How to maintain Epson Printers

Up till around seven years ago, “clogging” could be a chronic problem with Epson printers. Now, they are usually very reliable but “clogs” still can happen.


Canberra Photographic Society, Clogged Heads, Epson, News from the Ether, Photography, Printers

New SC-P800.  Working fine.


You can tell if you have a “clog” if you run a nozzle check and there are broken lines. Then you run a head clean and usually that solves the problem. You should really run a nozzle check before each printing operation to avoid wasting expensive paper.  (You run both a nozzle check and a head clean through the printer driver).

“Clogs” are usually build up of excess ink on the heads blocking nozzles. It can happen if you don’t print for a while so you should periodically print or run a nozzle check. Opinions vary on how often that should be but at least every month is probably a good starting point.  Actually, Geoff Schewe suggests every week and using an image that uses more ink than the nozzle check pattern.

In Canberra we live in a climate that is hot and dry in summer. This makes ink dry more quickly and can lead to blockages. Try and have your printer in a cool humid environment. My house has evaporative cooling but it doesn’t work so well in my study where the printer is so I also use a portable evaporative cooler. As a cheaper option, this is essentially the same as the old method of having a fan with a bowl of water underneath it.

Some years ago, I experienced “clogging” due to air in the lines on an R800 printer. If I waited until the ink ran out to replace a cartridge rather than replacing it at the first warning light, I could get air in the lines and need extensive purges. I haven’t experienced this with subsequent printers and suspect that this is a problem of the past.

You can get clogs if your inks are too old. They will last longer than the use-by date but how long that might be is a matter of judgement and will depend on your printing conditions. I suspect two or three years past the use-by date is still OK. I had a blockage last year that required an expensive replacement of the ink delivery system and I had cartridges that were five years out of date. That may be pushing it too much. So that my inks are more recent, I also now buy them singly as each runs out rather than a whole set at a time.

Third party ink can also be the source of problems. It’s always better to use genuine Epson ink.

If you have a blockage and it doesn’t come good after say three head cleans, then further cleans will probably just deposit ink on the head and make it worse. If the printer is not under warranty there is another procedure you may like to try. I have tried it and it worked for me but please note you try this entirely at your own risk.

It involves Blue Windex and Chux Superwipes or paper towels. Alternatively, you can use a commercial solution instead of the Windex. In short, you cut to size a sheet of the superwipes, spray some Windex over it, put it under the printer head and leave overnight. In the morning, you take it out, cut another piece, put Windex on that, put it under the head and move the head over it for twenty or thirty seconds. Then you run a head clean and a nozzle check (maybe twice if necessary). If there is only partial improvement, try running the process again another one or two times. Potentially you may be able to resuscitate an old inkjet printer lying around in your garage to you can give it away.

Here is a video better explaining the process for an Epson 3800 or 3880 (using a commercial product). The process for an older printer where the cartridges sit over the heads is similar but a little different.

Once again, this will void your printer warranty and you try this entirely at your own risk.


Summary then:

  • Run a nozzle check before each print run
  • Try to not let your printer get too hot and dry
  • Periodically print or run a nozzle check
  • Replace inks if they get very old
  • Use Epson Ink
  • If a nozzle check shows a “clog’, run a head clean
  • Don’t run too many head cleans in a row, no more than say three
  • If necessary you can try the procedure described above, though at your own risk.

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