Introduction: How to Recover a Dry Printer Head

Picture of How to Recover a Dry Printer Head

How many time do you have found your inkjet printer dead after a standing idle long period? Because of the low durability of inkjet prints I usually send them to a web print-shop, so my colours, althought I try to remember to keep them making exercise, often get dry. This happens more certainly if you go on printing after the warning of ended ink (whoops...).
Anyway... it's not a big problem if you know hot to solve the matter.

Step 1: Remove the Cartridges

Picture of Remove the Cartridges

Some cheap printers have the head attached to the ink-cartridge, but those cartridges are much more expensive and the quality is worse. My Canon IP4600 is a not very expensive printer, but with a good quality and CD printing too, I love it. It has 5 cartridge which you can extract without moving the head, I've already removed them in the picture.

Step 2: Remove the Head

Picture of Remove the Head

To remove the printer head you have to pull up the gray lever. The head will come out with no resistance. Pay attention to not touch the rear contacts and the bottom side where you find the ink nozzles. These last are very delicate, don't  scratch them with rags or other, also if you see they're covered of ink, anyway it might not dip..

Step 3: Find a Proper Suction Tube

Picture of Find a Proper Suction Tube

Now you need some luck, but also a good equipped maker shop will be useful. I've searched among the rubber tubes I had, to find one which has the right diameter for the cartridge joints on the printer head. These tubes are not essentials, because probably it's enough dip the head (the printer one, not your!) in water. But I think they'll guarantee the success.

Step 4: Dip Into Water

Picture of Dip Into Water

Set up a plastic flat cover with some millimeters of water. it is important you don't use ceramic plate, or anything else made from an hard material. This because the nozzles borders are ceramic and they break very easily. I know it because I've broke my old IP4200 printer head tapping it on the plate, don't ask me why... I asked myself it a lot of time! probably I didn't want to accept the more obvious reason
Put the stuff to soak for a while... The water will dissolve the dry ink. Meanwhile with the rubber tube try to suction some water from the plate into the nozzles. To do that you don't necessarily suck the tube, it's better you keep it in place, push the sides, close the open end, and let it sucks for you resuming the original shape. Now you can wait an hour, but if you have time you can leave it all the night.
At the rear side of the printer head, the contacts should be waterproof, but don't wet them too much.

Step 5: Dry the Head

Picture of Dry the Head

When you have time to reinstall the head on the printer, dry it gently pushing it on a paper napkin, don't rub it, and let the water coming out for a few minutes. It's better use microfibre cloths, so they won't clog up the nozzles with fibers. You should see some coloured lines as in the picture, one for each nozzles line.

Step 6: Almost Done

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The printer head is now clean, it still has some water inside, but don't worry about it.

Step 7: As Brand New!

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Install back the head into place, close the lever, put the 5 cartridges on, close the printer and turn it off.
I've waited a few minutes now, because I think the ink need time to mixing up with the water inside the head nozzles.
When you turn on the printer again, probably it will want to make the nozzles cleaning, and its right ;-) if not tell it to do that. After the cleaning, which will waste a few quantity of ink, you'll can print the check sheet to verify that all the nozzles are clean and working!


Fjutrackx (author)2017-03-05


I'm not sure if water is the best fluid to do this,
since more and more ink is water resistent, and water can corrode
contacts. I cannot wash ink of my hands with water and soap.

i use Isopropyl alcohol. What also could help is filling empty
cardridges with isopropyl alcohol and do a few cleanings with it, so it
will flush the heads with it. The ink become thinner. Afterwards i
replace the isopropanyl cardridges with the good ones and i print the
test page a few times, so the stuff is out of it.

FahadH11 (author)2017-02-06

Hi. I Need some help guys.
I replaced the DX7 printheads on my Mutoh VJ1638 sublimation printer (due to end of life). I'm using Onyx Rip and sensient inks with them. New heads, after the installation, are printing much lighter than the original file. The profile, media and inks are all the same, but the colors are coming out much lighter and much less saturated. Red is coming our as pink etc. Tried everything but couldn't solve out the issue.
Help and guidance will be much appreciated.

