Do you own an inkjet printer? Has the printhead ever clogged up on you, creating streaks or missing colors from your printing?

Clogs can be a huge source of frustration. Normally when you find out you have a clog, it's usually while you're right in the middle of printing something important. It's one of those problems that just throws itself in your lap without warning, and seems to taunt you in your efforts to fix it.

Most of the time, printhead clogs can be easily flushed out with a couple of basic head cleaning cycles.

A head cleaning cycle is a built-in function of your printer, which is meant to address this type of problem. This proceedure generally sends a strong "print" signal to your printer, while drawing a small vacuum from beneath in an attempt to suck out the clogged ink from the printhead. (The printhead is the portion of your printer or inkjet cartridge, where the ink comes out.)

From our experience, you'll need to run between 3 to 5 cycles to fully clear most clogs.

The location of the head cleaning cycle "start button" varies for each printer brand, so refer to your printer owner's manual for detailed instructions to find yours. (If you don't have your manual anymore, you can check the manufacturer's website of your printer. They tend to have most printer manuals online.)

Sometimes however, a few standard head cleaning routines don't seem to do the job. Other times a printhead clog can be persistant enough to make you want to rip out your hair.

For times like these, you need to pull out the big guns...

There are some specific cleaners out there for this purpose. They are formulated to disolve dried or "gummy" ink which may have accumulated from either infrequent printer use, or just a general build-up over time.

I have personally brought an old printer "back from the dead" that I purchased off eBay using a product called 'Clog Buster'.

The problem with using a product like this however, is that you generally don't have it in your immediate possession, and will have to wait for it to be shipped to you. In the meantime, your printing project will have to wait.

(Or will it???)

You may be able to solve the problem using some household products. In fact, Windex glass cleaner actually works pretty good for dissolving dried ink. The secret ingredient is ammonia.

Tough clogs can usually be brought to their knees by soaking the printhead in a 50/50% solution of ammonia and distilled water.

A important word of warning before we proceed... Ammonia is powerful stuff. When working with ammonia, make sure you've got good ventilation -- and avoid mixing it with other chemicals.

If your printhead is located on the inkjet cartridge itself, soak the printhead in the 50/50 solution for a couple of hours.

If the printhead unit is located inside your inkjet printer, first remove the inkjet cartridge, then put some solution into the top of the printhead (the carriage part in the printer) and let it sit a few hours. Also put a little more into the printhead resting seat. (The rubber rectangle part that seals off the printhead unit when the carriage is in it's resting position.)

If that doesn't work, then try using 100% ammonia for up to 1 hour, and then rinse completely with distilled water.

If the clog doesn't immediately open, let the printer sit overnight and try it again the next day. Many times the clog will release later as the ammonia takes it's toll.

Finally, for those wondering about using alcohol to unclog cartridges and printhead -- a quick note...

Alcohol doesn't work as well as ammonia. Also, alcohol may initially work and appear to fix the clog, but over time alcohol will actually dry out the plastics and metals in the printhead and may actually increase the chances of clogging later on. So try to avoid it if possible.

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