PRINT HEAD CLEANING TIPS

Summary: This document contains a list of print head cleaning tips. It is an updated version of an older document, to provide additional information.

Contents:

How to use this document

Tips:

Run print head cleaning cycles

Clean the capping station

Use PiezoFlush cartridges

Scrub the bottom of the print head

Manually flush the print head with PiezoFlush

Videos

How to use this document.

These instructions tell you how to clean your print head either with automatic printer functions or manually by hand. Many of these print head cleaning tips require that you put liquid (PiezoFlush), and your hands, into the printer housing. Please be careful as you do this to avoid damaging your printer and to avoid an electric shock. Follow these safety tips:

  • Wear gloves (rubber, latex or nitrile) when working on your printer, particularly on a step that requires you to place your hands into the printer.
  • Wear eye protection, to avoid splashing ink or Windex in your eyes.
  • Before you put any liquid into your printer, either by dripping it in or by using a dampened paper towel, unplug the printer first. The steps below explain when to do this in the process.
  • If you accidentally spill liquid inside your printer, try to dry the liquid out before doing anything else (with the printer unplugged). Let the printer air dry as long as possible, although in this case you should reinsert the cartridges, and push the print head back to the capping station before doing so.

Many of the tips listed below are not Epson-sanctioned, although they have been proven to be very effective over the years. When performed carefully and with attention to the warnings listed above, they are also very safe. Nonetheless, if you choose to use these tips, Vermont Photo Inkjet LLC stipulates that you assume all risks of damage to your printer, other property, or your health.

 

Tip #1: Run print head cleaning cycles.

Printers affected: all models

Quite often, running several print head cleaning cycles will unclog a nozzle, when perhaps one or two cycles will not.

Run up to five cycles in sequence. Print a nozzle check pattern after every one or two cleaning cycles to see if you have made any progress. On most printers, after approximately every fifth cycle, the printer will perform a more power head cleaning routine.

Compare the nozzle check patterns and see if there is an improvement. If you see steady progress, by the time you have run 5 cycles, try one or two more and see if it continues to improve. If you don’t see much progress, or if you see the problem get worse, go to the next step.

On large format printers, you can run a head cleaning cycle either from the printer utility on your computer or from the control panel on the printer. Most large format printers offer different “levels” of cleaning. The cycle run from the computer is a standard cleaning cycle. From the printer, you can run more powerful cycles as well- depending on your printer model and which menu you access on the printer, you can run any of the following:

  • Powerful cleaning cycle
  • KK0 (or CL1)
  • KK1 (or CL2)
  • KK2 (or CL3)
  • Channel Pair Init-Fill (CL4) on x900 Pro Printers
  • Initial Fill

The “KK” cycles increase in power (and ink usage) as the number increases. The initial fill cycle uses the most ink. If a standard cleaning cycle does not fix the problem, try one or two KK2 cycles. Print frequent nozzle check patterns to check your progress. Learn more about these different cleaning cycles in your printer manual or google: “your printer model” field repair guide pdf to download a more comprehensive maintenance manual.

On the newest pro printers, you can do “channel pair” cleanings at either normal strength or powerful strength. The channel pairs are usually Light Cyan & Light Magenta, Cyan & Magenta, Light Black & Black, Yellow & Light Light Black, and Orange & Green.

On desktop printers, you may run a nozzle check pattern from the printer, without needing to open the printer utility window on your computer. While the printer is on, hold down the “ink droplet” button for several seconds until a cycle begins. You can also print a nozzle check pattern from your printer as well: turn off the printer, load a sheet of paper in the paper tray (usually copier paper), and turn the printer back on as you hold down the page feed button. On most printers this will result in the printing of a nozzle check pattern. Otherwise, simply run a “test print” from the driver window on your computer.

