Nearly every inkjet printer has a cleaning cycle, but most printer owners don't know how the cleaning cycle works to keep a printer working properly. Some people find cleaning cycles to be loud and annoying, but regular cleanings serve an important purpose in keeping a printer working properly. However, if you have used a refill kit (learn about why you should not use a inkjet refill kit) instead of a new or compatible cartridge, cleaning may not fix your issue.
The main function of the cleaning cycle is simply to keep the printer heads from clogging or drying out. Ink must pass through incredibly small passageways to make its way to the printing heads, and in order to keep a printer in good operating condition, these passageways need to be free of obstructions. Small clogs occur fairly often on most printers as the printing heads are exposed to air and left to dry and severe clogs can occur due to mechanical issues or when a printer isn't used for an extended period of time.
Clogged printing heads can have a serious effect on the quality of printed pages. A printer with a severe clog might stop printing entirely, but in most cases clogs will simply cause certain colors to print incorrectly. Pages might have visible lines or colors might look excessively bright or dark. A clogged printing head might make lead some printer owners to believe that their cartridges are out of ink, and while replacing the ink cartridge might solve the problem on some printers, it's far less expensive to regularly maintain the printing heads via the printer's built-in cleaning cycle.
The cleaning cycle varies from printer to printer, but most devices use the same basic technology to prevent and remove clogs. During the cleaning cycle, printers shoot a small amount of ink through the tiny passageways that lead to the printing heads, breaking up dried ink along the way.
Ink is also applied to the heads themselves with a wiper blade. Modern printer inks have a solvent quality, so by keeping the printing heads coated with ink, the printer can avoid clogs and loosen any dried ink clumps that might be preventing standard operation.
Some printers have also have suction pumps that play an important role in the cleaning cycle. The pumps sucks air through the printer's ink passageways after the printing heads have been moistened. However, suction pumps are usually only used when a severe ink clog has been detected.
Printers often perform their cleaning cycles automatically once or twice per day. It's important to check whether a printer needs to be cleaned manually, however, and to configure automatic cleaning cycles to keep it running smoothly. Printer owners can also prevent ink clogs by regularly using their printers, as the most severe clogs occur when a printer is ignored for a week or longer. By regularly cleaning and using a printer, it's easy to avoid most printing head clogs and to get the most out of every ink cartridge. This article applies to cleaning your inkjet printer, for laser printers read How to clean your laser printer.