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Inkjet printers may look like little
plastic boxes with some electronics crammed inside, but they
are actually very sophisticated pieces of hardware. Witness the
print head zipping back and forth while spraying
drops of ink the size of a red blood cell and hitting the mark
with that drop thousands of times a second. Get the idea? Printers
need care and should be taken care of to get
consistent print quality, paper feed, and longer print life.
Part 1: Software based maintenance
Start with a Nozzle Check
If your print quality starts to go down (thin lines, colors suddenly shift or become light) the first thing to do is run a nozzle check. Using a plain piece of paper, your printer will print a small test of each ink color and its many nozzles.
Virtually all inkjet printers have functions
called head cleaning and head alignment.
What to look for: Sudden color shifts in your prints. Blacks may start to have a bronzed look. Lines that run the same direction as the print head.
The head cleaning cycle ensures
all ink nozzles are clear and free of any obstructions. Always run a cleaning if your printer
has set for more than a month between printings.
What to look for: White repeating lines or a grid like
pattern on your print can indicate misalignment of heads. Perform
this function when needed.
need a couple of sheets of plain or photo paper for the process. Alignment
ensures all the nozzles are pointing the right directing and
place. Some newer printer models have an automatic alignment and clean function you can run instead of the manual process.
Where to find these tools
Your printer will have a maintenance or utility function where you can access these plus other functions. Some printers, particularily HP models, may not have cleanin functions that you can access.
Maintenance screen shots Mac
You will likely find utility and maintenance controls in System Preferences » Print & Fax » Set
Cchoose your printer in the printer list
and click Utility near the top of the screen.
Maintenance screen shots Windows
Newer Epson printers
Older Epson models
Some Canon printers also have additional cleaning features. As you can see below, this model has a bottom plate and roller cleaning option.
Part 2: Printer Roller and Feed Mechanism Cleaning Tips
If you use your printer often, and especially
if you use double-sided inkjet papers, proper maintenance of the feed
rollers is important. Paper leaves behind dust
as it runs through your printer. Double-sided papers leave inkjet
coating behind, which can be slick. You will eventually notice
inconsistent feeding or sometimes your printer will not feed at
Also, ink overspray can build
up on the rollers below the print head. This results in black
streaks, usually on the back of your paper.
Follow the steps below and any feed
or streaking issues should dissappear.
River Paper assumes no liability if you follow these cleaning
steps. If you are careless in cleaning your printer, damage could
occur. We have been cleaning our printers in this manner for
18 years with no problems to date.
What you will need:
Bottle of rubbing alcohol
If you can find it, ethyl alcohol pads seem to work better and are easier on rubber and plastic parts.
First, look down the feed tray of your
printer - see image below.
Because Canon printers do not
have an on demand paper feed button, you will not be able to
reach the entire roller.
When running the alcohol soaked
sheet through, you will have to make a print - we suggest a
text document with only one line or character.
If you put your fingers in the feed
path, you will feel rubber coated rollers. Take your alcohol
swab and hold it on a roller with your finger. Now, push the
feed button on your printer - the rollers will move. Don't
be alarmed if your finger gets tugged a bit. It will NOT get
into the mechanism! Cycle the paper feed a few times and make
sure you clean each roller.
If you are having trouble with
ink streaks on your paper, try this:
Take an 8.5x11 sheet of plain paper.
Soak the interior of the sheet with rubbing alcohol, leaving
all four edges completely dry. Run this sheet through your printer
2-3 times front and back. This will clean all of the internal
rollers of debris and any ink.
Inkjet Printer Feed Roller Maintenance
Use canned air to blow any remaining dust
and debris from the print feed path and inside the printer. Be gentle
with the air and do not get it too close to any delicate parts.