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How to Clean an Epson Printhead

How to Clean an Epson Printhead

If you have an Epson printer and your prints are coming out faint, incomplete, or streaked with lines, chances are you have a clogged nozzle–a common problem many users have with Epson printers.

It’s unavoidable that print heads clog over time as small amounts of ink residue dry up and collect in the nozzles. Being judicious about replacing cartridges promptly when the low ink alert goes off can do a lot to prevent ink from drying inside the nozzles, but you still may end up with one or several may still get clogged for a different reason. Blocked printheads can happen regardless if you use original Epson or aftermarket cartridges.


The Cause of Clogs

Printheads clog because nozzles get blocked by either air or ink. Clogs usually happen when:

You don’t change your ink cartridge right away when you get a low ink warning and instead you keep printing until you see faded printouts. When you put with a new cartridge, your printer prepares the printhead for the new ink cartridge, this is called priming. Priming is when the printer pushes ink through the nozzles to force air out. The downside to this is sometimes the printer can push too much ink and the excess would smear all over the printhead where it ends up blocking more nozzles. And when the smeared ink dries, you once again end up with clogged nozzles and worse printouts than before.

You don’t turn off your printer. Ink dries up in the nozzles when you don’t use it regularly. Turning your printer on triggers the printer to run a mini-cleaning cycle and gets the ink flowing again.

You don’t use your printer regularly. As mentioned previously, ink dries up when unused so if you only use your printer about twice a month, we suggest you choose a laser printer. Laser printers use toner powder and don’t dry up.

Knowing the common causes of clogged printheads can help you take the necessary steps to prevent them from happening. As the old adage goes, prevention is always better than cure.


Ways to Clean Your Printhead

Check your nozzles and run cleaning cycles using the menu on your printer before you open up your unit and clean it manually.

Printhead Cleaning Cycles.

Epson printer models feature a pretty efficient cleaning cycle that will usually clear out the nozzles in one or two cycles. Keep in mind, however, that the newer models have longer cleaning cycles that unfortunately use more ink every time. Here’s how to get started:

  • Before you do anything else, make sure the printer isn’t showing any errors on the LCD screen.
  • Press the Home button and select “Setup” then select “Maintenance.”
  • Select “Printhead Nozzle Check
  • Your printer will produce a page with four colored grids designed to illustrate which nozzles are blocked (and which are not).
  • If no gaps are present, select done.
  • If there are gaps or some lines are faint, select “Clean the printhead” and continue.

Caution: Never turn off your printer during a cleaning cycle. Doing so can cause permanent damage to the unit!

PLEASE NOTE: This process is specific to select Epson Workforce, Artisan, and SureColor model printers, but can be broadly applied across several different models, including most Expression models. Please consult with your printer manual if you have any questions about your particular printer. For a visual look into the process, check out this helpful YouTube tutorial for A3 and A4 style printers here.

If you run two or three cycles with no improvement in your print quality, allow the printer to rest for several hours—up to six hours wait time is recommended by Epson. After this, go through a cleaning cycle again and see if this improves the print quality. A lot of people will keep running cleaning cycles until the head clears, often running six or eight cycles, which may work—until the next morning, when all the ink used in the cleaning cycles that collected on the head dries and plugs again. Of course, doing this repeatedly will make your clog worse over time–AND use up a lot of ink.

Contact Epson for further instruction if you are under warranty and still not seeing an improvement. If you are no longer under warranty, you can manually clean the integral pieces to clear out stubborn ink clogs.

Cleaning your printhead can be done manually in one of several ways, some more complex and challenging than others. Here are some common troubleshooting solutions that work on most Epson inkjet printer models, listed from the easiest to the most involved.

Clean Sponges with Distilled Water.

  • Turn off the printer and open the top. You should be able to see the printhead assembly.
  • Look for a small plastic level, which will pop up when the printer isn’t printing, to the left of the assembly. Move it forward and down to release the printhead, then push the assembly to the right. It may only move an inch or less at first, but when you push it to a stop, it will click. This fully releases the assembly so you can push it to the side.
  • If there is no lever next to your printhead assembly, print a page with the top up and unplug the printer with the assembly in the center, unlocked.
  • You should see sponges, which store ink from the cartridges in the carriage. Using an eyedropper or plastic syringe, saturate the sponges with distilled water or Windex solution.
  • Move the assembly back over the sponges as far right as it will go.
  • Let the distilled water set for at least fifteen minutes. For the best results, consider letting the printer soak overnight.
  • Print six to eight pages dense with text and images until your prints are come out clean and crisp. If you are still not getting good results, consider moving on to the next step in cleaning your printhead.

Distilled Water in Ink Port.

  • Remove the ink cartridges from your printhead carriage.
  • With the ink cartridges removed, you will see small cone-shaped indents which take the ink from the cartridge to the printhead. These are ink ports, and there should be one for each color/black cartridge.
  • Using an eye dropper or plastic syringe, put a couple of drops of distilled water or printhead cleaner into the ink port that may be plugged. Do not put cleaner into all of the ports! If you’re unsure, which color is which, look at the bottom of the ink port for color residue. Usually, yellow is the color on the far right, and going left it’s magenta, cyan, and, finally, black on the far left.
  • Replace ink cartridges and wait for the printer to set up the new cartridge. If any water or solution dripped from the printhead, wipe it up with a paper towel before proceeding.
  • Print out six to eight pages of text and images to test clarity. Still not getting good results? Try this next procedure:

Cleaning the Printhead with Paper Towels.

