How to Clean a Beyond-Filthy Printer

Clean that printer!Do you know that printers need to be cleaned to function at top capacity? How dirty is your printer? If you don’t know, we can walk you through the steps to clean that filthy little bugger, no matter if it’s an ink-jet or laser printer.

There are certain steps to follow no matter which printer you own. First, collect a soft cloth, cleaning fluid made for plastic (water is the best) and find your printer manual. Your manufacturer may provide specific instructions for cleaning your printer. If so, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, continue to learn how to make your printer look and act like new.

No matter which printer you use, ink-jet or laser, you’ll need to turn off that printer. You can take the extra step of unplugging the printer as well. Then, dampen the cloth with water and wipe the outside of the printer. Make sure you don’t drip water inside your printer.

Now for the steps to take for the specific printers:

Ink-Jet Printer: Cleaning Cartridges or Ink Nozzles

  1. Use the cleaning process on your printer if your computer has that option. Click on “start > “printers and faxes.”
  2. Open the printer software by double-clicking on a printer icon or by right-clicking on the printer icon.
  3. Click a button labeled Options, Troubleshooting, Clean Print Cartridges, Toolbox, Printer Utilities or something similar (This varies by manufacturer.)
  4. Click a button labeled Head Cleaning, Run Nozzle Check, Clean Print Cartridges or something similar to begin the process.
  5. Follow the instructions on your screen.
  6. Repeat the cleaning process if the results aren’t satisfactory.

Some ink-jet printers don’t have this option. In that case, follow some of the tips below:

More tips

  • On some inkjet printers (HP’s for instance) the ink cartridge contains the print head, so changing the cartridge gives you a new, unclogged printhead.
  • An Epson’s print head is part of the printer itself, and can only be replaced by a service technician, and the cost is usually very close to the price of the printer itself.
  • Isopropyl alcohol is a great solvent for dried ink.
  • Soak the base of the cartridge in WD-40 to see if it can work again for you.
  • Use tweezers and/or compressed air to clear out the debris and paper snips from inside your printer.
  • If you refill an inkjet cartridge, you should clean the cartridge nozzles immediately after the refilled cartridge has been reinstalled.
  • Read this article by Northlight Images to learn more.

Laser Printer

Go to your printer manufacturer’s Web site for detailed instructions on manual cartridge cleaning and interior cleaning. Otherwise, there are a few other issues to consider before you begin cleaning a laser printer:

  • Laser toner is messy, toxic and easily airborne. You don’t want this stuff in your lungs. So, make sure the air in the cleaning area is stable (no fans, no open windows) and wear a disposable mask and latex gloves.
  • Leave the printer area for several minutes after cleaning to let the fine toner particles settle. Then you can vacuum up the mess, open windows, etc.
  • Read the U.S. Pollution Prevention page to learn more about toxic laser toner precautions.
  • Most laser printers are fairly expensive, and opening the case to clean it may void the warranty.

Extra equipment you’ll need to clean the laser printer:

  1. Toner vacuum to vacuum toner from crevices and paper paths.
  2. Toner cloth to clean up excess toner after vacuuming. Use the cloth outside the case in the paper path. Do not use inside the case because you could leave remnants of the cloth inside.
  3. Lint-free cotton swabs to clean the corona wire. Use in conjunction with alcohol.
  4. Isopropyl alcohol. Use pure alcohol to clean the corona wire gently.

If you’ve decided at this point that you don’t want to clean your laser printer, we don’t blame you. Hire a professional or read more details at Dummies.com (How to Clean Your Laser Printer). Otherwise, here you go:

Manually Clean Inside the Printer

  1. Remove the internal paper trays.
  2. Remove the toner cartridge and place it on a piece of scrap paper.
  3. Clean inside the toner cavity with the dry, lint-free cloth and brush.
  4. Clean the printer mirror gently with the brush. Don’t touch the mirror if a brush isn’t provided.
  5. Wipe away dust and spilled toner. Remove paper fragments.
  6. Clean the rollers, but don’t touch the sponge roller.
  7. Replace the toner cartridge.

Initiating Automatic Cleaning Through Printer Software

  1. Open the printer software by double-clicking on a printer icon or specific printer utility program, or opening a document and then selecting Print from the File menu.
  2. In the printer software, look for a button labeled Options, Troubleshooting, Toolbox, Printer Utilities or something similar. (This varies by manufacturer.)
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen.
  4. Repeat the cleaning process if the results aren’t satisfactory.