Tip & How-To about Office Equipment & Supplies
When it comes to printer issues, there are few things as frustrating as expecting a clearly-printed document and ending up with something that looks like a cross between a Picasso and a Rorschadt blot. If you notice that the print quality of your documents has decreased considerably or if you are bringing an old inkjet out of retirement, you need to clean the print head to ensure you?re getting the best from your printer. A dirty or clogged print head will hinder a regular flow of ink from the ink cartridge to paper. The first step is actually knowing where the print head is and what it does. As you print a document, ink droplets leave the ink cartridge through the cartridge?s nozzle and go to the print head. The print head then lays the ink on a precise point on the paper. As you print, tiny droplets of ink can get stuck around the print head opening. If these drops get time to dry, they can form a crust around the print head opening and cause it to print poorly. Clean It With Software There are a few ways to go about cleaning the print head. Potentially, the easiest way is to let your printer clean itself. Many inkjet printers will have maintenance options in the printer?s software that will actually clean your printer for you. We used a streaky Canon BJC-80 for our testing, and the driver we installed on our system for this inkjet had quite a few maintenance options. (Keep in mind that the process for cleaning your specific printer?s print head may be slightly different than what we?re describing here.) To check these out in Windows XP, click Start and then Printers And Faxes. Right-click your printer and then Printing Preferences. This displays the Canon Bubble-Jet BJC-80 Printing Preferences dialog box, which houses various layout and print-quality preferences, as well as the printer?s maintenance options. Click the Maintenance tab to view what your printer can do from a software perspective. Our printer has two cleaning modes?Cleaning and Deep Cleaning. Cleaning isn?t quite as time-consuming as the Deep Cleaning mode, but Deep Cleaning mode does a more thorough job and can resolve some issues that the normal Cleaning mode can?t. Just click the proper cleaning mode to start it and let the cleaning process run its course. You may have to do this a number of times to get the print head clean. If you don?t see a maintenance tab, it doesn?t necessarily mean your printer doesn?t have a self-cleaning function; it just means that it doesn?t use commands from your computer to do it. For instance, on the BJC-80 you can also start the cleaning process by holding down the Resume button until you hear two beeps. Check your printer?s manual for ways to clean your print head. Clean It Yourself Some software bundles that come with printers have cleaning functions that you can use to clean your print head. If the built-in cleaning functions don?t seem to do the job, there are a few ways to clean your print head manually. Some swear by isopropyl alcohol, while others believe in just plain ol? water. When used correctly, either can help your printer perform better. First, remove your ink cartridges from your printer and then dip a cotton swab in hot water or isopropyl alcohol and rub it against the print head. This should loosen any crusted ink. Some printers, such as many Canon models, feature removable print heads that give you easy access to the print head and its nozzle(s). Many other inkjet printers don?t have this feature, so you?ll have to do your best to work around parts in your printer. Be careful, especially if you use isopropyl alcohol to clean your print heads: Some printers use rubber gaskets; if you get isopropyl alcohol on the gaskets, it could dry them out. If you have a removable print head, remove the ink cartridge from the print head and take the print head out of your printer. Put some isopropyl alcohol or hot water into a saucer and set the printer head in the saucer. Let it soak for at least an hour. If it?s really dirty, it might be a good idea to let it soak overnight. Let it air dry, reinstall it in your computer, and run a cleaning cycle. This should get rid of any dried ink that was loosened during the soaking.
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