother printer is displayed when something called the ‘ink absorber pad’ is full and needs to be replaced (don’t worry, you won’t need to replace anything when trying our fix).

This is an essential part of the printer and there’s a very good reason for having a correctly functioning ink absorber pad, but it’s a lot simpler than you might think.

What’s more, the error code is often triggered when the ink absorber isn’t full, which is why there is a simple way to clear out the error and get your printer up and running again.


What is an ink absorber pad / why does my printer need it?

The ink absorber, also common in Canon printers, is simply a small sponge pad, and its purpose is to collect excess or spilt ink that builds up during printing. The pad also collects any excess ink that might be spilt when a cleaning process is run (a printer often cleans itself before or after a print cycle and this uses a large amount of ink).

If your ink absorber is full, you will first see excess ink on your prints. The absorber can be replaced, but will need to be done by a brother printer technician and will likely cost more than the printer is worth. Ouch!

The ink absorber pad can be found in the bottom of the printer and without it, it’s likely that your printer would eventually leak ink and stain your desk or carpet in no time without one.


Ink Absorber Pad

Why does my printer think the ink absorber is full if it isn’t?

Once an ink absorber has been used many times it can become saturated with ink, but because there is no easy way for software to determine how saturated the sponge is, instead it roughly calculates based on the number of cleans and print cycles that the printer has performed and often as a precaution, over estimates and gives the error message before the sponge is full.


What is a purge counter & how do I reset it?

As the printer effectively counts the number of print and clean cycles, this is done by something called the purge counter. The purge counter can be reset using the menu system on your printer via the LCD panel.


How to reset and clear the Brother Machine Error 46 on your printer

Firstly before we start, check if your printer is in warranty (you will get a 1 year warranty when you buy your printer), if your warranty is still valid then always contact Brother support first of all who should fix your printer for you. Don’t attempt the following fix unless your printer is out of warranty.

To fix and clear the Error 46 message, follow these simple instructions. There are 2 different processes for those Brother printers that have a number pad like a phone (ones that can Fax), and for those that just have buttons.


Part 1 – Put the printer into Maintenance mode:

  1. Unplug the power cord from the side of the printer.
  2. Hold down either the Menu, Set or Start button (you only need to hold one which is normally the menu button, but if you don’t have a menu button, then try the Set button, grey or green Start button or the down arrow).
  3. Keeping the button pressed down, plug the power cord back in and hold the button until you see a maintenance mode message (or ‘Error 46’ as Glenn pointed out in the comments) on the screen.
  4. Your printer screen should now read ‘Maintenance’.

If your printer has an LCD screen, the button you need to hold down as you unplug the printer will be either ‘set’, ‘start’, a green button, or menu button. Hold this down, then unplug the power cord and plug back in will still holding the button down. It may take some trial and error to find the correct button.

Putting a Brother Printer into maintenance mode

Part 2 –  Resetting the Purge counter

There are different ways to reset the counter on printers that have a number keypad, compared to those that just have arrows. Here’s how to reset on each…

A – For printers with a number key pad:

  1. Type 80 on the keypad to open the options up.
  2. Use the down arrow key to scroll through the options until you see Purge followed by a number (this is the clean cycle count)
  3. Enter 2783 and the number next to the word PURGE should set to zero
  4. Press stop or exit to get back to the maintenance mode menu.
  5. Type 99 to exit and restart the printer.


Some more modern keypad printers have a different method to get into maintenance mode (thanks to BajaRon for his tips in the comments). If the above didn’t work, try the following:

B – For Modern printers with a number key pad:

  1. Hold down the home button (shaped like a house) until you see Serial No. / Rom Version / Print Page and a blank option.
  2. Press the blank option at the bottom of the list on the LCD screen.
  3. Press 0# on the LCD screen to enter maintenance mode.
  4. Enter 80 on the touch screen
  5. Use the arrows to scroll to ‘Purge Count’
  6. Enter 2783 and press ‘Mono Start’ which will reset the purge count
  7. Press stop to exit maintenance mode.


C – For printers without number buttons (printers that can’t fax):

  1. Once in maintenance mode, follow the same instructions above but instead of setting the numbers with the key pad, use the up and down arrows to scroll through the numbers…Scroll to 8 – press OK (or Set), then scroll to 0 and press OK (or Set).
  2. Then scroll through the options until you see the word Purge with a count next to it.
  3. Using the OK button again, enter the numbers 2,7,8,3. And the purge counter will set to 00000.

If you’d rather follow video instructions, here is a simple guide:


Hey Presto! This should reset the purge counter back to zero and stop the Printer Error code 46 from appearing again, at least for a good while! Who knew you could do this?? Mind well and truly blown! 🙂

If you’re looking for solutions to other Brother Error codes, you can find what they mean on the Brother Support Website.


Mind blown

 Did this help? Let us know in the comments or if you need more advice or are struggling, let me know and I’ll do my best to get back to you!