Cleaning the printhead: This is how it works with Epson, HP and Canon

Cleaning the printhead: This is how it works with Epson, HP and Canon

There is a printer in many offices and households. For the best quality, you have to clean the often stubborn print head in between. We'll explain how this works with Epson and HP devices.

From André Gabriel

Printers look like holdovers from an earlier time, because digitization is often replacing paper with electronic solutions. This is important for reasons of sustainability alone. However, printouts cannot always be avoided – in both professional and private situations.

The bottom line is that important progress should not lose sight of the traditional, because sometimes advantages such as haptics cannot be denied in the truest sense of the word. Provided that the quality is right – users should clean the print head regularly for this.

Cleaning the printhead at Epson and Co: Two options

Unsightly streaks, pale texts and wrong image colors often make printouts unusable and valuable paper ends up crumpled up in the garbage can. Too bad. If the result is not clean, the nozzles are usually clogged or certain areas of the printer are clogged – for example, with dried ink residue or dust. This can be remedied by cleaning the printhead.

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You can usually start printhead cleaning directly from the printer's user interface. Image: © Canon 2015

If you want to clean an HP or Epson print head, you often have the choice between an automatic and a manual variant. With the former, users can, for example, clean an Epson print head using a key combination – there should be enough paper in the tray for this. Individual points may differ from model to model, but most devices have a built-in function to clean the printhead with a push button. This is easier than the tongue twister, because the product often reports itself with a message that cleaning would be appropriate.

The manual variant is much more sensible and often more thorough. Although the automatic solution is easily accessible via the menu (for example under "Extras") and involves less effort, it usually involves a considerable amount of ink because the printer system flushes ink through the nozzles. In short: printer cleaning programs seldom work in a resource-saving manner. For this reason alone, it is advisable to remove and clean the Canon print head, for example.

Cleaning removed printhead: From HP to Canon

Whether you want to clean an HP print head or a device from Epson, Canon or another brand, the process is often similar. The following instructions refer to the common case that the printhead that holds the various ink cartridges can be removed from the case.

First, turn off the printer and open the large compartment. Are all cartridges removable? Perfect. Otherwise, activate the printer again until they are in the middle and within reach, or take the device completely off the power to move the component by hand. Now you pull out the ink cartridges and press the holding device to remove the printhead – if in doubt, the operating instructions will help, but often it is a clearly visible lever.

You can clean the removed printhead by moistening fabric or paper with distilled water and carefully wiping over the contacts and other dirty areas – edges, corners and smaller surfaces are also important here. Important: The cloth must be clean and must not fluff.            

If you want to thoroughly clean a print head, you should also devote yourself to the printer itself. This primarily affects the contacts exposed after removing the head. You should then dry all the moistened areas with a new cloth. Then you put the element back in, add the cartridges and check the performance with a test print if necessary.

Particularly stubborn adhesions can be loosened in an additional water bath. To do this, you fill a flat, curved container like a saucer with distilled water and place the print head in it for several hours so that the contacts do not come into contact with the water. In all cases, you can use a special nozzle cleaning agent instead of water to clean the print head.

Manual cleaning without removing the printhead

Some inkjet printers do not provide for the printhead to be removed – this mainly applies to Epson products. In this case, manual cleaning can be carried out using a syringe in the device. If necessary, users can buy a cleaning set with all the necessary utensils directly from the provider.

After you have unplugged the device and removed the individual ink cartridges, the slots in the printhead are exposed. Before you clean it, fold a piece of kitchen roll so that it fits under the print head. Then, move it aside, place the paper inside, and move it back until it is over the paper. So no moisture gets into the housing and you can easily clean the Epson print head.

As soon as the nozzle cleaning agent or distilled water is in the syringe, you gradually apply it directly to the small, elongated elements on which the cartridges are normally attached. Put some liquid into the tiny opening – up to three drops. Then you wait a quarter of an hour and repeat the process.

At the end you pull the liquid out of the contacts as best you can, dry everything and remove the paper towel. You can then reinsert the cartridges, make a test print or run the cleaning program on the device as a supplement.


  1. The printhead is located in the product case and holds the ink cartridges.
  2. Print heads can be cleaned automatically and manually.
  3. A lot of ink is lost during automatic cleaning.
  4. For the manual option, the printhead is usually removed.
  5. Cleaning is done with distilled water or special agents.
  6. At Epson in particular, print heads are sometimes cleaned in the device with a syringe.

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