Printer cartridge has dried out

Help – the printer cartridge has dried out. What can you do?

Many users today rely on high-performance inkjet printers, even if the prices for laser printers have also fallen. The reason for this is the ease of use. The printer ink in these printers can be changed particularly quickly and easily. In addition, individual ink cartridges for common models are already available quite cheaply.

However, if you do not use an inkjet printer too often, it is very possible that the printer cartridges have dried out. We would like to give you possible solutions here so that you can solve this printer problem.

Table of contents

The printing principle of an inkjet printer

Before we go into more detail about the problem of dried out ink cartridges, we would like to briefly explain how an inkjet printer applies its printing ink to the paper. Here we limit ourselves to the tried and tested DOD technology, i.e. the drop on demand printing technology. This method is used in most office and home ink jets.

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The bubble jet process

The well-known printer manufacturers Canon, HP, Kodak and Lexmark use the bubble jet process. Here, tiny ink droplets through a heated heating element, a so small steam bubble developed. Due to its own pressure, it is pressed through the pressure nozzle and applied to the printing paper. The heating element ensures that the pigment ink with solvent and water content heats up.

At the manufacturers Canon and Kodak the pressure nozzles are at right angles to these heating elements. They are therefore known as edge shooters. In Lexmark and HP are flat nozzle elements used which consists of two plates made. The plate, which faces the paper, has small nozzle holes through which the steam bubble can exit. They are known as side shooters. It is advantageous that these print heads can be manufactured quite inexpensively. This method is mainly used with the proven interchangeable print heads.

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The piezo process

Epson uses the piezo printing process. When the ink is pressed through the print nozzles, the piezoelectric effect is used. This deforms small ceramic elements when an electrical voltage is applied. Ink droplets of different sizes can be ejected depending on the voltage. This printing process is geared towards a long service life.

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No clogging by cleaning the printhead

Unfortunately, all DOD printheads tend to dry out over time. Especially if you only print very little, the nozzles and also the ink cartridges can dry out. As a measure, the ink manufacturers produce only very slowly drying inks for this purpose. Most modern inkjet printers and corresponding multifunction devices therefore always run a cleaning cycle before the first print-out. The ink is injected into a small container with a sponge. After printing, the printheads often move to a special parking position where the printheads are enclosed in an airtight manner. This measure is also intended to prevent drying out.

It is not uncommon for many printers to perform automatic cleaning at regular intervals. You can usually also start this cleaning mode manually. Please note that each cleaning process uses a large amount of ink. Understandably, this has an impact on printing costs. Statistically speaking, a printer cartridge is already used up after 40 cleanings.

For example, Epson inkjet printers automatically clean the nozzles when the printer is unplugged. It is advisable to keep these printers connected to the power supply at all times.

If you need new printer cartridges for your inkjet printer or multifunction printer, you can order the originals as well as compatible ink cartridges here at Copiac . This means that you always have a new printer cartridge on hand when your printer requests a new cartridge.

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Why don’t laser printers have this problem?

Laser printers require a corresponding toner cartridge for each printing color. This is provided with fine toner powder, this toner being in dry form. Understandably, this cannot dry up and can therefore be stored for almost an unlimited period. Automatic print head cleaning is therefore not necessary with a laser printer. About test prints you can only find here whether the prints are placed neatly on the paper.

However, before each print page, the remaining toner powder is removed from the image drum. Even if laser printers only use dry toner powder, the printing process is quite complex. The components involved in this are subject to considerable wear. In this respect, you have to replace the imaging drum, the transfer unit and the fusing unit next to the toner cartridges at regular intervals.

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How can I avoid dried out printer cartridges?

It is quite annoying when you turn on your printer or send a print and only white sheets of paper come out. Sometimes, however, only streaky printouts are made. These are either empty cartridges or clogged print nozzles.

The best way to avoid such blockages is to print regularly and more frequently. Then the ink cannot set and dry out. Also carry out a print nozzle cleaning or print head cleaning at regular intervals. Even if such a cleaning process consumes a little more ink, you will ensure that your printer works properly. Tips:

  • Print a test page at least once a month.
  • If necessary, take the printer cartridge out of the printer, wrap it in foil and store it in the refrigerator.
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Tips and instructions to rescue / reactivate dried up cartridges

There are several solutions if the cartridge has dried up and normal printing is no longer possible. In the following we would like to briefly tell you which different approaches are helpful.