Note about “automatic” nozzle check cycles: in addition to the standard nozzle check pattern utility on Epson printers certain newer printer models offer an automatic version of the nozzle check pattern. In the automatic mode the printer prints a special pattern, measures it, runs a cleaning cycle if needed, up to 3 or five times, until either the problem is fixed, or the printer stops trying. With Piezography inks or PiezoFlush fluid, the measurement system on these printers will always reject an automatic nozzle check pattern, regardless of how it looks. If you want to run the automatic cycle, realize that you must look at the patterns as they printer, to determine if the cleaning has been successful or not. If you see a perfect nozzle check pattern in this mode, you can abort the cycle when you want to. Alternatively, you may start an automatic cycle, and let it run through its steps, knowing in advance the print head has been cleaned several times. Also you will have a printout of the nozzle check patterns printed during this process. Just keep in mind that no matter how good or bad the actual pattern looks, the printer will always determine it is bad.

 

Tip #2: Clean the capping station and flushing box.

Printers affected: all models

This tip is easy to perform and often highly effective in fixing not only missing nozzles, but also any residual color you may see in a print shortly after installing a set of Piezography inks in a printer for the first time. This tip is especially helpful if you see a nozzle check pattern become worse after running more and more cleaning cycles. The capping station should be cleaned 1-2 times a month (depending on frequency of printing and the amount of cleaning cycles done) to keep the print head clean and working well.
The capping station is a rectangular flat sponge surrounded by a raised gasket. When the print head is in the “parked position,” at the right side of the printer carriage, the gasket of the cap presses against the print head, sealing it. One purpose of this is to keep the print head from drying out due to air exposure. The second reason is that the cap is used as part of cleaning cycles: the sponge in the cap is porous, connected to a small vacuum pump underneath. During cleaning cycles, ink is pulled or printed out of the print head, and the ink drains into the sponge, with help from the cap. The ink is then deposited on an absorbent waste pad inside the printer. Sometimes the sponge will clog up, due to dried ink, or due to paper fiber in the sponge, and this keeps the ink from draining out properly. The excess ink will then make contact with the print head, and transfer onto the print head’s nozzle surface. This can cause blocked nozzles, or can even cause the printer to print the wrong color, if leftover color ink is pulled back into the nozzles and printed out again.

Cleaning off the sponge and gasket of the capping station allows the print head to stay clean. This can often make an ink jetting problem disappear instantly. The steps for cleaning the capping station are listed below. Please note that certain printer models have two caps. Pro model printers also have a flushing box– this pad should also be cleaned as waste ink is deposited there during cleaning cycles and drains down into the waste ink tank. If the flushing pad is blocked by waste ink or paper-fiber build up or dried ink, the ink will not drain thru correctly nor will cleaning cycles be as effective because the suction on the print head is restricted by the dirty pad. Pro model printers have flushing boxes (the stationary square pad/box to the left of the capping station), which can be cleaned by following the same procedure for cleaning the capping station below. The flushing box should be cleaned as regularly as the capping station and wiper blade. The capping station, wiper blade, dampers and flushing box should all be replaced every 1-3 years, depending on use. The repair manual for many Pro model printers specify these parts should be replaced every year! This is generally the first point of failure for any printers. When you replace your flushing box (often called a “cleaning assembly”) you should also replace your dampers that connect the ink-lines to the print-head. These two items generally go at just about the same time.

 

1. Access the cap: Move the print head off the cap in order to inspect and clean it.

* Desktop printers: Push the “ink change” button to move print head off the cap. Unplug the printer then move the print head to the left side to access the capping station on the right.

* 3000 printer (OLD 4-color model): Unplug the printer, and manually slide the print head to the left side.

* 3800/3880/P800,R3000,P600, and 4900 printers: Turn printer on, unplug printer when print head moves out of the right side during start up process then open the top lid and manually move print head to the left side to access capping station on the right.

* Large format Epson printers: Turn off the printer and open the front cover. Press down on the spring loaded paper cutter located on the front of the print head, which will unlock the print head so it can easily be moved with your hand (release the paper cutter once the head is unlocked). Move the print head over to the left side to access the capping station + flushing box on the right.

