A Guide to Cleaning a Clogged Printhead!

Apr 10, 2020

Clogged printhead

How to Clean a Clogged Printhead

We all have hectic schedules, but some of us use our home printers more than others. The frequency of printing plays a vital role in the functionality of your printer cartridge. Those who print more often usually will not experience any problems in performance. For those who print sparingly and over long periods, you might notice that your printed pages might come out faded, streaked, or even blank.

But you have a set of full printer ink cartridges, so what could be causing this problem? One of the biggest culprits of this problem is simply a clogged printhead. A clogged print head is caused by dried up ink that settles and obstructs the flow within your cartridge. This could lead to a less than stellar performance and should be fixed immediately.

This is by no means a big problem; you don't need to get your printer repaired or even buy a new cartridge. In fact, oftentimes, this can be remedied by a simple solution called a printhead cleaning.

What Is a Print Head Cleaning?

A print head cleaning is exactly what it sounds like; it is simply the process of removing excess ink from the cartridge or printhead to improve the flow.

Printhead cleaning is often compared to car maintenance. The most common analogy is the notion of driving your car for an extended period of time without getting an oil change. You can absolutely drive your car more than 5,000 miles without an oil change, but it's risky, and the performance of the engine will suffer greatly.

The same can be said about your printer as routine maintenance is required to keep it functioning at its full potential. 

There are a few ways that you can clean your printhead. Depending on the severity of the clog, you'll be able to fix your printer in a click of a button

Printhead cleaning process

Automatic Printhead Cleaning

This method is by far the easiest way to clean your clogged printhead. If your printhead is only slightly clogged, you'll be able to be up and printing in a matter of seconds. Let's talk about routine printer maintenance cycles. 

Every time you turn on your HP printer, or any printer for that matter, a maintenance cycle is initiated. This process clears any dry printer ink or residue from your cartridge nozzle and allows the ink flow within your printer to go unobstructed. This process rapidly projects new ink from your cartridge into the internals, and out of the print head in order to loosen any clogged or obstructed nozzle. 

You can conduct a printhead cleaning from the settings menu of your driver, or sometimes even directly on the printer's control panel. 

Most HP Printers follow very similar methods of conducting these maintenance cleaning; we've highlighted a few of the most common steps to follow below: 

Method 1: Using HP Solution Center

  1. Open HP Solution Center from your desktop.
  1. Click the Settings button.
  1. Select the Printer Toolbox.
  1. Click the Device Services tab, and then select Clean Printheads.
  1. To begin the cleaning process, click on the Clean option, then follow the steps to complete this process. When finished, your printer will provide you with a test page. 

Method 2: Using the Control Panel 

Note: Not all HP printers can utilize this option, but this will cover most of the HP OfficeJet Pro series of printers. 

  1. Make sure that your printer has paper available to use inside of its tray.
  1. Press and hold the Power button (You must hold this button continuously while performing the following steps)
  1. Press the cancel button twice, and then the Resume button one time.
  1. Release the Power button. 

This will enact a maintenance cleaning that will hopefully clear your print head of any obstructive ink. Your HP printer will automatically print a test page immediately after this. 

Printhead cleaning manually

Manually Cleaning Your Printhead

It's human nature to want to do something the quick and easy way, but sometimes we just need to put in a little elbow grease to get something working again. Don't worry; it's not an intensive or manually exhausting task; it's more of a minor inconvenience. Depending on the severity of the clog, you can go about this cleaning process in a few ways.

Option 1: Damp Paper Towel Application

This is usually the most common method that we recommend to our customers. It's simple, quick, and often the least intrusive procedure of cleaning your printhead. Most printheads are located directly on the cartridge. Simply uninstall the cartridge from the printer. Make sure you have an area that is lined with a paper towel just in case this gets a little messy. Take a damp paper towel and gently apply it to the print head nozzle and wipe it down. You will visibly see the ink disintegrate and turn into a liquid when exposed to water. The thicker pieces of ink will begin to fall off when wiped. Once the cartridge is completely unobscured and dry, you can install it back inside of your printer.

Option 2: Soaking

This method is a little more extreme and should only be used if absolutely necessary. For those cartridges with a thicker blockage, you may need to soak them in a solution to loosen up the ink. First, you need to make a solution of 50% water and 50% isopropyl alcohol; this will create a solvent that will break down those pesky dried ink chunks. Place your cartridge on a paper plate with the printhead facing down. Apply the solution to the paper plate until your printhead is completely submerged. Please note that you should only be submerging the print head while the rest of the cartridge is left completely dry. Wait around 24-hours before removing the cartridge from the solution. Pat down the print head with a paper towel, and when completely dry, you may install it back inside of your printer. 


At the end of the day, a clogged printhead is an inconvenience that can ultimately be avoided. Even if you don't use your printer every day, you can just turn it on once a week to initiate its maintenance cleaning process so your printer ink cartridges can perform to their fullest potential. This will ensure that your print heads will never be clogged in the first place. If that's too much trouble, you can just wait it out and use our methods to clean your printheads if needed.