The biggest bane of a desktop printer is the clogged print head. Manufacturers have yet to find a way to keep this from happening. When these little mechanisms get clogged with dried ink – or even minute bits of paper residue – your print outs may contain streaks or look faded and less colorful than expected. Clearing a clogged printhead can be complicated. If you find it necessary to do so, consult your device’s manual. Preventing clogged print heads, however, only takes some easy, common sense steps.

Regular Use
The simplest way to keep print heads clean and working properly is to use the printer regularly. A egular supply of ink running through the heads prevents it from drying. Even if you don’t have a specific job to print, find something to print at least once a week. Many printers are preloaded with “test” patterns that suit this purpose.

Regular Cleaning
Almost all modern printers also have cleaning cycles included in the devices memory. They can usually be accessed through the device’s main menu. Using your printer’s cleaning cycle once a month can flush out any residual ink or tiny bits of paper lodged in the heads. If you regularly put your printer through heavy printing routines, you may want to consider using the cleaning cycle more often.

If you know that your printer will not be used for an extended period of time, and you don’t think you’ll be able to accomplish the above steps, you should remove the ink cartridges and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. (DO NOT shrink wrap them, as the vacuum pressure will pull the ink out of the cartridge and render it useless.) Doing so will also prevent any ink from dripping into the tubes and print heads even after a cleaning cycle. Check your printer’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for information on extended storage of your machine.