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.


How to clean an Epson printhead

If you’re unsure on how to clean an Epson printhead these instructions should provide guidance. Most modern printers will have similar cleaning functions to the Epson, so this should help even if your printer isn’t of the Epson brand.

  1. If the low ink light is flashing or permanently on, you do not need to perform a nozzle check. This is because you’re out of ink so  the cartridge itself needs replacing.
  2. If the ink light is off, hold the ink button down for three seconds, this will start the cleaning process. You’ll know the printer is working as the power and ink light will start flashing. It’s important you do not turn the printer off while this is happening as this could damage the machine.
  3. Once the flashing has stopped, perform a nozzle check again to confirm that the print head is clean.

If you find that the problem continues, repeat the process. You may want to leave the printer overnight for the ink to settle before trying again.

How to clean a printhead from a computer

You can clean a printhead from the computer, which is quick and easy to do. You’ll just need to make sure the paper tray is loaded. These instructions may vary slightly depending on your printer make.


  1. Open the start menu search, or select, the Control Panel.
  2. Select Devices and Printers and right-click your printer model.
  3. From the next drop down menu, you’ll need to select, Properties.
  4. Click the Maintenance tab. Here you’ll be able to find Tools, where you can select, Clean Ink Cartridges, Clean Heads, or something similar.
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts and leave until it has finished the cleaning process.


  1. Open the Apple menu in the top left corner and click System Preferences from the drop down menu.
  2. Find Printers & Scanners and click your model.
  3. Select Options & Supplies and click the Utility tab.
  4. Open Printer Utility and select the Deep Cleaning function.
  5. Leave the printer to complete the cleaning process before performing a test print.


How to manually clean a printhead

To successfully clean a print head manually you’ll need some basic supplies. Gather a bottle of water and a lint-free cloth or a paper towel.

  1. Make sure the printer is off and unplugged to prevent damage to the device and yourself.
  2. Open the printer, locate the cartridges and remove these.
  3. Remove the tray the cartridges sit in – this is the printhead unit. It will have several holes in the bottom.
  4. Some printer models, such as a HP, will have the printhead on the cartridge, if this is the case, it won’t have a tray to clean. So, move onto step 5 and 6.
  5. Lightly dampen the cloth with water.
  6. Gently brush this over the foil, electrical contact area with the damp cloth until no new ink shows up on the cloth. Remove all dried ink debris from the printhead contacts, edge and ramps. Make sure you clean the electrical contacts inside the printer as well.
  7. If you’ve removed the print head unit, soak in a bowl of shallow water for around five minutes. This will loosen any dried ink. Dab the print head unit on a paper towel to remove any ink and moisture. Make sure it is completely dry before inserting back into the printer.
  8. After everything is cleaned and back in place, perform a nozzle check to see the quality of the printing.


If you have been struggling with poor printouts and your printhead required cleaning these tips should help you get the job done. If your ink needs replacing, be sure to check out our range of ink cartridges – with both branded and compatible available to cater to every budget.

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