What Causes Specks on the Paper From a Printer?
By Nick Davis
Most office printers output documents on demand and require minimal maintenance, but like all electronic devices, they're not immune to print-quality issues, such as ink specks appearing on reports and other documents. A faulty ink or toner cartridge is one reason that ink specks may appear on documents; paper dust and ink particles on the printer's internal components can also cause this problem. If you are using a laser printer, inks specks can also be caused by a faulty photoconductor unit.
Specks may appear at first as light speckles on one or both sides of your printed pages. Over time, the specks become more conspicuous, eventually making it difficult to read portions of your text. The specks may also appear as streaks of ink or toner along the sides of your printed pages. If you open the printer's paper tray, you may notice specks on blank paper inside of the printer.
A buildup of paper dust and ink particles inside your printer can cause specks on your printed output as well as on blank paper. These ink specks may not permanently adhere to your documents, though. Lightly brush the paper with your hand to remove the speckling. If the specks are printed on the page and don't sweep away, you'll have to reprint the document. Use a small computer vacuum to remove debris from the printer's paper trays, paper paths, cartridges and internal components to resolve the issue.
Faulty Ink Cartridges
Ink cartridges used in inkjet printers may begin to leak over time, especially if you manually refill the cartridges, which can cause specks on your documents. If you overfill a cartridge, the excess ink will leak onto printed documents as well as blank paper. Cartridges may also leak from factory defects or not being installed correctly. To resolve the problem, first identify which cartridge is leaking, remove it and replace it with a new cartridge. Remove the cartridge carefully so you won't spill ink on your clothing. Wear gloves and remove the cartridge(s) using a rag or towel.
Faulty Toner Cartridges
Similar to ink cartridges but used in laser printers, toner cartridges are also susceptible to leaking due to factory defects, which may cause specks on documents. The cartridges may also leak if installed incorrectly. You may choose to refill a used toner cartridge, and if done incorrectly or overfilled, the cartridge will leak. Only use cartridge-refill services that are authorized to refill your specific brand of cartridge. To troubleshoot a leaking toner cartridge, remove it from the printer and replace it with a new cartridge.
A laser printer's photoconductor unit accepts an electrical charge from your computer that is converted to an image and imprinted onto paper. During the imprinting process, excess toner is diverted to a toner-waste collection bottle, but sometimes the excess toner absorbs into scratches on the surface of the photoconductor unit. If this occurs, specks may appear on your printed documents. Excess toner can also enter into damaged areas on the photoconductor; if it accumulates on the unit, specks will appear on your documents. To determine if your laser printer's photoconductor unit has scratches, is damaged or needs cleaning, open the access door on the back of your printer, carefully remove the unit and inspect for damage. Do not touch the unit's roller assembly, as doing so may leave permanent marks on the roller. Use a lint-free cloth to gently remove debris from the unit. If it is damaged, replace it immediately. You can purchase a replacement photoconductor unit from your printer manufacturer.
Nick Davis is a freelance writer specializing in technical, travel and entertainment articles. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Memphis and an associate degree in computer information systems from the State Technical Institute at Memphis. His work has appeared in "Elite Memphis" and "The Daily Helmsman" in Memphis, Tenn. He is currently living in Albuquerque, N.M.