How to Clean an Inkjet Printer


Elliott asked: How do I clean an inkjet printer without removing any compartments?

Regularly cleaning your printer allows for cleaner printing; pages without smudges and streaks. The cleaning process can be done professionally, but is easy to complete at home as well. Follow these steps adapted from those found at Printer Hacks.

You Will Need:

  • Windex or other window cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Copier or printer oil
  • Cotton swabs
  • Latex gloves

Steps to Clean the Printer:

  1. Begin by putting on latex gloves to protect your hands from getting covered in ink.
  2. Remove the ink cartridges from the printer. Set them off to the side.
  3. Next, turn off the printer AND unplug it. This is an important step.
  4. We will begin with the ink cartridges to remove any excess ink. Fold a paper towel and moisten it with a small amount of alcohol.
  5. Clean the print heads on the cartridges by gently wiping them on a paper towel. The goal is to remove the ink that is built up on the outside of the cartridge. Do not try to remove all of the ink. The ink will continue to show up on the paper towel even after the head is cleaned.
  6. Some ink cartridges have a removable print head. If this is the case, remove the print head and clean it separately.
  7. Next, we’ll clean the ribbon. This is the long, thin piece that connects to the box that holds the printer cartridges. It is fragile, so clean it with care.
  8. Fold a paper towel in half and moisten it slightly with Windex. Gently wipe away any ink globs from the ribbon. If there is no ink on the ribbon, there is no need to wipe it down. This is an easy part of the printer to damage, so if it doesn’t need it, don’t provide the extra cleaning.
  9. When the printer completes a document, the cartridges return to a “home” location. Under this area, there can be a build-up of ink that has leaked out over time.
  10. If there is a glob under the “home” area, remove it with a long wire or a pencil. Gently scrape it away.
  11. It is difficult to get a paper towel and cleaning solution to this area, so remove as much as possible with the items. If possible, you may want to moisten a cotton swab with alcohol and gently wipe the area clean. However, this can take quite a few cotton swabs to complete the job well.
  12. Some stabilizing bars (the bar that the printer cartridges slide back and forth on) need oiling for better performance. If needed, place a couple of drops of printer oil on the bar.
  13. Slide the ink cartridges back and forth a couple of times to spread out the oil.
  14. Open the back door of the printer and use a paper towel to wipe off any ink that may be present on the rollers that feed the paper through the printer. This is another area that leaves streaks and smudges on the finished documents.
  15. To clean the outside of the printer, moisten a paper towel slightly with Windex and use it to wipe down the exterior of the printer.
  16. Once the printer has been cleaned, reinsert the ink cartridges and run a test document to check for any trouble areas.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If you are cautious about cleaning the printer yourself, many office and electronic stores with computer service will clean it for you for a fee.
  • Be cautious not to apply too much oil to the stabilizer bar. It only takes a few drops. It’s much easier to add more if needed, rather than cause damage from oil dripping on other sensitive parts.
  • When handling the ink cartridges, be careful not to touch the metal part. This is the connection with the computer and if dirt and fingerprints get in the way, it may not communicate correctly.


  1. George says:

    Instead of using cotton swabs, try using foam-tipped swabs because they leave no fibers in the mechanisms and print heads.

Leave a Comment