Can You Fix a Dry Ink Cartridge?

By Fred Decker

The nozzles on your print cartridges can become clogged with dry ink if you don't print regularly.
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Although inkjet printers are widely used and appreciated for their high print quality and low cost, their fast-drying ink can pose a problem if the printer isn't used regularly. A cartridge will seldom dry up completely, but it's not uncommon for the print nozzles to become blocked by plugs of dried ink. Sometimes you'll need to buy a new ink cartridge as a result, but first it's worth trying to restore your existing cartridge to usability.

The Self-Cleaning Routine

Your printer's own print-head cleaning routine should be your starting point. It's usually included as part of your printer driver or control program, although some printers have a button for it on their control panel. This prints a test pattern with heavy ink use, and running the self-clean a few times will often dissolve and dislodge the dried ink.

Manual Cleaning

Most inks are water-soluble, so if the self-clean routine doesn't unclog your nozzles, you can try hot water instead. Set the cartridge in a shallow cup or bowl of hot water for five to 10 minutes, then let it rest on damp paper towels for at least two hours or, preferably, overnight. When fully dry, put it back into the printer and try the self-cleaning process again. If this doesn't work, remove the cartridge again and swab the nozzles gently with a cotton swab or soft cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. If another round of self-cleaning doesn't restore the cartridge, replace it.