Printhead Clogging

When you do not use your printer often then sometimes ink in the printer head will dry and lead to clogging. This can trigger the change cartridge signal on the printer, or could simply stop ink from making its way onto the page. Unclogging the printer head can be messy and tedious sometimes , but maintaining the printer to save it from clogs is easy. A main method to address a clogged print head is the paper towel method:

Paper Towel Method

For this method you will need a damp paper towel and a dry paper towel at the ready. First take the warm, damp paper towel and blot the cartridge with the printhead side down onto the towel. The printhead is placed on the end of the cartridge where the ink comes out and is basically a gold or copper strip. You caB see now ink appearing on the paper towel after blotting a few times. Make sure not to confuse the printhead with the gold and copper contacts or the dots. I know they sound awfully similar…if you are not able to see ink then you are probably blotting the incorrect part of the cartridge! After blotting onto the damp paper towel, you have to hold the cartridge against the dry paper towel for almost 30 seconds to a minute.  This process wicks out any dried ink that is stopping you from a quality print. When this is complete, slide the cartridge back in the machine and then run a test print.  Many times this does the job quite nicely. If this will not work, repeat the process once again. If the second time does not cut it move on to the next tip, which is printhead cleaning!

Printhead Cleaning from the Printer Display Screen

Only the printers with an integrated printhead can use the above paper towel method. If you have a printer which uses the individual color cartridges, like the Epson® 702XL series, the printhead is manufactured into your printer. Most common culprits for the clogged printhead can be the microscopic dust particles, air bubbles or the dried ink. Running a printhead cleaning on the machine will clear the print nozzles of the excess or dried up ink. Though the setup could be different for every printer, this is a basic cleaning function built into your printer’s software. Try to Print a test page to see if the clog is gone, print a second one to be sure (sometimes two will do the trick). If that does not clear up the problem then stop doing any more cleanings as this will use up a lot of ink and running multiple cleanings in a row does not usually render better results than the first.

How to automatically clean an HP printhead

The simplest way to fix your print quality issue is by running a cleaning on the printer.  The cleaning function is located in the software of each and every HP printer model and is usually found under the “printer maintenance” section of the printer’s display menu. Consult the printer manual for related instructions for your machine.


Printhead cleanings may take at least 1 or 2 minutes and they do use some ink to run through the cleaning process. When it’s completed, try to print out a test page to compare the print quality. If the print results come good, after that you can continue printing. If the colors are not up to par, you have to run the printhead cleaning function 2-4 more times before the print quality is reestablished. If you still are not getting good prints after some cleanings then move on to the manual cleaning instructions.  You do not want to run the cleaning function too many times because it will deplete the ink in the cartridges.

How to manually clean an HP printhead

Before starting the cleaning process, you have to know that some HP inkjet printers come with the built-in printhead separate from the ink cartridges, and there are some HP inkjet printers with the printheads built into the individual ink cartridges.

Cleaning printheads built into printer

Manually cleaning the printhead that is built into the printer takes a bit more work than usual.  The steps given below are for the HP printers that have a removable printhead, such as the HP OfficeJet 8710. You can also use this method on non-HP printers with the printheads built into your printer.

Required supplies: a plastic container, a few dry paper towels, a lint-free cloth and filtered or distilled hot water.

  1. Fold a dry paper towel into quarters and then place it in the plastic container
  2. Pour at least two inches of hot water on the top of the paper towel so that it should completely submerged
  3. Open up your printer and remove all of the ink cartridges from the machine
  4. Set the cartridges aside on the separate paper towel when you continue the printhead cleaning process. Make sure that the cartridges are facing up on the paper towel.
  5. Lift up on the gray latch behind the cartridge carriage that holds the cartridges. This will prevent the printhead from your printer.
  6. Pull the printhead up and out to free it from the machine.
  7. Dampen the lint-free cloth in hot water.
  8. Now gently wipe away an excess ink from the printhead nozzle.
  9. Locate the printhead in the container with the submerged paper towels. Make sure the nozzle should be facing down. Do not touch the nozzle as it can be damaged easily.
  10. Let the printhead soak for at least ten minutes. Then you have to remove it from the container and set it on a dry paper towel to dry for fifteen minutes.  Now the nozzle should be facing up.
  11. Reinstall the printhead back into your printer.  Do not forget to secure the latch! Then reinstall the cartridges and run the cleaning function on the machine once again.

Cleaning printheads built into ink cartridges

If the printer uses cartridges with an integrated printhead, you can try the “paper towel method” to resolve the print quality problem.

Required supplies: A warm, damp paper towel and a dry paper towel

  1. Use a warm damp paper towel or a coffee filter and blot the cartridge with the printhead facing down onto the paper towel. This will remove any dried ink from the printhead.
  2. Now, hold the cartridge with the printhead facing down against a dry paper towel for at least 2-3 minutes. Dry paper towel will wick all the ink out. Do not wipe the print head as this will damage it.
  3. Reinstall the cartridge and then try to print again. If you are still not getting good print results at this point, you have to replace the printer cartridge.