  • Turn your printer off.
  • Tear a single sheet of paper towel in half and fold it lengthwise until it is about one-half inch wide.
  • Open the top of your printer and look for a rubber roller that transports paper through the feed system. This feed system is where the printhead runs over when printing.
  • Secure the paper towel to the roller with tape and apply several drops of distilled water or cleaner near the middle of the towel.
  • Move the printhead assembly over the paper towel and let it rest for at least fifteen minutes. Allow time for the dried ink on the printhead to begin to dissolve. In time, you will see a collection of black ink on the paper towel—this is more than just the black ink, it’s actually a combination of all colors into one pool.
  • Repeat with fresh damp paper towels until you start to see individual colors from each ink port. You may need to repeat the process several times to see good results.
  • Next, you will want to turn your printer back on. Before you do so, make sure the printhead assembly has returned to its ready position, rather than resting in the center.
  • Print several pages to make sure each of the ports are cleared.

Faster printing speeds and sharper images mean it’s more likely that your printhead will suffer. With more Epson printers being produced with these capabilities, the better off you are knowing how to prevent clogged nozzles.

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30 Comments

  • I bought your ink and believe it is fine for all colors, but I have tried all of the above and still have no black. Do you have any suggestions. Do the ink jets ever completely fail?

    • Hi Chris, if you tried the different cleaning techniques and still aren’t getting black, it could be a faulty cartridge. Cartridges can fail from time to time, but it’s usually pretty rare. You might try a brand new cartridge and see if there is a difference. If you bought remanufactured Epson cartridges from LD Products, they are backed by a lifetime guarantee. Contact our customer service team at 888-321-2552 and we can look into sending out a replacement cartridge to you. Hope this helps!

  • HELP!!! I noticed my print out was a bit blurry, I completed a nozzle check which showed about 3 gaps, so I ran a head clean then an alignment. Now nothing is printing! I have followed the above methods and still have no luck, do you have any ideas. Extremely frustrated.

  • My Epson Photo 1400 (close to 10 years old) was not printing correctly due to lack of use. Having learned the hard way that cleaning the printheads uses up all the ink, I followed your instructions. First cleaned the sponges with distilled water. Colors were good, but black stopped printing. Cleaned the black ink port — still no black. Then cleaned the yellow port (left of the black port), and voila! Everything looks great! Previously I had similar issues with an Epson Workforce that stopped printing color. Followed different instructions from another Internet source and was unable to fix the issues. Too bad: I might have been successful had I found your page at that time. Many thanks!

  • My Epson WorkForce Pro (WF-4630) has the cartridges/nozzles in front. So I’ve done a ton of cleaning (Windex and Distilled Water) from the front using Q-tips. Still horrible lines. So I turned it on its back and cleaned the nozzle some more. It got ever-so-slightly better. But not good. Next, I left a soaked paper towel on it overnight. No significant change. Finally, in desperation, I put Windex on the nozzle with a syringe. Still bad. So I cleaned the other colors. Still bad.
    HELP

  • my 7620 quit printing yellow cleaned the yellow and the red and blue quit working now none are working. my 7610 is doing the same thing

    • Hi Donna,

      I am sorry you are having trouble with your color cartridges. Running a cleaning is a great idea since it primes the printer cartridges but if you run the cleaning process a few times, it will slowly deplete the cartridge ink levels. I am not sure if this is what happened with your printer but just as a general rule, we recommend running a cleaning 2-3 times. If you still have trouble after that, you’ll likely need to purchase a new printer cartridge. Hope this helps!

  • My Epson WorkForce WiFi 2660 will not print. It has been in storage since June 2017. The cartridges were taken out (he didn’t read the directions to leave them in) and taped up so the ink would not dry out. I have installed the cartridges and tested the ink levels they are fine. I have run 2 head cleanings and still nothing will print. No ink is coming out of any of the cartridges. Now pls what do I do??

    • Hello,

      Unfortunately your cartridges may have dried up while in storage. Even if they are taped up, there is a chance that the nozzles will crust over and ink will start wicking from the cartridge. If you’ve run the printhead cleaning a couple of times and don’t see any signs of improvement, you may need to replace your printer cartridges.

  • Hi, my friend gave me her workforce 545. i bought some replacement ink thinking that the ink had dried and new cartridges. I put the new one in and still no printout. I tried cleaning the printhead a few times already but still no print whatsoever. any solution?

  • I changed my color cartridges on my WF 3540 and now my color copies are all red. What should I do?

