Inkjet Print Quality Issues: Understanding the Print-Heads

How to resolve over 90% of inkjet print quality issues in under 5 minutes: Understanding The Print-Heads and how to clean them.

Most inkjet quality issues can be resolved in under 5 minutes!

Did you know that over 90% of inkjet quality issues are caused by clogged print-heads? The good news is that print-heads can be cleaned, and cleaning print-heads is very easy to do.

In this article we will cover the following:

  1. What is a print-head?
  2. Why is it significant if the print-heads are in the printer or on the cartridge?
  3. How do I know if my print-heads are clogged?
  4. How do I clean my print-heads?
  5. Why do print-heads clog?

What is a print-head?
A print-head is a component (or part) in the printer (or sometimes on the cartridge) that has tiny nozzles or pores, through which ink flows before it gets deposited to the paper. Examples of print-heads are:

This print-head is in a printer

Print-heads are in the printer on:
– All Epson models
– All Kodak models
– All Brother models
– Most HP/Canon/Lexmark/Dell model

This print-head is on a cartridge

Print-heads are on the cartridge on:
– Some HP/Canon/Lexmark/Dell models

Why is it significant if the print-heads are in the printer or on the cartridge?
Print-heads are either in the printer or on the cartridge. This varies by printer type, with all Epson/Kodak/Brother and most HP/Canon/Lexmark/Dell models having print-heads inside the printer. It is significant to identify where your print-heads are located so you can follow the respective cleaning procedures to unclog them.

How do I know if my print-heads are clogged?
This is very simple: run a nozzle test. Every printer has what is commonly referred to as a “nozzle test”, and instructions on how to run a nozzle test on your specific printer will be located in your printer’s menu, maintenance options (via the printer or via the computer), and in your printer’s manual.

The results of the nozzle test sometimes look like the image below. If you see breaks in the lines, then some of the nozzles in your print-heads are clogged, requiring a print-head cleaning.


How do I clean my print-heads?
If your printer has print-heads in the printer, your printer will have a menu option to “clean” the print-heads. This is typically referred to on different printers simply as “cleaning” or “print-head cleaning”. Running 1 or more cleaning cycles will prompt your printer to self-clean, after which you can run a new nozzle test and see if the clog(s) have been resolved. You may need to run more than 1 cleaning cycle, or run “deep cleaning” (available on some models).
NEW: we are releasing power cleaning systems from Universal Inkjet™, which give you the ability to thoroughly and definitively clean even the most severe of clogs. These sell for around $12.99 and can be found on our website by searching for “printhead flush system” or just “flush system”. As of May 2014, we have 3 “printhead flush systems”:

– For Canon (this works on ALL Canon inkjet printers for which print-heads are in the printer)
– For Epson (this works on ALL Epson inkjet printers)
– For HP 950 / 951

We are releasing more over the next few weeks.
If your printer does not have print-heads in the printer, then your print-heads are on the cartridge, and your cartridge will look similar to the image in the above table, on the right. In this case, you can clean your print-heads by placing the print-heads to sit in a cup that has about ¼ inch deep alcohol, hot water, or our print-head-cleaning solution (that comes with our Uni-Kit™ ink refill kits or sold separately and is more potent than hot water or alcohol). The solution will help unclog any dried ink in the nozzles of your print-head and help get the ink to flow again. After soaking the print-head for a few minutes (may require up to an hour for severe clogs), you should wick the print-head on a damp paper towel to help get the ink to flow.

Why do print-heads clog?
Print-heads can clog due to ink droplets drying up beneath the cartridges. Ink droplets can dry up and clog the nozzles in the print-heads if the printer is idle (low print usage), or if the printer and/or cartridges are exposed to large temperature fluctuations. Keeping the printer and cartridges at room temperature, and printing at least 2-3 pages per week, will help keep the ink flowing through the print-heads and minimize clogs. Even turning the printer off and on a couple of times a week can help, as the printer “primes” itself when it is switched on, this can also minimize the chance of clogs. Clogs can happen with OEM (original brand) cartridges, or compatible/remanufactured cartridges.

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