* 7900/9900, 7890/9890, 7700/9700, and SureColor P-series wide-format: To move the print head out of locked right side: either turn the printer on, then unplug power cable while print head is out of right side during start up, or start printer in Serviceman Mode (hold right arrow, down arrow and center/OK buttons while turning printer on), and select wiper replacement to move print head over, then turn the printer off and unplug from power.

2. Look inside the printer case, below where the print head was originally sitting, to find the cap or caps. A cap is a rectangular piece, approximately 1” high by 2” wide (the exact size varies from printer to printer). It is mounted on a spring loaded mechanism.

3. Look at the cap, using a flashlight if necessary.

* It should be horizontal to the print path (depending if it’s a desktop or Pro model printer), not tilted at an angle. If it tilted, there may be a problem with the fixture supporting it. This can cause ongoing problems due to ink drying out in the print head. This problem usually requires the printer to be serviced professionally.

* The surface of the sponge must be flat, and sitting below the level of the gasket. Make sure that it does not bow up at all. Sometimes, the sponge will lift up in the center or an edge. When this happens the sponge will always contact the print head, and cause ongoing problems. Older model printers are more prone to this problem. Newer models have a metal grid holding the sponge down.

4. Clean the cap. Sometimes you may notice a buildup of residue or liquid in the cap or on the gasket; other times you will not. Use a drinking straw to deposit PiezoFlush solution (recommended) or warm distilled water, or use the tube from the inside of a bottle of Windex to deposit Windex, onto the sponge. Use your finger to dispense only two or three drops of liquid at a time. The liquid will remain in the cap for a few seconds, but will soon drain out. Repeat this several times. Do not let the liquid spill around the cap, and into the printer, some model printers have important electrical components located under the capping station area and can be damaged by liquid (the 2100/2200 are especially sensitive to this).

5. Fold a paper towel into a 4”x4” (10cm X 10cm) pad. Press the towel gently on the sponge to dab away ink and PiezoFlush, water or Windex. As you push on the sponge, gently push down and slightly to the right, to protect the spring-loaded mechanism that supports it. Pushing too hard, or pushing to the left can damage the capping station (and hence the printer). After dabbing several times, you will remove much of the liquid, but you can never remove all of it. Make sure the capping station returns to it’s normal position and sits flat for a correct seal with the print head.

6. Dip a cotton swab (Q-Tip) in water, and use it to wipe gently around the edge of the capping station gasket, to remove dirt buildup there. Again, be careful not to push the capping station out of alignment. Take care not to leave any Q-tip fibers behind on the capping station sponge or gasket.

7. Return the print head to the parked position (on far right side), plug the printer back in and turn it on if necessary. Run one or two print head cleaning cycles then print a nozzle check pattern. If the nozzle check pattern is better, but not perfect, do one or two more cleaning cycles and print another nozzle check pattern. If the nozzle check pattern continues to show missing nozzles, contact Inkjetmall’s support department for assistance.

 

Tip #3: Use flush cartridges or dye ink cartridges.

1. Remove cartridges (desktop model printer) or disconnect dampers (Pro model printer) to access the print head- you should write down the cartridge or damper order before disconnecting from the head, to know which channel you need to clean and how to put it back together after cleaning. There will be a 1/2″ plastic point sticking up for each ink channel in the print head- these points are where the cartridges or dampers connect with the head.

2. Fold a paper towel just like in the print head scrub procedure and moisten it LIGHTLY with PiezoFlush or distilled water.

3. Place moist paper towel in the printer were the print head moves back and forth, make sure to push the edges down so the print head can slide over it without catching.

4. Carefully slide the print head over the paper towel (the paper towel is to absorb the liquid that gets sprayed thru the print head).

5. Insert the dummy cartridge into the position to be cleaned, making sure the tip is snugly over the point in the print head.

6. Pull 1-2ml PiezoFlush into the syringe then put the tip of the syringe firmly into the hole in the dummy cartridge.

7. Push the syringe plunger to push the PiezoFlush thru that position of the print head (don’t push TOO hard if there’s strong resistance).