  • I have a wf 3640 epson that only had for 27 mts and has stopped working and now they r telling me to. replaced the printhead for 150.00 its kept giving me the code ox97. I only did a printhead cleaning the machine once a month…should I get the same brand again to replace for home uses

    • Honestly I wouldn’t (especially where Staples is currently selling one for $156.79 brand new). I’m on my second WF-3640. I received the same code just after 12 mos with the first one but it went completely dead on me. Replaced that with the same model, which I’ve had for 16 mos and no matter how many times I perform a cleaning, it goes back to blurry spots every two days or so. This has been going on for the last month-ish. I did/do love the options the printer comes with I’m sure I can find them with a more reliable printer

  • Clean Sponges with Distilled Water.
    Worked great for me! I was ready to throw printer out of the window.
    Thanks.

  • My Epson Workforce 360 is printing beautifully but when I make a copy on the platen (glass bed?) the resulting copy has blurred horizontal lines through the lines of text. Why is this only happening with the COPY function but not with the PRINT function??

    • The problem is in the optical scanner assembly.

      Generally-speaking–and this is highly dependent upon your particular make and model of printer/scanner–you will be looking into one of two areas:

      If your printer/scanner has a document feeder, and you are observing cross scan directed blurring only when you use the document feeder, then your blurring is being caused by document feed problems. Your approach would be to access and clean all paper path feed rollers and feed guides. Also pay attention to any foreign objects that may be in the document feed path, which will need to be removed (paper fasteners, pieces of Post-It, or bits of labels or tape.

      If you observe cross-scan directed blurring only when manually scanning by placing a document on the platen glass, then there is binding in the optical scanner, or the cogged belt has become worn. In this case, disassembling the unit sufficiently to access the optical scanner cavity will be necessary. Cleaning any scanner assembly glide surfaces or rails should help tremendously. If, after thoroughly cleaning of all scanner travel components, the blurring persists, then the replacement of the scanner drive belt would be the next logical step to take.

  • Hello after i follow all the procedure that you published and put all the cartridge back to the print head … instead of one collor missing now all colors would not print or come out of the print head everytime i make a nozzle check .. please help! i am using a Epson WF7710

  • Is there any way to get at the print head nozzels on an Epson ET-2550 that does not have cartridges to remove but instead uses large volume ink tanks? I have tried multiple iterations of the clean, check, soak paper towel/slide print head routines and still get the same blank dots in the same position of the color line check grids, most commonly in the black grid but also showing as bands across color printing. Have soaked overnight multiple times. I cannot locate any place to buy a replacement print head assembly and at this point am considering just junking the entire printer. As an aside, any recommendation on how to empty the almost full ink wells? Thanks.

  • So when you do a nozzle check on the WF 3640 you get four columns of color test bars: BK – BK – YMC – YMC. My first black and the colored columns are fine. There is almost nothing in the second black column except a few dashes of gray here and there, and the “black” column, while fully filled-in, isn’t all that black more dark gray. I’m not terribly interested in taking the thing apart and cleaning with distilled water, and I’ve run three cleaning cycles, but would consider leaving it alone (it is 2:30 PM) till tonight and trying again. I’ve read this thread and I note the various remediating actions I can take, I just am not all that enthusiastic about it. Aside from taking a hose to it, anything else I might try short of buying a new printer? Thanks.

    • These are the simple things you can do to try and fix it! Sounds like there are a lot of problems with Epson Printers and air in the pipes and blocked print heads etc.
      Best bet if you can’t be bothered trying the steps above is to either pay over the odds and go get it serviced or just buy a new printer!

  • 2550 no amount of cleaning heads corrects entire line across missing thru page
    This was not a cheap machine – and I have had only 9 months with last month being this challenge

  • my printer is leaving thin red lines randomly across the page in various places. Can anyone explain why and how to fix.
    thanks lisa s

  • My printer worked perfectly. Ive just replaced it with new ink and now I cant print Black. I cant put in a new cartridge because it is the Epson l565 that uses a refill….I can you please help me
    Ethel

  • My printer is not printing any ting just blank pages

  • So just when I though the ET-2550 was amazing, it forgot about the yellow, so everything is blue, or purplish looking. No yellow showing whatsoever. This was only 5 minutes after I got perfect prints Now the yellow is clogged and I have no idea why. Wasted 5 full 8.5 x 11 premium ultra, and as much ink, except for the yellow of course. So tired of this, it’s happened several times Love the printer, have used it frequently and still clogging. Time to try the Canons.

  • I had almost given up on my Epson WF-3640. I tried your methods but not in order. I did the print head cleaning: nothing
    I did the cleaning with Paper Towels: nothing.
    Then I tried soaking the sponges with Windex and noticed some improvement.
    But when I did the Distilled water in the ink ports and let it work overnight…SUCCESS!
    I know I could buy a new printer for little money, but the satisfaction of succeeding in getting my printer to work again is invaluable.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Problem: I have to change colors cartridges, I bough Epson #220 for W-2750 recommended , but printed say do not recognized
    and I have no idea how to fix or what to do it.

  • I need to change cartridges , I got #220 for W-2750. Printer say “do not recognized “I dont know what to do. Can you help me?

  • My Epson 3640 Workforce is printing excess lines all over the page. I have cleaned printheads, and every other instruction. Is there a solution to fix this or am I looking at purchasing a new printer? I have only had this one for about a year.

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