Most of us spend a good amount of time making sure our personal possessions get proper maintenance. We take our car in for an oil change every 3000 miles or so. We clean our dishes, our clothes, and our floors. But most people just expect their printer to work forever.

The truth is that, just like your other possessions, your printer needs regular maintenance.

Capping Station Maintenance

The capping station is where the head rests and where the head gets cleaned. The capping station has a foam pad touching the head and a tube leading from the capping pad to a pump. Ink is sucked from the head through the foam pad. When the printer is not used, ink on the pad begins to dry, which causes the nozzles in the head to dry as well.

Most pigment inks are made of a group of chemicals that includes resin. Liquid resin becomes a solid plastic when it dries, which is hard to dissolve and break up.

The key concept is to keep the cap pad moist and clean. Just as you use cleaners and conditioners for your hair and skin, you should be regularly applying a proper cleaner and conditioner for your capping station pad.

The capping station pump can eventually wear out, resulting in insufficient suction and preventing proper cleaning. There are now replacement cap pad tops, which is much less expensive than the entire assembly.

The capping station should be cleaned at least every three days. It has a lifespan of three to four years, after which it should be completely replaced.

Damper Maintenance

The dampers are the first line of protection against clogs. Ink travels from the cartridge through tubing to the damper, which sits directly on the head. The damper has a filter inside it to capture any particles large enough to potentially clog the nozzles of the head. After a good deal of ink travels through the damper, you may have particle build up, which will prevent the flow of ink, causing nozzles to drop out. Dampers should be replaced every two years.

If you are having ink dropouts, but are able to produce a clean nozzle check with one or two cleanings, your problem likely lies with your damper.

Print Head Maintenance

The print head contains extremely small nozzles that refined ink flows through. The surface of the head must be kept lubricated in order to prevent the head from drying out the ink. If ink inside the head forms solid particles, it will block ink from flowing. It is imperative that the capping station pad be kept moist to prevent the head from drying.

We have heard of people using hot water and Windex to clean their print heads. Hot water does not break down the resin, and while cleaners like Windex will loosen the pigment in the pad, it will cause the head to dry again. Our CLF007P cleaning solution is made up of chemicals that break down resin and pigment while lubricating the head and pad, preventing them from drying again.

Using CLF007P and CLF007P+

We recommend placing three to four drops of warm CLF007P on the capping station three to four times a day to clear a few clogged nozzles. This is accomplished by moving the head of the capping station. On the 76/96/78/98/48 series, it can easily be accomplished by pushing down gently on the cutting blade and pulling the head to the left, out of the way. On newer printers, you will need to use a code from maintenance mode, which we can provide for you.

After applying our cleaning fluid to the pad, place the carriage back on the capping station. It should click into place. Repeat this three or four times a day. Do not turn the printer on for a day. The cleaning fluid will slowly break through the nozzles and back up into the head. Through this process, it breaks up particles and opens the nozzles to allow ink to flow properly.

If the nozzles do not clear after a few days, you may have to repeat this for as many as two weeks. The time needed to clear clogs depends on the number of nozzles clogged. If you find you’re clearing no more than a third of the nozzles after a week, you should move to using our cleaning cartridges.

CLF008 and AIS Cleaning Cartridges

You can use our tinted CLF008P cleaning cartridges in your printer to perform a fill or power cleaning. You may need to perform two or three power cleanings depending on the degree of clogging. When the tubes of the printer are filled with cleaning fluid, perform a nozzle check. If all nozzles are not firing, let the fluid stay in the head for at least a day. CLF008P should be used in tandem with CLF007P.

You may also need to replace the dampers, as this is another area clogs can occur. Once all nozzles are firing, run our color bars to see if all the inks are maintaining a continuous flow. If not, change the damper.

When All Else Fails

If your nozzles are completely clogged and cleaning fluid isn’t helping, it may mean that the damper, head, or capping station pump are malfunctioning.

Begin by changing the damper. If that doesn’t work and you’ve applied our cleaning fluid to the capping station for over a week, check the pump.

If the pump does not suck all the fluid through the tubes after two power cleanings, the pump may also be failing. Change the capping station.

If two weeks have passed and you are still seeing blocked nozzles with no improvement, the head will need to be changed.

You can also send your head to us and we can try to clear it for you. Our fee for this is $100, but comes with no guarantees. We will soak the head in our fluid and proceed to suck fluid up from the nozzles to the nipples of each color. This requires extreme care to prevent destroying the membrane in the head. We can also teach you to perform the cleaning yourself.

Testing Third-Party Inks for Quality

With certain third party inks, clogging is due to improper particle distribution. These inks contain particles larger than acceptable for inkjet nozzles. We can analyze your ink to determine whether your head clog is due to dried ink or improper particle size. Call us today for details on ink testing.