8. Pull the syringe plunger up to pull air up thru the head, then gently push fluid thru again (you should be able to feel the clog break free and see the syringe plunger going down slowly).

9. Slide the print head over a different section of the paper towel so as to not over saturate one area (you do not want liquid to drip into your printer as this could damage the machine).

10. Push fluid and pull air thru a few times until you can feel the fluid is able to flow thru the print head.

11. Absorb any excess liquid in the print head using Q-tips.

12. Slide the print head off the paper towel and throw it away.

13. Reconnect the dampers (make sure to prime dampers with ink before attaching to the head, for good ink flow) or reinstall the ink cartridges.

14. Do 2-3 cleaning cycles to get ink flowing thru the head again, then print a nozzle check to see how things look.

 

Tip #4: Scrub the bottom of the print head.

Use this procedure to clean the bottom of the print head, where the nozzles are located. You will manually move the print head back and forth over a folded, wetted paper towel. This procedure can remove a buildup of paper fibers, dust and ink gunk that may not be removed by print head cleaning cycles. Use this procedure sparingly, and understand that it is the most invasive of the tips listed, in that it can damage the print head if performed improperly. A dry paper towel can actually scratch the print head, affecting its performance. Additionally, if there is any abrasive residue built up on the print head, this technique may either scratch the print head or else force a piece of solid matter into a nozzle, permanently closing it. However, if used carefully and in moderation, it can be a very effective cleaning technique, particularly on an older printer, perhaps one that has never been cleaned before, or one that has sat for a long period of time without use.

1. Get several Bounty White paper towels and a glass of warm distilled water or a bottle of PiezoFlushWe recommend NOT using Windex or other glass/ammonia cleaners on the print head. It is best to use heavy duty paper towels when cleaning the inside of your printer because cheap ones easily tear and leave behind fibers, which can cause more problems.

2. Unlock the print head from the far right parked position:

* Desktop printers: Push the “ink change” button to move print head off the cap. Unplug the printer then move the print head to the left side to access the capping station on the right.

* 3000 printer (OLD 4-color model): Unplug the printer, and manually slide the print head to the left side.

* 3800/3880/P800,R3000,P600, and 4900 printers: Turn printer on, unplug printer when print head moves out of the right side during start up process then open the top lid and manually move print head to the left side to access capping station on the right.

* Large format Epson printers: Turn off the printer and open the front cover. Press down on the spring loaded paper cutter located on the front of the print head, which will unlock the print head so it can easily be moved with your hand (release the paper cutter once the head is unlocked). Move the print head over to the left side to access the capping station + flushing box on the right.

* 7900/9900, 7890/9890, 7700/9700, and SureColor P-series wide-format: To move the print head out of locked right side: either turn the printer on, then unplug power cable while print head is out of right side during start up, or start printer in Serviceman Mode (hold right arrow, down arrow and center/OK buttons while turning printer on), and select wiper replacement to move print head over, then turn the printer off and unplug from power.

3. Cut a paper towel in half and fold it lengthwise until the strip is about 1” (2.5cm) wide, by about 8 inches long.

4. Lightly dampen the folded towel with PiezoFlush solution or warm distilled water (NOT tap or spring water!) and flatten it between two fingers or on a table top.

5. Push the moist folded paper towel strip in the black plastic channel beneath where the print head travels back and forth when printing. Push the edges of the paper towel down, especially the right end so the head doesn’t catch on the towel when slid over it.

6. Manually slide the print head over the right edge of the paper towel, trying not to slide or drag the towel as you do so. If it doesn’t slide over easily, don’t force it- move the head back to the right and flatten the towel edge to try again.

7. With the print head over the center of the folded moist paper towel, lift the two sides of the towel and gently slide it back and forth to clean the bottom of the print head- like shining a shoe.

