Ink Guides posted by

How to Clean an HP Printhead

How to Clean an HP Printhead

Learn how to clean your HP printhead so you can keep your cartridges and printer running longer.

HP printheads clog periodically as small amounts of ink or dust dry up and collect in the nozzle.  Faint, streaky or spotty prints are all common signs of a clog but a simple cleaning can usually get your HP ink cartridges working again.  Printheads clog due to infrequent cartridge use.  If you regularly go a few weeks without printing, your cartridges will eventually dry out and need to be replaced.  Cleaning the printhead can prolong your cartridge life and hopefully delay that replacement cartridge purchase!  In this guide we’ll explain how HP printheads work and show you the best way to keep them clean.

What is a printhead?

The printhead is a printer component that helps transfer ink onto the page.  It does this by firing tiny droplets of ink via numerous printer nozzles to create a desired print.  When one of these nozzles gets clogged your prints appear faded or streaky.

What are the types of HP printheads?

Printheads can either be a part of the printer cartridge or built into the printer – it all depends on which HP printer you own.

Type 1: Printheads that are built into the cartridge

Printer cartridges with a built-in printhead are called integrated printer cartridges. With this type, the nozzle plate (printhead) is built into the side of the cartridge.   Every time you replace one of these printer cartridges you are also replacing the printhead, so if you are having a hard time with a particularly streaky cartridge, swapping it out with a brand new cartridge will usually solve your print quality problem.  HP only sells integrated printer cartridges in black and tri-color and they are often used in cheaper Deskjet and ENVY printer models like the Deskjet 1112 or the ENVY 7855.

Integrated ink cartridge examples:

HP 61 series, HP 62 series, HP 63 series, HP 64 series, HP 65 series

Type 2: Printheads that are built into the printer

HP printheads that are built into the printer use individual ink cartridges to create a print.  The nozzle plate (printhead) for these types of cartridges is included in the printer and the cartridges install into that printhead to create a print.  These kinds of printheads require replacement after long term use – however- since most printheads cost upwards of $100 and some replacements can be hard to find, it is usually cheaper to just buy a new printer.

Individual ink cartridge examples:

HP 902 series, HP 952 series, HP 910 series, HP 962 series

How to automatically clean an HP printhead

The easiest way to resolve your print quality issue is by running a cleaning on your printer.  The cleaning function is included in the software of every HP printer model and is usually found under the “printer maintenance” section of your printer’s display menu.  Consult your printer manual for specific instructions for you machine.

Printhead cleanings can take about 1 or 2 minutes and they do use some ink to run through the cleaning process. Once complete, print out a test page to compare print quality.  If the print results look good, you can continue printing.  If the colors are not up to par, you may have to run the printhead cleaning function 2-4 more times before print quality is reestablished.  If you still aren’t getting quality prints after a few cleanings, move on to our manual cleaning instructions.  You don’t want to run the cleaning function too often because it will deplete the ink in your cartridges.

How to manually clean an HP printhead

Before we continue, you need to know that some HP inkjet printers come with a built-in printhead separate from the ink cartridges, and there are also some HP inkjet printers with printheads built into the individual ink cartridges.

Cleaning printheads built into printer

Manually cleaning a printhead that is built in to your printer takes a bit more work.  The steps below are for HP printers that have a removable printhead, like the HP OfficeJet 8710.

Required supplies: a plastic container, a couple of dry paper towels, a lint-free cloth and filtered or distilled hot water.

  1. Fold the dry paper towel into quarters and place it in the plastic container
  2. Pour about two inches of hot water on top of the paper towel so that it is completely submerged
  3. Open up the printer and remove all of the ink cartridges from the machine
  4. Set the cartridges aside on a separate paper towel while you continue the printhead cleaning process. Make sure the cartridges are facing up on the paper towel.
  5. Lift up on the gray latch behind the cartridge carriage that holds the cartridges. This will release the printhead from the printer.
  6. Pull the printhead up and out to remove it from the machine.
  7. Dampen the lint-free cloth with hot water.
  8. Gently wipe away an excess ink on the printhead nozzle.
  9. Place the printhead in the container with the submerged paper towels. The nozzle should be facing down. Be careful not to touch the nozzle as it can be damaged easily.
  10. Let the printhead soak for about ten minutes.  Then remove it from the container and set it on a dry paper towel to dry for fifteen minutes.  The nozzle should be facing up.
  11. Reinstall the printhead back into the printer.  Don’t forget to secure the latch!  Then reinstall the cartridges and run the cleaning function on the machine again.

Cleaning printheads built into ink cartridges

If your printer uses cartridges with an integrated printhead, you can try the “paper towel method” to resolve your print quality issue.

Required supplies: A warm, damp paper towel and a dry paper towel

  1. Take a warm damp paper towel or coffee filter and blot the cartridge with the printhead facing down onto the paper towel.  This will remove any dried ink on the printhead.
  2. Then, hold the cartridge with the printhead facing down against a dry paper towel for 2-3 minutes. A dry paper towel will wick the ink out. Do not wipe the print head as this may cause damage.
  3. Reinstall the cartridge and try printing again.  If you are still getting poor print results at this point, you may need to replace your printer cartridge.