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Clean the ink cartridge with a cleaning kit

When you do some browsing the internet, you can order a cleaning kit for certain printer models. With the help of the enclosed instructions, it is described here how to properly clean individual printer cartridges or replaceable print heads. Manufacturers advertise that too much ink is lost through regular nozzle cleaning. However, it should be noted that these sets cannot be used for all printers. The manufacturers of these sets can usually not provide a guarantee of success. Mostly they are third party providersThe actual printer manufacturers do not offer such cleaning kits.

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Clean the ink cartridge with a cloth

Of course, you can also manually clean an older printer cartridge that has dried out. Follow these steps:

  • Your inkjet printer must be turned on.
  • Activate the cartridge change via the printer menu.
  • The printhead moves to its replacement position.
  • Remove the relevant cartridges.
  • Place this with the ink outlet or, in the case of interchangeable printheads, with the print nozzles facing up on an old newspaper.
  • Carefully dab the nozzles with a damp kitchen towel.
  • Do not rub the cloth hard over the nozzle openings as this may damage them.
  • Use lukewarm water without detergent.


If you reinstall these ink cartridges, the chances are good that you will get a proper printout. However, because of the lukewarm water, the first lines of print may look a little watered down on the paper. Tip: Instead of using a kitchen towel, you can also try to clean the pressure nozzles with a cotton swab. Dip this also in lukewarm water and dab the nozzle openings with it.

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Clean the ink cartridge with rubbing alcohol

In the case of stubborn dirt, you can try cleaning with a special rubbing alcohol. You can buy this at the local pharmacy. In this case, do the following:

  • Take the printer cartridge out of its holder as described above.
  • Fill a saucer with some rubbing alcohol.
  • Alternatively, you can put a rag soaked in alcohol on a plate.
  • Place the print cartridge in the liquid or on the cloth with the print nozzles facing down.
  • Let the rubbing alcohol soak in overnight.
  • The cartridge is reinstalled the next day.


Before you send a print job, however, you should clean the print nozzle to be on the safe side. Otherwise, the first few lines on the paper may look slightly blurry. At least residual alcohol can escape from the nozzles.

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Clean the ink cartridge in a water bath

Instead of rubbing alcohol, you can try a water bath. There are two ways of doing this. You can clean your printer cartridges with and without direct contact with water.

In the first case, put the dried out printer cartridge in a transparent foil pouch. Close it carefully so that no water can enter. Then place this bag in a saucepan with hot water for 5 minutes. Take the pouch out again and insert the print cartridge into your printer. With a little luck you can now continue printing. The heat may release the blockage.

Another possibility is if you expose the printer cartridge to direct contact with water. To do this, place the printer cartridge in a warm water bath. It is completely sufficient if the cartridge is only surrounded by water at the bottom. Prevent the water from flowing in through the upper pressure equalization opening. Let the printer cartridge soak in the water for about 30 seconds. The dried pigment color should have dissolved. Gently pat the cartridge dry again before reinserting it. With luck, this method will work and you will be able to print again.

Tip: It is best to use distilled water. This is particularly pure and clean. In addition, this water does not contain any minerals or lime that could clog the fine pressure nozzles again.

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Clean the ink cartridge in the ultrasonic bath

Many households have small ultrasonic cleaners that you can use to clean glasses, watches, and jewelry. The vibrations detach even the smallest particles from the cracks and jewelry connections. These then fall to the bottom of the cleaning tub filled with distilled water. You can proceed in a similar way for clogged or dried-up printer cartridges:

  • Fill your ultrasonic cleaning device with distilled water or a special cleaning liquid.
  • Use the cleaning basket so that the water only flows around the cartridges from the underside with their nozzles.
  • Turn on the ultrasound machine and let it work for 10 minutes.
  • Take out the printer cartridge and dry it carefully.
  • Reinstall the cartridge in the printer.
  • Now make a test printout.


Tip: In conjunction with distilled water or a cleaning fluid, the ultrasonic waves can remove the incrustations from the pressure nozzles. In order to achieve an optimal and at the same time gentle result, you should set your ultrasound device to a high frequency.

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The somewhat unusual cleaning method

If you are an electronics technician or have already soldered electronic components together, then you probably not only have a small soldering iron, but also a suitable tin suction pump. This is usually also known as a desoldering pump. You can also use this to reactivate a clogged printer cartridge if necessary. Proceed in this form:

  • Take the printer cartridge out of its holder on the printer.
  • Place the print cartridge on a thick newspaper with the print nozzles facing up.
  • Pull up the desoldering pump so that it clicks into place.
  • Point the nozzle at the pressure nozzles and activate the unlocking mechanism of the pump.


When you activate a desoldering pump, a vacuum is created. The air is sucked in under pressure at the spout. In this way, liquid tin residues are also taken up again by the circuit boards . In this way, slight blockages can also be removed from the pressure nozzles.