Fahad Habib

EricW195 (author)2016-11-29

I soak the printhead of Epson L350 in water for 2-3 hours and let it dry overnight. The next day I put it back and power it on, it runs for a few minutes and suddenly power off. It won't power on anymore. Any idea what happen to my printer?

robarta (author)2016-11-27

i found this is easy fix . you may just need to do some adjustments to fix your printer head

please just clean the print head carefully and make sure the ink is not dry and and follow

this steps by step Guide to fix the Print Head Step by Step and this may help yo

CrosbyL (author)2016-03-15

I was also facing same issue with my kodak printer I tried a lot to fix that at last I just visited and made a call on their toll free. I got great help from a certified technician to fix kodak printer only in a single call.

MarcL91 (author)CrosbyL2016-11-13

look up the word: "SHILL" in a dictionary.

3of5 (author)2016-11-09

I just find the sponge where the printhead sits when in cleaning mode, soak it with windex, and clean the windex off it with a paper towel. I do that about 30 times, clean off the rubber "wiper", and the other sponge beside the main one. (both sponges, and rubber wiper on all the way on the right on an epson small in one) The the sponges get soaked with windex and the printhead pushed into place, and let to soak for about 20 minutes. This only gets done when I get tired of doing several cleaning cycles and it still doesn't print correctly. Its saved me from buying a new printer 3 times now.

MarcL91 (author)3of52016-11-13

is English your first language ?

DamienT15 (author)2016-08-01

Hello, here my video to show how i unclog my canon printhead!

RubiH (author)2016-03-07

it work!!!!!!!!!!!! thank u so much, i was ready to buy a new one .. but not anymore, and my printer is been sitting in a closet for 3 years ! it was so dried .. now it works perfect! thank you again!

andrea biffi (author)RubiH2016-03-08

that makes me happy!

alijbear (author)2016-01-22

Hi - Before I explain - my Canon MP610 recovered from a print head overheat!:

It suddenly stopped and showed error 5200 (print head overheat) in the middle of a crucial run. The flashing sequence of the LEDs indicated the same error. I tried new inks, reseating the head and finally cleaning the head by placing it on a shallow saucer and running a very gentle slow stream of water over the ink receiver gauze holes for about an hour. Even this did not resolve the error. So I went out and bought another printer - and duly completed the print job.

HOWEVER, the next morning, just before I took it out to the garage, ready for disposal, I switched it on again - and it came straight back on again with no errors!

So, maybe the procedure is: Clean the head thoroughly (carefully!), turn off and unplug the printer for a LONG time and try again before you chuck it out...

alijbear (author)alijbear2016-01-22

Update: Less good news:

It printed 3 pages, then I turned it off for a while (about 3 hours). When I turned it back on, the error code returned. Bah.

However, it does suggest that the overheat error code CAN go away, and that when it does the printer CAN print normally again. It seems it's a matter of how that status is recorded and saved, how it occurred in the first place and what it really means...

LucC1 (author)2015-05-21

Would a bit of WD-40 on a cotton bud work?

alijbear (author)LucC12016-01-22

No! Don't use any oil-based product on the print head! IJ inks are water-based and WD40 - or any other lubricant - could terminally damage the heads.

You can carefully clean them with water, but nothing else!

laptopleon (author)LucC12015-12-15

Inkjet ink is water based. Since WD-40 is originally meant to keep water from electric cables (it's described on the can…) this will have the opposite effect.

People, I know WW-40 has a reputation to be some kind of magic stuff, but really, it's not. It is bad for the environment so please use it sparsely, even though it's cheap. Also, always wash your hands after using it, it's poisonous.

denmarm (author)2015-11-22


SviatA (author)2015-10-09

I think this is a better to hand in the thing for repair. Or even to buy a new printhead (even some no-name European stores have many print-heads, like, not to mention Amazon or eBay). Unfortunately, manufacturers usually decrease the amount of ink left in the cartridge (their software doesn't calculate it correctly). I had an ink-jet printer myself several years ago, and it was painful to clean the print-head and replace the cartridge. So I wouldn't do that again)

aurgolo (author)2015-09-03

Well i have the same printer (ip4700) and since one month im
struggling with the jellow color cloged nozzle .....

