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How To Clear A Stubborn Inkjet Printer Clog.

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Xerox and Tektronix ink sticks and toner cartridges. Specializes in Phaser product lines.

Do you own an inkjet printer?
Has the printhead ever clogged up on you, creating streaks or missing colors from your printing? Clogs can be incredibly frustrating. Normally when you find out you have a clogged printhead, it's because you're right in the middle of printing something important. It's one of those problems that you never ask for. It just seems to throw itself in your lap without warning, and then taunts you in your efforts to fix it.

The printhead is the mechanism of your printer (or inkjet cartridge), where the ink actually comes out. For the most part, printhead clogs can be normally be flushed out with a couple of "head cleaning" cycles. A head cleaning cycle is a built-in function of your printer.

It's a specialized routine meant to address this type of problem. This "cleaning cycle" works by sending a strong 'print signal' to your printer, while at the same time drawing a small vacuum from underneath. The combination of these two steps works in an attempt to suck out clogged ink from the printhead.

From my experience, you'll probably need to run between 3 and 5 cycles to fully clear a clog. The location of the head cleaning cycle proceedure varies for each printer brand, so refer to your printer owner's manual for specific instructions to find yours. Check the index first. If you don't have your owner's manual anymore, you can check our your printer manufacturers website. Most likely, they will have your printer manual online.

There are times however, when a few standard head cleaning routines don't seem to solve the problem. A stubborn printhead clog like this can be persistant enough to make you want to rip out your hair. For times like these, you'll need to pull out the big guns!

For stubborn inkjet printhead clogs, there are various cleaners out there specifically for this purpose. These cleaners are formulated to disolve dried or "gummy" ink which may have accumulated from infrequent printer use, or even just a general build-up over time.

I personally brought an old printer "back from the dead" using a product called 'Clog Buster'. It was a printer I had purchased off of eBay which apparently hadn't been used in awhile. I spent a few hours trying to revive the printer, and 'Clog Buster' was the only thing that worked when nothing else did.

The only downside with using a cleaning product like this however, is that you usually don't have it in your immediate possession when the clog hits. Unless you have some already on hand, you'll have to wait for it to be shipped to you. In the meantime, your printing project will have to remain on pause until it arrives. (But maybe I can help...)

The good news is that you MAY be able to solve the problem using some basic household products. In fact, Windex glass cleaner can actually work well for dissolving dried ink.

What's the secret ingredient? Ammonia. Tough printhead clogs can usually be brought into submission by soaking the printhead in a solution of 50/50% ammonia and distilled water. A important word of warning... Ammonia is potent and powerful stuff.

When working with ammonia, always make sure you've got adequate ventilation, and avoid mixing it with other chemicals. Very important. So, if your printhead is located on the inkjet cartridge itself, you'll want to soak the printhead in the 50/50 solution for an hour or two. If the printhead unit is located inside your inkjet printer itself, then you'll first need to remove the inkjet cartridges.

After those are removed, put some of the solution into the top of the printhead (directly into the nozzle holes) and let it sit a few hours. Go ahead and put a little more into the printhead resting seat. (This is the rubber rectangle part that seals off the printhead unit while the carriage is in it's resting position.) If this initial soaking doesn't work, then repeat another time using 100% ammonia for up to one hour.

Afterward, make sure to rinse completely with distilled water. If the clog doesn't immediately clear, go ahead and let the printer sit overnight and try it again the next day. Sometimes the clog will breakdown slowly and release later as the ammonia takes it's toll.

Finally, for those of you wondering about the effectiveness of using alcohol to unclog cartridges and printhead -- here's a quick note... Alcohol won't work as well as ammonia, but may work better than a few cleaning cycles. The downside is that alcohol may actually dry out the plastics and metals in the printhead. This could actually increase the chances of clogging later on down the road. So try to avoid alcohol if possible.

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  Acronyms are everywhere aren't they? They're nice when you know what they mean, but can be a pain in the rear when you don't.

Here's a quick guide to printing & ink related acronyms, terms, and their definitions to help out those of you who are less informed. ;^) (just kidding)

CMY - This acronym stands for the 3 primary inkjet colors that are used to make up most color variations. "C" is for Cyan (the teal/blueish color), "M" is for Magenta (a red/purpleish color), and "Y" is for yellow.

CMYK - This acronym is an extension of the CMY from above, but also adds a "K" which stands for Black. Old printers used to mix the primary colors to acheive black, but now they use a separate black cartridge.

RGB - Mostly used in graphics work, this stands for "Red, Green, Blue". This is a similar format to CMY, but uses different colors as the base.

DPI - This stands for "Dots per Inch". This is used as a measure of image resolution. You'll see this used with printers, scanners, monitors, etc. Generally, the more DPI, the more detail you'll see.

PPM - "Pages per Minute". This is a measurement of the speed of your printer. The more PPM your printer prints pages, the faster it is.

CPM - When refering to printing, this term stands for "Copies per Minite" and is also a mesurement of speed. (Similar to Pages per Minute)

OEM - This term comes from "Original Equipment Manufacturer". When this acronym is used, it's a short way of saying it's an original brand name product.

MFP - This stands for "Multifunction Printer". A mulitfunction printer is a printer that combines mulitple devices. The most common multifunction printers are a combination of printer, copier and scanner, but can sometimes also include fax machine capabilities as well.

AIO - This acronym stands for "All-in-One". An "All-in-One" is the same thing as an MFP (Multifunction Printer). These have become very popular types of printers in recent years, because they do the same job as many different machines, but have a smaller 'footprint' and lower cost. Footprint - This is a term that describes the amount of space or area the machine requires to stand. If something has a "small footprint", this means it doesn't take up much space on your desk.

Remanufactured Cartridge - A remanufactured cartridge is a recycled cartridge that has been restored to "like-new" quality. Remanufactured cartridges are recycled, cleaned, inspected, and then refilled with new compatible ink.

Compatible Cartridge - This describes a cartridge that was made by an alternative manufacturer. Although it is not an OEM product, it is designed to fit the same printers and perform the same as a name brand product. Some people may be use it interchangeably with "Remanufactured cartridge", but it's not always the same. A Compatible cartridge may sometimes be a new product, rather than recycled.

Ink Refill Kit - The term for a "Do-it-yourself" kit for refilling your empty inkjet cartridges. A Refill Kit generally contains the tools, instructions, and bulk ink necessary for refilling. Because of the simplicity of the items, refill kits are usually less expensive than pre-filled cartridges. They do have the potential for being a little messy, but can be very economical.

Bulk Ink - This simply means a larger quantity of ink. The difference between bulk ink and a refill kit, is that bulk ink doesn't come with tools or instructions. It's simply a container of ink. Since there are less components than refill kits, the savings is larger. However, if you don't have the experience refilling cartridges already -- you're best to stay with a Refill Kit.

Universal Ink - Sometimes vendors may claim that their "Universal Ink" is compatible with ANY printer. The truth is that printer manufacturers all create their inks with different viscosities, and different sized particles from each other. Original ink for an HP printer is much different than ink for a Canon printer. Since inkjet cartridges are designed for a specific ink formula, using a "Universal ink" will likely create printing problems for you. Unless the ink says it is specially formulated for your brand of printer, avoid it.

Viscosity - Viscosity is the ink's resistance to flow (how thick it is). If an ink has a high viscosity, this means it's thicker. If it's got a low viscosity, this means the ink is thinner. This is an important reason why universal inks won't work in all printers.


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