Clogged nozzles - Brother printers
Brother printers have a built-in, permanent printhead. While this allows
Brother to use
a very high quality printhead, anyone who has replaced the printhead after warranty found out real quick that a
new printhead cost more than a new printer!
Whether you use original Brother cartridges, compatible
Brother cartridges or refill your
cartridges, there WILL come a day when a few or even many nozzles will be blocked and the cleaning cycles will
not solve the problem. It
is not whether it will happen, but most likely when.
It is important to understand the
problem and why it happens.
You just put in a new cartridge and
a few nozzles are missing. You run several cleanings, no
improvement, or more times than not, the problem is worse ...
even more nozzles are missing or the whole color is gone!
Don't blame the cartridge, it is just a box of ink and unless
the manufacturer has used the wrong ink (which is very unlikely
these days) then you have just been introduced to the number 1
problem for Brother printer owners.
After 8 or 10 cleans, like a
miracle, it starts to print properly ... or you put in another
new cartridge (possibly breaking down and actually buying an
expensive, original Brother cartridge) and low and behold there it
is printing perfectly! Unfortunately the next morning the
problem is even worse than it was! How can this be?
Now I've got to run several cleanings every time I want to print
and sometimes even this doesn't help. Now my ink
cartridges last half as long. It's just got to be poor
And don't forget, 8 or 10 cleanings
can use half the ink in the cartridge so you will definitely get
fewer pages from a cartridge if you run many cleanings.
Virtually all compatible cartridges contain at least as much ink
as an original; in some cases more.
The above scenario can happen at any
time, but it most often happens when changing a cartridge or if
the printer has not been used for an extended period of
time. If it takes you six months or more to go through a
set of cartridges, your chances of the problem described above
is several times more likely than those who use their printer
Why does it Happen?:
Most people do not change their
cartridge(s) when the low ink light comes on. Instead they
wait until they can see that the black or a color has run
out. At this point there is no longer ink in all of the
nozzles. If the cartridge or a color is empty enough to
tell by looking at the printout, then some or all of the nozzles
are filled with air. Air in nozzles can quite effectively
block ink flow.
To overcome this problem when a new
cartridge is put in, your Brother printer will do a priming.
As far as I can tell, the logic is, if the printer can suck
enough ink through the printhead, then that should also remove
any air in the nozzles. This usually works.
Unfortunately it can sometimes suck out so much ink that the
wipers start to smear the ink all over the printhead which in
turn blocks the nozzles. The more cleanings you do, the
more ink that gets smeared on the printheads and the worse it
gets. You have now gone from a problem of air blocking the
ink flow on a few nozzles to smeared ink blocking even more
If you manage to get all nozzles
printing after 6, 8, 10 or more cleanings your problems are
probably not over. In fact, your problems are probably
worse. That half cartridge of ink sucked out during the
cleanings has to go somewhere. Unfortunately there is
nowhere for the ink to go except dry on the printhead.
Next day, after the ink has had plenty of time to dry, you're
lucky if you've got any ink on the paper when you print.
How can new ink get through that thick layer of dried ink?
Well, it can't!
The only true solution is to remove
all that dried ink from the printhead. This is easily done
with most printers. You simply remove the
cartridge/printhead assembly and give the nozzles a quick swipe
with a damp paper towel. There goes your dried ink.
If that doesn't solve the problem, you can suck a small amount
of ink out of the nozzles with a priming clip. That gets
rid of any air and it only takes a couple seconds. Another
quick swipe and all excess ink is removed. Easy when you
can hold the printhead in your hand.
You probably know already that the
Brother printheads are permanent and cannot be easily removed,
therefore cleaning the excess ink off the printhead is not
simply a matter of giving it a swipe with a damp paper
So, before you blame the compatible
cartridges for your Brother printer not printing
properly, please realize that it is probably not the fault of
the cartridge. It's just a Brother and that's
the nature of the beast!
There are several ways to help
prevent clogged nozzles in Brother printheads.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER RUN MORE THAN 3 CLEANING CYCLES!!!!
The printhead cleaning cycles on models of
Brother printers has consistently gotten longer
with each new model introduced to the market. These longer cleaning cycles suck out more ink in an attempt to clear
the clog. Unfortunately, after two or three cleaning cycles, excess amounts of ink is being smeared over the printhead
and can actually block more or all of the nozzles. The more you clean, the more ink, the more smearing.
If after two cleanings the nozzles aren't cleared, then print at least 10 full pages.
If the nozzles don't clear themselves within these 10 pages, then further cleanings will not solve your problem.
You will have to manually clean the printheads. See several methods below.
ALWAYS TURN YOUR PRINTER OFF AT NIGHT
The Brother printers do a "mini-cleaning cycle" when the printer is first turned
on. This is to get the ink flowing through the printhead after it has been unused for a while. If you never turn
the printer off, then these mini-cleaning cycles to not take place.
PRINT ON A REGULAR BASIS
You should print several, full color pages AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK! This will help keep
the ink from drying out on the printhead or in the nozzles. Seldom used inkjet printers (all brands) cause more
problems than those which are used on a daily basis. If it
takes you 4, 6 or more months to use a set of cartridges, then
an Brother printer is certainly not the printer for you.
Seriously consider a different brand or a laser printer if you
only print black.