8. After two or three passes of the paper towel, let go of the paper towel and slide the print head to the far right, remove the towel, and if more cleaning is needed replace it with a new one, following steps 3-7 above. Two towels are generally enough to remove the majority of the debris on the print head. Additional towels will continue to turn black, but this is mainly due to ink from inside the print head, wicking onto the towel by capillary action. Make sure not to rip the paper towel with the print head, as that could cause fibers or pieces to be stuck onto the print head.

9. When you have finished scrubbing the print head, slide the print head to the far right and remove the moist towel, then use a clean, dry paper towel and Q-tips to clean up any liquid remaining in the black plastic channel.

10. Plug in the printer and run one or two cleaning cycles to remove any remaining paper fibers from the bottom of the print head. Then verify you have a perfect nozzle check pattern before printing.

 

Tip #5: Flush the print head with PiezoFlush.

Printers affected: small format

With small-format printers that don’t have dampers (with filter screens), sometimes there is dried ink in your nozzle channel that needs to be taken out with a more forcefull method.

We sell a Small Format Flush Kit at InkjetMall just for that purpose. You can get it here.

note: Some brave people have successfully flushed their large-format print heads this way. We don’t recommend it because there is exposed cable wire contacts on these heads that have to remain 100% dry. A single bit of PiezoFlush mist could kill the print-head. We do not support that procedure.

Small Format Flush Kit Instructions:

1. Push the printer’s ink change button, then unplug the power cable once the head is in the ink change position.

2. Remove ink cartridges from the printer. If using a CIS, close the ink line clamps before removing the dampers to maintain ink prime in the lines.

3. Fold half a paper towel (like in the print head scrub procedure) and dampen it lightly with Windex, PiezoFlush or distilled water. Use only Bounty or other high quality paper towels when cleaning the inside of a printer.

4. Place the folded paper towel in your printer were the print head moves back and forth, make sure to push edges down so the print head can easily slide over it without catching.

5. Slide print head over the paper towel (the paper towel is to absorb PiezoFlush that gets sprayed thru the head).

If the head doesn’t easily slide over the paper towel, don’t force it- press the edges of the towel down and try again.

6. Insert the dummy cartridge that comes with your flush kit into the position to be cleaned, make sure the tip is snugly over the point in the print head for a good seal.

7. Draw 2ml PiezoFlush into the syringe, then insert the syringe tip snugly into the top hole of the dummy cartridge.

8. Press syringe plunger down to push 1ml PiezoFlush thru the ink channel (don’t push TOO hard if there’s strong resistance). Then pull the syringe plunger up to draw air up thru the head and gently push the remaining fluid thru again (you should be able to feel the clog break free and see the syringe plunger going down easily).

*NOTE: If you pull up junk from the print head into the syringe, disconnect the syringe and empty the gunky PiezoFlush, then refill with fresh/clean flush fluid to continue cleaning- do not push dirty flush fluid thru the print head.

9. If you need to clean more than one channel or wish to repeat the procedure on the same channel (if you’re dealing with a stubborn clog), slide the print head over a different section of the paper towel so as to not over saturate one area (you do not want liquid to drip into your printer as this could damage the machine). Push fluid and pull air thru until you can feel the fluid easily flows thru the print head.

10. Only clean positions you are having trouble with, if you have one position that is not fully printing or has mis-firing nozzles, focus on cleaning that position, but there is no need to clean other positions if they are working fine.

11. After cleaning the head, hold both sides of the paper towel and gently move it back and forth a few times to wipe the bottom of the head, then release the paper towel, slide the print head off it and throw away the paper towel.

12. Absorb any excess liquid in the print head and printer using Q-tips.

13. Install a set of flush or ink cartridges, do 2-3 cleaning cycles to get fluid flowing thru the head again. Print a nozzle check to see how things look.

 

Tip #6: Watch our videos

 

Epson desktop printer models (1400, 1430, R2400, R1800/800, R1900, R2000, R2880, P400, etc…):

 

Epson R3000 & P600 printer models:

 

Epson Pro 3800, 3880, & P800 printer models:

 

Epson 7800/9800 and 7880/9880 printer models:

 

Epson 7890/9890 and 7900/9900 printers:

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