Updated 20th March 2006

Advice for Epson Printers
Printer OK Stories
A good and reliable source of MMC Cartridges
USA Translation Note

Go to Buying a Printer

The foregoing advice applies mainly to Hewlett Packard and similar print heads.
The cleaning method shown for an HP 51626 cartridge will also work (or not) for any cartridge that has a print head like Lexmark, Samsung and Compaq. This includes the print head units like the BC21e used in Canon and some Xerox printers.

USA Note  
In the USA, washing up liquid is known as dish washing detergent. This is the liquid used to wash dishes in a bowl or sink by hand and NOT in a dishwasher machine. The Ultra Cheapo washing up liquid is intended to indicate the cheapest washing up liquid you can buy in a supermarket. DO NOT USE BRANDED CONCENTRATED washing up liquid. You should use plain transparent washing up liquid without any hand lotion or antibacterials.(Thanks to Daniel J Stern)

General Notes
The advice on this page is purely for printers that have no mechanical defects. That is to say that the printer goes through the motions of printing but does not print anything. If the print heads do not move or the paper does not feed correctly, I cannot help you.

Epson Printers
I bought a new Epson Stylus Photo 750 printer in February 2001. I religiously followed the setup instructions and tried to print a picture. I got a blank sheet of paper. After around 45 tries of cleaning and nozzle check test prints with the original Epson cartridges I got a red light warning that one or other cartridges had to be changed!  I then fitted a new pair of MMC compatible cartridges. On the next clean and print check cycle I got one small cyan line. After another five or so cycles I got a complete test pattern.  The printer worked OK until September 2006. The problem was/is the the ink reservoir counter reaching the limit. I considered fixing the reservoir and resetting the counter but desisted when I found a source of very cheap second hand Epson printers. See my answer to Tom Liggett below.

I have since got a couple of Epson printers going again with Chinese compatible cleaning cartridges.

When it is "All or Nothing" (A Last Ditch Effort)
If everything you have tried has failed to make an Epson printer print (after noting my experience above) there is one last ditch effort you can make. (This description has been revised 08/11/02)

Get a piece of bed sheet linen material around 20cm by 8cm.  Dampen it with clean water so that it feels quite wet but it will not drip water. Fold it along its length to make a long pad of four layers around 2cm wide. Switch on the printer and press the cartridge change button until the printer starts the cleaning cycle. This is to get the printhead unit to move out of its resting position. As soon as the printhead is somewhere around the middle of the printing area, pull out the power plug. With the cover raised it should be fairly easy to move the printhead manually from left to right and vice versa. Move the printhead towards one end of the printing area. place the folded damp cloth in the trough that the printhead passes over when printing. Make it as flat as possible so that no parts are projecting upwards. Move the printhead over to the middle of the damp folded cloth. If it catches the cloth, the cloth was not packed flat enough or is too wide in the trough. When the ends of the folded damp cloth become accessible, pick up the ends Then gently (I MEAN GENTLY!) lift and drag the cloth from side to side under the printhead unit. It will quickly become stained with ink. Push the printhead towards one end and remove the cloth. Replace the cloth in the trough so that its cleaner side is uppermost. Move the printhead unit over the damp cloth as before and repeat the cleaning process. Less ink should be removed. Move the printhead towards one end and remove the cloth altogether. Put a piece of printing paper in the feed tray and replace the power plug. With the printer switched off, press the form feed/paper feed button and hold it pressed while pressing the power button. Release both buttons as soon as it is obvious that the printer is preparing to print. With most Epson printers, this action will cause the priinter to print a test pattern that is comparable with the above illustration. Some later printers print solid blocks of colour instead of the pattern of descending short lines. Check the pattern to see if the printer prints better than before the cleaning effort with the damp cloth. In most cases the result will be some of the pattern has been printed where none at all was printed before the cleaning effort. If some of the pattern was printed, use either the on-printer method to start the self cleaning process or call it up from the utilities section in the printer dialog box on the computer. Repeat the clean and nozzle check cycles until a satisfactory test pattern has been printed.

If doing what I have suggested does not get your printer going again you have lost nothing but your time and effort. However, it is very much worth a try because it may save your printer from being a write-off.

If you get your Epson printer going again, always print something in colour every week. It does not need to be very big. A credit card size colour picture will do. This will keep the ink flowing and prevent the print head from drying out again.

The above cleaning method with a small piece of damp cloth was tried and tested first on an Epson 1520 and then on an Epson 640 on the 4th and 17th September 2002. The 640 printer had not printed anything for its owner for several months. Three clean and nozzle check cycles were carried out after using the damp cloth. Then the printer printed one of the sample pictures from the Epson CD perfectly.

Another Method (08/11/02)
Cabell Fearn informed me by email that thick pipe cleaners soaked in alcohol can be used. I have replied saying that I think that my cleaning mixture will be more effective than alcohol on its own. (The dyes in most inks are water based.)
Please remember that the suggestions on this page are only suggestions, not instructions. You may modify them and make use of them as you wish.