Tried almost

1)soaked for 2 weeks
in a solution of distilled water and cleaning solution for printer plus some
isopropylic alcool.....

2)unscrew the screws
and opened the head, took off and cleaned the rubber at the bottom

3)tried to flush
water in the nozzles using small rubber tubes like in the pictures

Nothing.... the
jellow nozzle still clogged............ any idea how to clean?



Poizon_Barbie (author)2015-08-30

Before i throw my printer out the window... I hadnt used my printer for a few months but it had cartridges that were about half full, i went to print just some black text and it only printed a tiny bit, not full lines. So i head cleaned via the 'maintenance' and retested, no better, ended up doing that about 10 times, then my ink ran out, so i changed the cartridges, tried again, was the same so ended up doing clean - print another 10 times, still no change. And now used 1/.2 the ink, so today i tried again, cleaned the head with a cotton bud - tried printing just black about 10 times, no change, some text got a bit better, but then nothing again, and now all the ink is low, including the colour one which ive not even used today, so right now im confused and peed off with it as i really needed to print something, so wheres the ink going if its not even printing?, baffled.!

ShirleyH2 (author)2015-05-02

I just tried to print on my Epson 1400 after not using it for about a 8 months. Dry as a bone. I tried the head cleaning utility which only showed a few light lines that you'd have to hold the paper to your face to see. I stopped after the fourth attempt. Then I just decided to try to print a photo on glossy paper. (I mean, it already was doing the worst job imaginable and I have another newer printer on standby) It was printing the faintest image. So faint in fact that the picture looked like it wasn't even there. I couldn't find my Windex and was afraid to mess with ammonia...SO in desperation, I just put the eensiest teensiest driplet (no even a drop, just a driplet; even a teardop would be too big) of water onto my print heads...and then immediately swiped it up with a paper towel. I dabbed it so lightly that i think that tiny bit of water just jumped onto the towel above it. Would you believe my printer is now printing like a brand new printer, only 5 minutes later? I sell prints, which is why I have this one and another newer model [Artisan 1430) right next to it. I also have another of this same model that dried up...I think i'll try juicing that one back up tonight. i love these printers so much that I cannot bear to throw them out before i try everything in my power to fix them. The driplet of water worked for me. Don't know if it will work for everyone...but I'm now a happy camper.

ShirleyH2 (author)2015-05-02

primoz1 (author)2015-03-16

Anyone know how clean brother printhead Black not work propper (fuzzy text)

iamdarkyoshi (author)primoz12015-04-22

align the printhead. it is too close or too far away.

AntoineF2 (author)2015-04-19

Replaced print head and installed new ink both black and color, But Kodak ESP Office 2170 still won't print black have ran thru 4 full cartridges(cleaning process and calibaration and still no black printing? What could it be prints color perfectly?

iamdarkyoshi (author)AntoineF22015-04-22

make sure that the metal contacts on the printer and on the printhead are clean. If this is good, then try pushing some rubbing alcohol INTO the ink pads (instead of sucking out water) as a last ditch effort. It managed to get my printhead that has done over 10,000 pages working again... sorta.

PoloT (author)2015-03-23

Hey all, i have a Canon Pixma MP540 Printer without a B200 Error, how can fix it ??

Shadenf (author)2015-03-20

I followed this and many other techniques (bought magic solutions, used ammonia based solutions, used steam, purified water all to no avail) to rescue a donated Epson R230 print head but found the magenta to be permanently blocked along about 30% of it's channel. I have now fixed it using a rather drastic method - simmering the whole thing in a mix of water and white vinegar for about 15 minutes. Finally it is unblocked!

andrea biffi (author)Shadenf2015-03-20

Cool, thanks for sharing! that could be useful!

joeysdreamgarden (author)2013-05-25

Thank you Andrea for a great Instructable, I think I will have a go with my very naughty Kodak ESP 3250... naughty because all the advertising etc proclaimed that printing would be a lot cheaper... yes the cartridges are cheaper but they run out very quickly, especially if like me, you don't print very often. Trying to be economical has backfired on me! Now it refuses to print all all but I'm thinking if I try to clean the heads it might be ok. BTW anyone considering buying a Kodak printer, don't bother, the print quality is not that good and the inks run out very quickly... sorry for going off-topic a bit there!

