Have you ever seen streaks, black marks, ink droplets, or other poor printing quality indicators in your output from your printer?
Isn’t it frustrating?
As is getting the ambiguous “clean ink stains from printer” error message – irritating!
Did you even know there was a method, and you had to learn how to clean ink stains from a printer?
Fortunately, it only takes a couple of tools – household items you already have on hand – so it won’t cost much, it won’t take long, and your printing will look 100% better with no more annoying error messages, for now anyway.
Are you ready to get started!
Items You’ll Need
In this section, we’ll list and discuss the items you’ll need to remove ink stains from a printer.
We’ll provide any alternatives as options for each item, when applicable.
- Water and distilled water
- Paper towels, cotton swabs, and various cloths
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Window cleaner
- Printer oil or sewing machine oil
- Flat screwdriver or pencil
- Canned air
- A piece of paper
Water And Distilled Water
Water and distilled water are used to clean ink stains from a printer in various areas.
Paper Towels, Cotton Swabs, And Various Cloths
Paper towels, cotton swabs, various cloths, and alternatives are used to clean ink stains from a printer in various areas.
I love to use these microfiber cleaning cloths.
Acceptable alternatives and variations are paper towels (folded in quarters), paper towels (folded in half), folded paper towel, lint-free cloth, lint-free moist cloth, soft cloth, etc.
High-quality isopropyl alcohol is used to clean ink stains from a printer in various areas.
Window cleaner, like Windex, is used to clean ink stains from a printer in various areas.
Printer Oil Or Sewing Machine Oil
Printer oil or sewing machine oil is used to oil the stabilizer bar and clean ink stains from a printer.
Flat Screwdriver Or Pencil
A flat screwdriver or a pencil is used to nudge any ink blobs out of the ink reservoir (ink cartridge tray) area for easier cleaning and removal.
Canned air is used to blow out any pieces of paper shred from the paper pickup rollers in the paper feed assembly area.
If you need to order canned air, click here.
A Piece Of Paper
A pain, clean piece of paper is used to rest the ink cartridges on during the cleaning process after removing them from the printer.
Step By Step Instructions For How To Clean Ink Stains From A Printer
When learning how to clean ink stains from a printer, there are several areas to focus on and several ways to clean each of those areas.
The areas to focus on for cleaning are:
- Ink cartridges, housing (cradle)
- Print heads, nozzle plates & copper contacts
- Ink reservoir (ink cartridge tray)
- Stabilizer bar
- Paper feed assembly
- Exterior assembly of the printer
#1 Self-Cleaning Feature
Before going to the trouble of manually cleaning ink off your printer, run the printer’s self-cleaning feature to see if that alone will do the trick.
Modern printers have a self-cleaning capability, which is usually started by pushing and holding one or more buttons on the front of the printer.
If the self-cleaning option doesn’t help fix the problem or if the printer needs further cleaning, proceed to the next steps.
#2 Ink Cartridges, Printer Cartridge Housing (Cradle)
First, you need to remove the ink cartridges from the printer and set them to the side on a plain, clean piece of paper.
- Turn on the printer and open the ink cartridge door, which will cause the print carriage to move to the right side of the printer.
- Wait until the print carriage stops moving and is quiet, then unplug the power cord from the back of the printer.
- Pull the ink cartridges out of their positions, one at a time, by gently pressing down on the ink cartridge to release it and then pulling it towards you.
- Place each ink cartridge, wide side down, on a plain, clean piece of paper to the side of the printer, for now.
Do not touch the print head, nozzle plate, or copper contacts on the thin side of the ink cartridges, as they damage quite easily.
Next, address the printer cartridge housing (cradle), which keeps the ink cartridges in place and functioning correctly.
- Either spray a small amount of window cleaner or water onto a folded paper towel or cotton swab and use it to clean up any ink stains or dirt accumulation within the printer cartridge housing (cradle).
- Wipe the housing (cradle) clean with the window cleaner or water and paper towel or cotton swab and dispose of any dirt, ink, or debris removed.
#3 Print Heads, Nozzle Plates, & Copper Contacts
Now turn back to the ink cartridges and address the print heads, nozzle plates, and copper contacts.
- Pick up one of the ink cartridges you set aside on a piece of paper, holding it by the sides.
- You may find dried or clogged ink around the print head, which needs to be cleaned by applying a small amount of isopropyl alcohol or window cleaner to a paper towel folded in quarters.
- Lightly rub the paper towel with the isopropyl alcohol or window cleaner over the print head on the underside of the ink cartridge.
- Remove and dispose of any excess ink while cleaning the print head in this manner.
- Place the ink cartridge back on the piece of paper to dry and repeat the process with the other ink cartridge before moving on to cleaning the nozzle plates.
- Pick the first ink cartridge back up, holding it by the sides, so you can clean the nozzle plate.
- Apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a lint-free moist cloth and lightly blot the nozzle plate until the ink is pulled out and soaked into the cloth.
- Make sure the nozzle plate is free of ink residue and lint before placing the ink cartridge back on the piece of paper to dry and repeat the process with the other ink cartridge before moving on to cleaning the copper contacts.