Now that you know how to clean your HP printhead you have all the tools you need to ensure your cartridges remain in top shape. If you try these cleaning steps and still have trouble with print quality, you may need to replace the printhead. For printers that use integrated cartridges, that means buying a new printer cartridge. For printers that have a built-in printhead, you’ll need to buy a brand new printhead, which can be a bit expensive. Like we mentioned earlier, most consumers just end up buying a new printer since it’s usually cheaper than a printhead replacement! If you have any questions about cleaning your HP printhead, feel free to drop us a line in the comments.


  • What happen or what are you suppose to do when the printer ask you to replace the black cartridge when you are putting in a new one from you guys. We have tried two black cartridges to get them to work and it says to replace them. We put the old one back in and it says that it recognizes it and says that we need to replace it because it is empty which is why we were trying to replace it. please let us know what to do.

    • What cartridge are you trying to install?

  • I changed all cartridges and the print comes out bluish green and yellow. What next? I cleaned the printheads hoo.

    • How did you clean the printheads? I wonder if something’s wrong with your magenta cartridge. Can you try printing something in red to see what the print out looks like? I just want to see if it’s the magenta cartridge that’s clogged.

  • I have replaced all 4 cartridge all working fine except black. Tried another new cartridge and still the same.

    Model is office jet 4620.

    • The black ink cartridge or the black nozzle on the printhead could be blocked. Try the paper towel method to remedy this: This article is about cleaning an Epson printhead but the process should be similar with an HP 4620 printhead.

  • I have an HP OfficeJet Pro 7720 and just installed all four ink cartridges and the printer screen says there is a supply problem. I reinstalled all the cartridges again and same thing. One thing I noticed when I took the new LD cartridges out of the clear plastic sealed bag was that there is a tiny clear tab covering the ink hole on each one and one and on two of the color cartridges there was a second clear tab covering the hole next to the ink hole. These were very difficult to remove, but it seemed it had to be done in order to expose the holes as the holes in the original cartridges were not covered.

  • I am extremely disappointed with HP products in the form of printers. HPe has locked down the firmware whereby you cannot use printer heads from other printers that may otherwise not be functional. This is very bad for the environment that you cannot interchange parts from the same model printers. And HPe also does not allow third-party ink to be used. Putting many third-party Inc. distributors out of business. I would definitely Not recommend HP printers, if you plan on keeping your printer for a while. The scam here is to lower the printer cost but then charge you ridiculous amounts of money for replacement parts or ink. My analogy is if I bought a car for $5000, and then had to perform a tuneup that cost $2500. Does that make any sense to you??

  • It worked!! I was panicking as my daughter is in the middle of college exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and we are miles from anywhere to get a printer, print shop closed etc. I soaked the printhead in warm water (ended up being longer than 10 mins) and left it to dry overnight. Put it back in and hey presto… was nervous this would work or wreck the printer but THANK YOU – you saved us from a huge stress fest!!

    • Which printer do you have, I was wondering if I could do that with my printheads? I have changed the cartridges and still no ink comes out, so I tried cleaning off the printhead and I got 1 faint pink line and thats it. I am thinking the printheads are clogged. So soak in warm water, it won’t ruin them?

  • My HP DesignJet T1700 Dr wants me to replace print head 2. It says use 731 for the model number, but all of the ink cartridges are 730 not 731. Why would this print head be the only one giving me issues? Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

  • My printer can not detect the print head? I take the printhead out and cleaned it and reinstalled it. However, the printer still can not detect the print head. What is wrong with the printer?

    • How can they help me to get my printer restarted? My instaink account has been closed. My printer is froze up. Help? Do we need to go the bbb?

  • i followed your instruction on how to clean the printhead and it seems not working i cant used my printer to print even i cleaned it up.should I changed it and buy new one?

    • Since printheads are pretty expensive, you might consider replacing the cartridges first to see if that clears up the problem. If not, you can either replace the printhead or buy a new printer. A new printer can often be cheaper than a replacement printhead!

  • I changed the cartridges, but the yellow seems to be the issue. It has a greenish- brown color to it. When I looked at the printhead, it looks green/black. Is there a way to fix this without having to get a new printhead?

    • Your printhead probably just needs to be cleaned. You can run your printer’s auto printhead cleaning function or do it manually.

  • Tried cleaning etc. No joy, After i had bought 4 new ink cartridges too!

  • I have tried cleaning the printhead manually and using the HP Print and Scan Doctor software but the print still comes out streaky. And it’s always the yellow ones that streak. The magenta and yellow blocks on the test prints are streaky but the black and cyan ones are okay. Im using an HP Deskjet GT-8510. Do i need to replace my printheads?

    • Before replacing them, have you tried cleaning them using the auto printhead cleaning feature?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search for a Topic

Saving You Money on Ink.
One Good Cartridge at a Time.