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The various cleaning agents for cleaning pressure nozzles

As we have already explained to you, you can dissolve and remove stubborn incrustations on the pressure nozzles very well with various cleaning fluids. The following liquids can be used to clean ink cartridges:

  • Tap water – best to use warm, but limescale can form.
  • Distilled water – best to use warm, also suitable for ultrasound devices.
  • Rubbing alcohol or isopropanol – dirt-dissolving and yet gentle.
  • Washing-up liquid – degreases, can remove incrustations, foam formation possible.
  • Spirit – similarly usable as rubbing alcohol.


You should avoid harsh chemicals. These can attack the plastic casing of the ink cartridge. But the pressure nozzles are also affected when chemicals are used.

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Printer cartridges with and without print nozzles

If we have talked about printer cartridges and their print nozzles, then it is primarily about the exchangeable print heads, as we know them from HP and Lexmark, but also from some Canon printers. They are quite wide ink cartridges that have integrated print nozzles on the underside in addition to the actual ink tank. Most of the time, only two of these cartridges are used in inkjet printers. Here you will find a black printer cartridge and a so-called tri-color cartridge. The advantage is that these printers are always equipped with new printheads every time the cartridges are replaced become. You can therefore rely on a consistently good print image.

The disadvantage of the colored tri-color print heads is that the three basic colors cyan, magenta and yellow are located in a cartridge housing. If even one ink is used up, you have to replace the entire printhead with a new one. Most cleaning attempts therefore refer to these special print heads, as only these are equipped with real print nozzles.

Many other inkjet printers use single-ink cartridges. These have no pressure nozzles on the underside, but instead have a wide ink outlet. On delivery, this opening is covered with a thin film. The foil is pierced when it is inserted into the printhead. The ink then emerges and forwards the liquid pigment ink to the pressure nozzles. If the print nozzles are clogged here, you must first remove the complete print head from the printer. This is not always easy to do. The problem is that with stubborn blockages it is usually not worth having these printers serviced professionally. For this price you usually get a new device.

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Saving expensive and high quality printer cartridges

There are some ink cartridges, a high pressure range of several thousand printed pages reach. These are in no way inferior to the toner cartridges in laser printers today. One example is the bar-shaped printer cartridges from the HP OfficeJet Pro series. These elongated ink tanks have an ink outlet and corresponding chip contacts. They are in the higher price segment.

Although these cartridges are very reliable, they can dry out when not in use. In particular, printer cartridges that are no longer quite as full tend to dry out more quickly. Likewise, the ink tanks of large format or roll printers should not go unmentioned. You can often find these in the local copy shops. These printers require many different color gradations so that first-class photo prints can be created with them. Should a copy shop temporarily shut down, these large ink tanks can of course also dry out. Regardless of whether you use an office printer for mass printing or a roll printer from a copy shop, you should always clean the print nozzles at regular intervals.

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How to check your printer

After every printout you will notice whether something is wrong with your printer. Test prints help you to determine not only the quality of the ink, but also the printhead alignment . With each test printout, different graphics are printed out, which make a slight offset of the print head noticeable. A test print is the first step before cleaning the nozzle. In principle, you should, for example, put test printouts on paper after every cartridge change. Here we explain in more detail how you can print a test page.

If the horizontal and vertical alignment of the printhead do not match, you can usually correct them directly on the printer display. If, on the other hand, the printout looks streaky or completely white, you should first clean the print head or print nozzle. If this doesn’t help, you can of course replace the ink cartridges with new ones.

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Tips for printer cartridges if you won’t be printing with them for a long time

Many older generation inkjet printers are being exchanged for new multifunction printers or even pure photo printers. However, users do not want to throw their old printer in the trash. This still works fine. There are also suitable ink cartridges for this. You can keep such a bolide very well as a replacement.

However, the following should be noted here: If the printer is still connected to the mains, you should print a test page at least once or twice a month. If , on the other hand, the printer is in the attic , in the garage or in the basement and is well packed, then you should remove the printer cartridges beforehand . Here you have to decide for yourself whether you want to continue using the cartridges that have been started or if you prefer to use our inexpensive ink cartridges right away.

As mentioned earlier, you can wrap used ink cartridges in foil and store them in the refrigerator. However, not everyone wants to store their cartridges between foods for a long time. Instead, you can also store them in foil and in the original packaging, cool and protected from light in the cellar. In most cases, however, you cannot prevent the pigment ink from drying out. If you have kept cartridges open for several years, the pigment color may also have changedIn this case, it is better to replace the cartridges with new ones.

 

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