- Pick the first ink cartridge back up, holding it by the sides, so you can clean the copper contacts.
- Examine the copper contacts for ink and debris buildup.
- Dip a lint-free cloth into distilled water and wring any extra water from it.
- Clean only the copper contacts with the distilled water and the lint-free cloth, disposing of any ink or debris removed.
- Make sure the copper contacts are free of ink residue and lint before placing the ink cartridge back on the piece of paper to dry and repeat the process with the other ink cartridge.
The ribbon is a long, thin piece, often white, that connects the ink reservoir (print cartridge tray) and the printer.
- Spray a small amount of window cleaner or isopropyl alcohol on a paper towel, folded in half.
- Lightly wipe away any ink blobs from the ribbon and dispose of them.
Be extremely careful not to pull or press the ribbon too hard, or you run the risk of disconnecting it from the printer on either side, in which case it’s extremely difficult to reattach.
#5 Ink Reservoir (Ink Cartridge Tray)
You might find ink buildup at the bottom of the ink reservoir (ink cartridge tray), including a gooey material that forms ink blobs from ink mixed with paper dust needing to be forcibly removed.
- Apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a cotton swab and use it to clean away and dispose of any ink buildup from the bottom of the ink reservoir (ink cartridge tray).
- If you see any ink blobs or ink globules stuck in the corners or sides of the ink reservoir needing to be removed with a bit more force, take a flat screwdriver or pencil and use it to push the blob loose for easier removal.
- Apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a clean cotton swab and use it to clean the blob and the rest of the ink reservoir (ink cartridge). Clean and dispose of any blobs and other ink or debris removed.
#6 Stabilizer Bar
The stabilizer bar is the bar the ink reservoir (ink cartridge tray) slides along as the printer is printing.
Any ink buildup on the stabilizer bar can cause the print heads to have difficulty running smoothly, resulting in crunching, grinding, or squeaking sounds at the end of every printing job.
The fix for this is to oil the stabilizer bar as follows:
- Pour a few small drops of sewing machine oil or printer oil along the stabilizer bar and move the printer cartridge housing (cradle) and ink reservoir (ink cartridge tray) assembly manually along it to evenly spread the oil across the bar.
- In addition to cleaning the ink film from the stabilizer bar, oiling will resolve the squeaking, crunching, and grinding sounds issue.
Don’t apply any excess oil to the stabilizer bar, as it may cause damage to other parts of the printer if oil drips on them.
#7 Paper Feed Assembly
Check the paper feed assembly, consisting of paper pickup rollers, usually found through the printer’s back panel, which opens for easy access.
When ink gets on the paper pickup rollers, it often causes paper jams, so it’s a good idea to keep them clean.
- Apply isopropyl alcohol or window cleaner to a cotton swab or paper towel and use it to wipe any ink, dust, or debris off the paper pickup rollers.
- Use canned air to blow away any paper shred buildup from inside the printer around the paper feed assembly.
#8 Exterior Assembly Of The Printer
- Use a soft cloth dampened with distilled water to wipe down and clean any ink stains off the exterior assembly of the printer.
#9 Re-insert The Ink Cartridges
Wait until the ink cartridges (all parts) and the inside of the printer (all parts) are dry before re-inserting the ink cartridges.
Replace the ink cartridges within 30 minutes after removing them from the printer.
- Pick up one of the ink cartridges you set aside on a piece of paper, holding it by the sides.
- Slide the ink cartridge back into its position in the ink reservoir (ink cartridge tray and printer cartridge housing (cradle).
- Push the ink cartridge forward until it clicks into position.
- Repeat the process for the second ink cartridge.
- Plug the power cord back into the printer and turn the printer on.
- Run a cartridge alignment check, which includes printing a test page.
- You’re good to go!
Commonly Asked Questions
How often should the ink cartridges be cleaned?
-A significant reduction in print quality may mean one of the following: 1) ink cartridge levels are low, 2) ink cartridge levels are depleted and need to be replaced, or 3) ink cartridges need to be cleaned.
However, cleaning an ink cartridge does use some ink, so it’s not a good idea to clean one unnecessarily as this wastes ink and shortens the life of the ink cartridge.
There is a self-cleaning feature for ink cartridges, which should always be tried before manual cleaning, as it’s less taxing on an ink cartridge (and a person).
(See the Step By Step Instructions For How To Clean Ink Stains From A Printer, #1 Self-Cleaning Feature section.)
What can I do if I need help cleaning the ink off my printer?
-You have several options:
- Follow the steps outlined above, or some of them, wherever the ink problem is with your printer.
- Ask a friend or family member for help following the instructions or with the physical part of the cleaning.
- There are professional contractors you can hire for your printer’s regular cleaning and maintenance.
Have you enjoyed learning how to clean ink stains from a printer?
It doesn’t take a lot of effort, product, or money to do it yourself – it just takes knowing what to do, how to handle it, and what to use!
All of that is better than having to keep printing poor quality pages, ignoring aggravating error messages, stop printing and get professional help, pay for that help, get covered with ink, or getting rid of your printer and having to buy a new one.
Make your printer ink-free and print well again!