Lately I’ve been getting lots of e-mail and even letters from readers with printer problems. At some workshop and events I’ve attended photographers sometimes show me ink-jet prints and ask what’s wrong with them. Most times, the answer is simply that their printer’s heads are clogged and need to be cleaned. If you don’t like the results coming off your ink-jet printer, start by cleaning the print heads!
How do heads get dirty anyway? If the printer is left on for too long or not used regularly, air gets into the heads, the ink dries, and clogs the heads. Print heads also get dirty or clogged from not being used, so try to use them—even for just one 4×6 print—every day.
Your printer user’s manual contains information on how to use the software that cleans clogged heads. If you are having a problem and don’t like the output from your ink-jet printer this will fix it—most times anyway.
Here’s the interface for the Epson Printer Utility: Notice the Head Cleaning option. It’s a good idea to periodically run the Nozzle Check utility to see if your heads are beginning to clog. The test pattern produced will show if you need to clean it. Yes, cleaning drinks even more ink during this process but using it can improve your photographs more than you might imagine.
Tip: Even if you don’t use your printer turn it for a short time once a day. Most printers include a startup routine that cleans heads and simply turning it on every day can prevent clogged heads. Yeah, that uses more ink too but far, far less than running repeated head cleanings to clear clogged heads.
Until somebody invents a self-cleaning head for ink-jet printers, we’ll have to periodically clean them, wasting precious Dom Perignon-priced ink in the process. Hey, you used to have to scrub your ovens by hand too; now self-cleaning ovens make that chore a cinch. So maybe somebody will figure out something similar for ink-jet printers… or maybe not.