USE ONLY THE HIGHEST QUALITY CARTRIDGES!
The printheads in Brother printers are a very precision made component. Many companies
want you to believe that "one ink does all printers". This is simply not possible. While this type of
refill kit may work with many printers, Brother owners simply should not take the risk. As models are introduced
the ink changes. This is the reason printer manufacturers are continually introducing new inkjet cartridges when
they introduce new printers. Higher resolutions and faster printing speeds require ink with very specific characteristics.
You may have been able to get away with "one refill kit does all" back 5 years ago, that certainly isn't
the case today!
The few $$$ you save by buying cheap refill kits and compatible cartridges WILL come
back and haunt you.
Methods to manually clean
We suggest you perform the suggested
methods of manually cleaning the Brother printheads
in the order they are listed below. They are listed in order from the easiest to the more difficult. If the first
method does not completely solve the problem, then go on to the next.
water or printhead cleaner in sponge
Move printhead assembly to centre of printer:
First, start a
cleaning cycle then open up the top of the printer. Not the
scanner lid, but the actual top. You should see the printhead
moving back and forth. It is mostly on the right side but
part way through the cleaning cycle you will see it move to
the very left, which puts the printhead over a sponge. The
sponge should be white but as it gets used, it will start to
The goal here
is to loosen and remove the dried ink that is on the
printhead. The easiest way is to saturate the sponge
mentioned above and then put the printhead over it for five or
ten minutes. To do that, start a cleaning cycle. When the
printhead moves to the left side, unplug the printer. You
will now be able to move the printhead assembly back and forth
freely. With a syringe or eyedropper, put as much Windex on
the sponge as it will hold. Immediately move the printhead to
the very left so that it is over the sponge. Let it sit there
for 5 or 10 minutes. This should give the window cleaner time
to soften up any dried ink that is on the printhead. In the
meantime, take a look at the very right side. You will see a
little black wiper blade made of soft rubber. Dampen a small
spot on a paper towel with the window cleaner and gently clean
the wiper blade. Repeat until you get no more ink off of it.
plug in the printer, you MUST RETURN THE PRINTHEAD TO THE VERY
RIGHT, over the wiper blade. This is the 'Park' position
which is where the printer expects the printhead to be when
the printer is turned on. Plug the printer in and do a
cleaning and print test. (to start a cleaning cycle, you will
have to close the lid) Hopefully you will now be getting some
black. If it isn't perfect then I would repeat this a couple
times. If it is close, with only a couple missing nozzles
then I would print a photograph which has lots of the colour
which has missing nozzles. If it is the black, then I would
print a black and white photo in the highest resolution.
Clean printhead with
Fold paper towel and dampen:
Be certain the printer is turned 'off'. Tear a single sheet of paper towel in half.
Fold the sheet in half several times until it is about 1/2 inch by whatever length the sheet started at. In other
words, you want to fold it so it is long and skinny, not square.
Start a cleaning cycle then unplug the printer when the
printhead moves to the left, just like you did in the previous
method of cleaning the nozzles. Open the cover of the
Brother printer. Along the
path which the printhead assembly travels when printing, you will see a rubber roller which moves the paper. (this
is like the paper roller in a typewriter). Put the paper towel on top of this rubber roller and use tape on each
end to secure it. Put a few drops of InkMagic printhead cleaner or distilled water near the middle of the
Move printhead assembly over the
paper towel and let it rest on top of the damp portion of the
We suggest letting the printhead sit
over the paper towel for at least 15 minutes. This will soften
the ink on the printhead. Move printhead assembly back to its
resting position. You will probably notice that the paper towel
now has one big black blob of ink on it. (There is so much excess ink on the printheads
that all the colors are mixing to make black.) If you cannot clearly see individual colors, then dampen another
spot on the paper towel and move the printhead back over the newly dampened spot on the
paper towel. Continue repeating
this until you see all the individual colors. You may have to use several pieces of folded paper towels.
Before turning the printer 'on', be certain to move the printhead back to its resting
position (the extreme right side above the wiper blade) and remove the paper towel from inside the printer. Now that all excess ink has been removed from the printheads,
your clogged nozzles should be cleared. It may take several pages of dense print to get the ink flowing properly.
A few nozzles still not printing?
Replace the ink cartridges:
As a final resort, replace the ink cartridge. There is a good chance that you will
have to call Brother for warranty repair, if the printer is still under warranty. For this reason we suggest that
this time you purchase original Brother cartridges. Never return an
for warranty with compatible or refilled cartridges. Doing so will give
the perfect opportunity to blame the problem on the cartridge or ink. While our experience with
indicates that it is their built-in printhead technology which is to blame for most of their problems, you certainly
won't get anyone at Brother to admit it.
I hope this article has been helpful
and it gets your printer working again.
Written by: Dale R. Farrier --
President -- InkMagic International Ltd.
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contained in this article for your own use only. Reproduction or inclusion of this article on any website
or publication is prohibited
without written permission by the author.
InkMagic International Ltd. accepts no responsibility for the outcome of any methods this article suggests. While
all suggestions listed above have been tried countless times with success, you follow these suggestions at your
If you have additional suggestions or wish to offer feedback, please feel free to send us correspondence at the
email address listed below.