Introduction: Cleaning HP Printheads

About: Tutorials and instructables from Netherlands based ecommerce store!

If your printing a photo and it looks more like a "connect the dots" puzzle you need to clean your cartridge because it might be clogged. This usually happens if you haven't used the printer in a while. You can run a cleaning program on the printer to solve this issue but this process is slow and uses a lot of ink. Fortunately you can also do this manually. This is much quicker and cleans the cartridge more thoroughly.

You'll need some basis supplies:

  • Paper towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Warm water

This Instructable is written specifically for cartridges with a printhead (printers with only 2 cartridges). This guide is specifically for HP products but is very similar for other brands. This guide first appeared on the blog of and has been translated for Instructables.

Step 1: Use a Cotton Swab to Clean the Cartridge

Remove the cartridges from the printer. On the bottom of the cartridge is the printhead. With a slightly damp cotton swab thoroughly clean the metal part of the cartridge. Remove any dried up ink.

Avoid touching the copper contact points. If this is smudged or dirty the printer might throw some "detection" errors (you can clean this with a lint free cloth).

Step 2: Gently Pat the Printhead With a Paper Towel

Fold over a paper towel and gently pat the printhead to dry the cartridge.

Now take a clean side of the paper towel and place it on the cartridge and press. Alternatively you can place the towel on the cartridge and give it a firm, single, shake.

If all went well there is a single black square on the paper towel. With a color cartridge you are looking for three (cyan, magenta, yellow) stripes.

Step 3: Test the Cartridges!

Now reinstall the cartridges in the printer and try your print again. The quality of the print should be improved significantly or hopefully completely solved. You can still run a cleaning program from the printer for any last problems.