How to Unclog Inkjet Cartridges

by James Clark

Inkjet cartridges can become clogged and stop operating if the ink dries in the nozzles. This can happen when the printer sits idle for a prolonged period of time, or if the cartridge is not seated fully in the compartment inside the printer. An inkjet cartridge can be unclogged with rubbing alcohol applied strategically to the outside of the cartridge. It may require a little patience, but the only alternative is purchasing an expensive new ink cartridge.

Remove the cartridges from the printer by raising the printer lid and waiting for the print head to stop gliding back and forth.

Pull the cartridges straight up by pressing the end tabs or tip forward and lifting from the compartment, depending on the printer model.

Inspect the cartridges for obvious signs of ink leakage. A cartridge covered with dried ink on the bottom may be a lost cause (and might even be virtually empty), but a clogged nozzle can usually be cleaned.

Lower the cartridge about halfway in a cup of hot (not boiling) water to loosen the dried ink in the nozzles.

Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rub around the bottom and back edge of the cartridge. Alcohol is a solvent that will loosen and dissolve dried cartridge ink.

Wipe down the cartridge with paper towels and let the alcohol evaporate completely.

Swab the nozzles inside the printer with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol, then wipe down with a wad of paper towels to remove the loosened ink.

Shake the cartridge to redistribute the remaining ink before reinstalling in the printer.

Tips

  • Wear rubber cleaning gloves to prevent ink stains on hands and fingers.
  • Print a test page after reinstalling the cartridges.

Warning

  • Work away from the computer and printer while cleaning and unclogging cartridges. An accidental ink spill on a keyboard could prove disastrous.

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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.

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