What Is in Printer Head Cleaning Solution?

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Modern inkjet printer designs, like those produced by Epson and Canon, use tiny, specialized nozzles known as printer heads (or printheads) to dispense various colors of ink from an installed cartridge onto a piece of paper. These printer heads are designed to minimize blockage and smear – and most home printers are designed to automatically clear trace amounts of ink on each power cycle. However, particularly when printers of this type are left alone for long stretches of time, ink can dry up and clog the nozzles beyond the point that the printer can clear on its own – leading to smears and half-printed documents. In these situations, a commercial inkjet cleaning solution can be used to clear the blockage and enable the printer to function properly again. However, printhead cleaner made at home from is just as effective as the cleaner purchased from an office supply store: printer head cleaning solution is made up of common ingredients, many of which may already be in your home.

What is Printer Head Cleaner?

Printhead cleaner, regardless of brand or strength level, is a cleaning solution used to break up and dissolve dried ink built up on the nozzles of inkjet printer nozzles. These solutions can be detergent based or involve stronger compounds like ammonia or isopropyl alcohol depending on the type of ink used by the printer: generic, water-based inks require less harsh compounds while genuine ink will often need an alcohol solution to clear. Regardless of ink type, however, the cleaning solution is pushed through the printhead nozzles in order to break up and flush out any ink particles or residue that may be interfering with the printer's function.

Printer Head Cleaner Components

The base component of any printer head cleaning solution is pure, distilled water. Other components – usually in the form of isopropyl alcohol, aqueous ammonia, or a soap detergent – are added to the water in order to create a solution capable of dissolving ink residue. Ratios and precise ingredients will differ based on the company manufacturing the printhead cleaner and the type of ink the cleaner is designed to clear, but most if not all types of cleaner will contain at least distilled water, alcohol and a detergent.

DIY Printer Head Cleaner

Because the core components of printhead cleaner are so easily available, it is easy to produce inkjet cleaning solution from the comfort of your own home. To do so, fill a glass jar or similarly-sized container with clean, distilled or bottled water. Add three drops of liquid dish soap to the water, followed by four teaspoons of isopropyl alcohol (which you can get at most drugstores). Mix the solution with a spoon, and you will have a solution functionally identical to a commercially produced printhead cleaner. This DIY printer head cleaner can then be used to clear ink blockages.

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