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Unclog Canon Permanent Inkjet Printhead Nozzes


So you're new Canon, Epson or Brother inkjet cartridges won't print?


You just put in a new cartridge(s) 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 inkjet printers with a permanent printhead.  Many inkjet printer models manufactured by Canon, Brother, Xerox and Epson inkjet printers have permanent printheads expected to last the life of the printer.  Epson printers seem to be much more prone to clogged nozzles than the other makes mentioned above.  The problem is so pronounced in the Epson line of printers that I have written an article which deals specifically with how to Unclog Epson nozzles.

Understanding how your inkjet printer works:

Most problems with inkjet cartridges will occur  when changing the cartridges.  It is only logical that the above described problem will increase in probability with the increased number of cartridges in the inkjet printer. Some high-end photo inkjet printers have as many as 9 cartridges, but most have 2 to 6 cartridges.

Most people do not realize that inkjet printers use gravity and a 'siphoning' method to deliver the ink to the printhead.  There are no little pumps or complicated vacuum systems to start and keep the ink flowing.  If air gets into the nozzles, it will quite effectively block the flow of ink.  If ink dries on the printhead, then this will block the flow.

A few suggestions which will help eliminate or at least reduce your cartridge problems:

Most of these suggestions apply to inkjet printers with permanent printheads such as Epson, Canon and Brother.  For those printers with the printhead on the inkjet cartridge, you don't have these problems because changing the cartridge replaces the whole ink delivery system. (For Epson and Brother inkjet printers, see the article specific to those makes.)

NEVER Run Inkjet Cartridge Dry: For printers with permanent printheads such as Canon, Brother and Epson, NEVER run a cartridge completely dry.  If you see a missing colour or streaks because the cartridge is empty, then air is in the nozzles and getting the colour flowing again will be difficult.  If the printer is indicating the cartridge needs replacing, then replace it as soon as possible.  Most printers will have a small amount of ink in the cartridge when you are asked to replace it.  Do not try to override this as you will only be asking for trouble when you replace the cartridge.

For those inkjet cartridges with the printhead built into the cartridge, such as HP and LexMark, do not run the cartridge dry if you plan to refill the cartridge.  Again, air gets in the nozzles and blocks the ink flow after the cartridge has been refilled.  If you don't plan on refilling these cartridges, then it doesn't make much difference if you run it completely dry because replacing the cartridge replaces the printhead also.

NEVER Run more than 3 consecutive cleanings: All inkjet printers have some 'cleaning' or 'priming' function built into the printer driver.  Check your manual to see what utilities your are provide and how to access them.  When you remove a cartridge, air gets in the nozzles.  When you replace the cartridge the printer will do a priming.  This basically sucks ink out which 'should' remove any air that is in the nozzles.  This usually works, however, if it doesn't, then you need to run a cleaning cycle or two.  Likewise the cleaning cycles suck ink out with the hope of removing any air that is blocking the ink flow.  Never run more than 3 consecutive cleaning cycles.  If the print is still streaky or you've lost a colour completely, then it is probably not air blocking the flow but ink being smeared across the printhead during the cleaning cycles.  The more cleanings you do, the more ink that gets smeared and consequently the more nozzles that get blocked or covered with ink.  If you happen to get the ink flowing properly after 8 or 10 cleaning, then chances are the problem will be only worse the next morning after all that ink has had time to dry on the printhead. 

After 2 or 3 cleanings print at least 6 pages of dense print or graphics.  This will help get the in flowing.  If this doesn't work then you may have to remove the printhead assembly and clean it manually. 

NEVER change more than one cartridge at a time: Change a cartridge and get it printing perfectly before you change the next one.  If your printer has individual inkjet cartridges for each colour, the chances of several or all your colours running out at the same time is pretty slim.  If several colours are not printing, chances are it is not because of lack of ink but other problems described above.  

Changing several cartridges at once will almost guarantee the printer will over-prime and smear excessive ink on the printhead which will block ink flow on one or more colours.

If cartridge isn't empty, don't replace it: If your inkjet printer is missing a colour(s) or streaking and there is still plenty of ink in the cartridge, then replacing the cartridge probably won't help.  I am shocked by the number of people who think replacing the cartridge will solve all problems.  It is like saying that topping up the gas tank will solve all automobile problems.

Print several dense black and full colour pages every week: Those who use their inkjet printer only occasionally tend to have more problems due to ink drying.  You must keep the ink flowing.  If you use your printer every day chances are you won't run into any of the problems discussed here except when changing a cartridge. 


Manually cleaning inkjet printhead assembly:

Most Canon inkjet printers have a removable printhead assembly.  When I got my last Canon printer the printhead assembly had to be installed before you could install the cartridges.  I have never run Xerox inkjet printers so I can only assume there is a way of removing their printhead for cleaning.

Remove cartridges then the printhead assembly according to the printer manual.  To clean printhead assembly use a mixture of 50% distilled water and 50% window cleaner such as Windex with ammonia.  This is the mixture we use to clean HP and LexMark cartridges which we remanufacture.

I like to use a plastic bowl so the printhead is not damaged.  Submerge the printhead assembly in the cleaning solution described above for 1 - 3 minutes.  You want it completely submerged.  The goal here is to force any air out of the nozzles and to soften any ink which may be dried on the nozzles.  You can use an ultrasonic cleaner if you have one available.

Remove the printhead and carefully blot any excess liquid off the printhead assembly with a paper towel.  Be sure to dry any electrical contacts completely.  Blot off any excess ink which may be on the bottom of the printhead.  Do not 'wipe' the printhead as this could scratch it.  Be gentle.  You want the liquid in the nozzles to remain there so don't shack the cartridge to remove the liquid or blot the printhead where the ink comes out as this will wick out whatever liquid is in the nozzles and the air will again block ink flow.

Replace the printhead assembly and cartridges.  Run a few dense pages of graphics to get the ink flowing.  If the print looks light this is because of the cleaning solution in the printhead.  It should only take a few pages for the colours to come back to their normal level.  You may need to run a cleaning or two to 

Still not printing?:

I would repeat the above procedure once more just to be certain that is it not air or dried ink causing the problem.

At this point I would call the manufacturer if the printer is under warranty.  Canon will replace the printhead assembly if it is under warranty.  It's always good to save the original cartridges that came with the printer because they may ask for numbers or other information found only on the original cartridges.  If they give you a rough time because you are using a compatible cartridge, stick up for your rights.  Compatible cartridges have come a long way in the past few years so the chances of the ink being the problem is pretty remote.  Don't let them tell you otherwise.

Written by: Dale R. Farrier -- President -- InkMagic International Ltd.

This article is protected by copyright laws. You are free to print and use the information 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 own risk.

If you have additional suggestions or wish to offer feedback, please feel free to send us correspondence at the email address listed below.

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