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How do I unclog my printer?

Nozzle Checks and Cleaning Procedure

If not used regularly, inkjet printers are susceptible to the ink drying up and clogging the print heads.  When this happens the print quality is drastically degraded or the printer may not print at all.  In some cases running a standard print head cleaning can resolve the issue. Since all of my inkjet printers are Epson Eco-Tank models, I will focus on those but the principles of cleaning are generally the same as far as printing a test page, running a cleaning, etc.  

Nozzle Check and Cleaning

Each Epson printer model is a little different but the Nozzle Check can be accessed via the Maintenance section of the control panel on the front of the printer.  Simply navigate to the Maintenance section and select it and locate the printer cleaning area and print a nozzle check test pattern.  The image below shows an example of the possible test patterns. If the printed pattern looks like the one on top, everything is fine and your printer should print as expected.  However, if the pattern looks like the lower portion of the image, you should follow the prompts on the screen to run a head cleaning.  Depending on the severity of the clog, you may have to run 2-3 cleanings to get a good test pattern.      

What if there are still segments missing?

There’s no rule on how many cleanings you can or should run, but if the pattern doesn’t print correctly after 3-4 cleanings, you may need to take more action by doing a Power Cleaning.  That said, in many cases missing only one or two segments is normally not detectable when printing so you may not have to run a power cleaning.  Our recommendation is to print a photo and see how it looks before running a power cleaning.  If print quality is not degraded, our recommendation is to use the printer as normal as the problem may clear up on its own.  After printing a few pages you can run another nozzle check to verify the status.

Power Cleaning

Epson Eco-Tank printers also have a Power Clean utility that can resolve the issue.  Other brands may have a similar feature, you can check with your  printer manufacturer for more information.  The Power Clean feature should be used sparingly and really only as a last resort approach because it uses a lot of ink and can cause the ink reservoir well and pad to fill up quickly (the reservoir and ink pad are for excess waste ink). To access the Epson Power Clean function, hold the question mark or Help button on the printer and press and hold the power button until you see the power clean function appear on the display and follow the prompts.  Running multiple power cleans at one time is not recommended so if the issue is not resolved, Epson recommends allowing the printer to sit for 12-24 hours and then check the print quality.    
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