Never use solvents like acetone (Nail varnish remover) on Epson printers
Never use kitchen paper for cleaning. It can release loose fibres that can block printhead nozzles

Remember that the foregoing procedures are to try to rescue a printer that would be otherwise useless.

If you are willing to risk resetting the ink counter without replacing or cleaning the reservoir sponge, Get the SSC Utility for Epson printers at:
(I have been using an Epson Stykus Color 830 printer for more than a year after resettting the counter with no problems.)

A New Note 14/03/2008
This advice page seems to get plenty of readers from all around the world.
I never knew how much my advice has been followed until I started getting lots of nice emails about it.
Sometimes my advice does not work by itself so, having tried my method, an inventive person has found another solution.
I must point out here that pigment inks were not in use when I started this advice page
The mail I received today and part of my answer now follows:

From Tom Liggett
Thanks for your tips on cleaning the Epson Inkjet print heads.

To start with, I have met with success. However, I used your 2 methods of cleaning and neither solved the issue. Black was my
biggest problem in that it had so many blocked passages that my printed text output was awful. And this printer has not been sitting
idle. We use it every day. Incidentally, an explanation on how to get your cleaning solution into an Epson cartridge would be greatly
appreciated. I struggled with that - a lot. I used an oral syringe and a needle syringe and had great difficulty.

This is what I did. I removed my 4 ink cartridges, (I'm working on a CX-3800 AIO) Then using an Oral Syringe, I loaded it with a
small amount of your cleaning solution, and pressing the barrel of the syringe tightly over the nipple of the black feed, squeezed in
about 3 to 4 ml of the solution. The size of the barrel on the syringe and the size of the ink nipple were right for each other so no
modification was needed. Then I reloaded my cartridges and started printing black text. Of course it started out printing almost
nothing, but after the 3rd or 4th page it was printing great.

My answer to Tom Liggett
The description you give tends to indicate that the printer you have uses pigment (permanent) ink. I have found that printers with pigment
ink frequently block up and are often rendered unusable when the cleaning program fails to clear the blockage. (My cleaning methods don't
work well with pigment ink.)

It is possible to get cheap compatible cartridges that use dye ink that can usually be removed from blocked up print nozzles by my methods. I
have found these (Chinese) compatible cartridges to be as good as Epson's (if not better) in all the Epson printers I have used.

Most printing is done with subjects that have a short life so permanence is not a critical matter. Dye ink only fades in very bright light. For
photos, and some other items, most are put in albums or envelopes and kept in the dark where they won't fade. The few photos that people want
to hang on walls in frames will not fade noticeably over many years in ordinary room lighting. For the rare photos that you might want to be
permanent, the answer is to get Cibachrome print copies made. In any case, careful backup storage of the original hard disk files will enable
any photos that have faded to be replaced.

The critical factor with Epson printers is using the cartridge cleaning program excessively. This has two disadvantages. In the short term you
waste ink which effectively makes the cartridge cost higher. In the long term this fills up the waste ink reservoir sooner than might otherwise
be the case. It is possible to reset the counter that monitors the amount of ink that has gone into the waste in reservoir but I don't
advise it. If the reservoir were to overflow you would have one of the worst cleanup jobs imaginable. It is generally uneconomic to pay for the
printer to be overhauled and a new waste ink reservoir fitted. This is because you can get a new Epson printer for around £40.00. It may not be
a top of the range model but it will print better than any other make of printer. The Epson ink supply system is far more precise than any that
use steam to push the ink out of the jet nozzles.

More advice that was not in my answer to Tom Leggett
In general, I advise people NEVER to buy a combined printer and scanner. Most people don't need to use a scanner much these days because
digital photography works directly from a computer. The scanner's job can often be replaced by taking a photo of an existing print with a modern
digital camera. The only major difference between models of basic Epson printers is the speed. All photo printers can print pale yellow on white
paper so finely that the result is almost indistinguishable from the yellow paper of a Post-It note.

There is now a continuous ink system that constantly refills individual colour cartridges from fairly large tanks of dye inks. This is designed to work
with the newer printers that have separate colour cartridges and not with printers that have three or five colour combined cartridges as fitted most
of the earlier Epson printers. The continuous system is great for those who do a very large amount of colour printing.

If you have an Epson that is working well with Chinese compatible cartridges, always replace the appropriate cartridge as soon as you see the ink
low sign. If you persist in printing until the in runs out altogether, the ink you have saved will be more than lost in repeated cleaning cycles with a new
cartridge as you try to clear the air lock. Never try too many (more than 4) clean and nozzle check cycles in quick succession. A bad nozzle check
printout often clears if the printer is left overnight before doing another nozzle check.

Note: What we call Car Boot Sales in Britain are called Flea Markets elswhere.

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