Did it work? I have an ESP 3250 which just stopped printing, blank pages come out. So, I'm wondering if the print head is clogged. Live Chat tech said the problem could not be repaired and I'd have to buy a new printer. This cleaning info gives me hope. Even buying a new print head at $10. would be a better option.

I think it's a problem of almost all cheap all-in-one printers... good luck, let us know if you'll be able to clean it.

baecker03 (author)2014-07-30

I would like to add that there is a DIY refill kit on for like 20 bucks *US. I have a fiance that is print happy and so I figured it couldn't hurt. Saved over a 100 dollars easy doing this. HP Officejet 6500 wireless btw.

Kante Tech (author)2014-07-16

Thank you I figured my printer was dried but did not know how to refill it.

bridgettejhall (author)2014-03-18

Just don't get into what I've had to deal with...getting yelled at during work because apparently its my 'job' to fix/replace printer ink... I'm a graphic designer. This procedure actually does help :) But also, so does starting fresh. Sometimes you have to. Start cheap...and do what you can to continue keeping costs non-existent or down. Cheap office supplies are everywhere, like here;

BigBoos (author)2013-11-07

Fantastic, this proces save my Bussines inkjet 2800 :)

permutation-jim (author)2013-05-23

In the case of Epson printers, many had "permanent" heads... as in, they require printer disassembly to remove.

A variation on the above technique is to use a dropper full of ammonia based cleaner (I used generic Windex) NOT in the head, but on the pad where the head rests (in my case, water was not enough of a solvent).

Just turn on the printer and tell it you're changing the cartridges. Once the head moves, power off the printer. Saturate the resting pad, then turn the printer back on, such that the head again rests on the pad. Wait 15 minutes and do a test page.

After four iterations of the above, I went from a bone-dry non-printing machine to a fully functioning one.

Great 'ible!

Thanks, Jim

Do not use ammonia its extremely reactive to the copper in lots of print heads and will cause serious corrosion.

great, it makes sense, thanks!

vallejoboy (author)2013-08-31

What are the sizes of the tube and where can we get it? Thank's for the tips.

Bill WW (author)2013-05-23

Thanks for the great Instructable.
You said, "Some cheap printers have the head attached to the ink-cartridge". That may apply to my HP 4600 printer, correct? The cartridges appear to have a printer head included. Since I refill the cartridges rather than buying new, can I use your procedure for cleaning? Osvaldo apparently cleaned HP cartridges I will also ask him.


Some cheap printers have the head attached to the ink-cartridge

andrea biffi (author)Bill WW2013-05-25

with a fast search HP4600 seems to be a laser printer, am I wrong? it works in a different way, you've not nozzles there. I think it's good refill it until it works nice. If you need to clean the rollers, there is a good tutorial in internet, I'll search it.

Thanks for print head cleaning directions. I am thinking that probably there is no solution to your problem as folks in communist countries are not concerned about our copy right laws. At least in our part of the world they would have changed photos or commentary. If this Site can not solve this then no one can. Sorry!

Thanks Archimede Pitagorico (Italian Gyro GearLoose)!

You are welcome, and Thanks for translation of the name I borrowed from comic book character....

Bill WW (author)andrea biffi2013-05-25

Thanks Andrea -

No, it is a bubble jet printer, "HP Photosmart series c4600". It uses ink cartridges like the one in the photo attached.

andrea biffi (author)Bill WW2013-05-26

yes, so you can try to clean them with water, it should be harder to let water pass through the nozzles, try leave it in water for long time...

zealroy (author)2013-06-24

Thanks to author... :)

ianmcmill (author)2013-06-10

Brilliant photos ! Nice tutorial !

naplatki (author)2013-06-04

I have a Canon with a definitely useful to me tip. Thank you.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, and I'm teaching physics in Waldorf schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and ... More »
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