How to Clean HP Printer Heads
Over time, your HP inkjet printer's print head can become clogged, causing printing issues such as faded text or missing lines. Therefore, HP printer heads cleaning is crucial for optimal print quality. In this blog, we'll take a deep dive into the world of HP printheads, and introduce you to two cleaning methods: automatic and manual.
Table of Contents

I. What is a Printhead?

The printhead is an important part of the printing process and is usually found in inkjet printers. It uses multiple printer nozzles to precisely deposit ink onto the paper, creating the text and images you see on the page. The structure and location of the printhead vary based on the design of your HP printer. HP printheads come in two types:

The first type is a printer head that is integrated with the ink cartridge. It is firmly attached to the cartridge and cannot be removed. This type of ink cartridge is called the integrated ink cartridge, such as HP 61, HP 65XL, HP 67XL, and so on. When you replace the integrated HP cartridge, you are also replacing the HP print heads, making it a simple solution to print quality issues.

The other type is the in-printer printhead, which is designed to be placed inside the printer. You can see it after removing all the ink cartridges. It's located behind the cartridges and has a printhead latch holding it in place. The cartridges it works with are called individual ink cartridges. E.g. HP 902XL, HP 952, HP 962XL. Due to the built-in printer head, each replacement of the ink cartridge does not replace the printhead but only replenishes the ink. This type of printer head only needs to be replaced after long-term use.

How to Clean HP Printer Heads

II. When Should I Clean Printer Heads?

Timely HP print head cleaning helps maintain print quality. Here are some signs that your printer heads need cleaning:

      • Faded Prints: If your print looks faded, it means your print head may be dirty or clogged.
      • Streaks or Lines: Stripes or lines on printed pages, whether horizontal or vertical, are signs of print head issues.
      • Missing Text or Graphics: If your printing has gaps or missinglines, text, etc., your printheads may be hindered and unable to dispense ink correctly.
      • Uneven Ink Distribution: Inconsistent ink distribution can lead to uneven color or text, implying that there may be a problem with your printerhead.


Once you know when to clean printhead, it's time to take action. So how to clean HP printer heads? There are generally two ways to clean your HP print heads - automatic cleaning and manual cleaning.

III. Automatic HP Printhead Cleaning

Nowadays, most HP printers come with automatic cleaning programs. Performing this simple operation will help prevent clogs and ensure smooth ink flow. Our blog How to Automatically Clean HP Printer Cartridge provides several detailed methods for automatic cleaning.

1. Access the HP Printer Software on Your Computer:

For Windows Computer: Open “Control Panel” and navigate to “Devices and Printers”. Find your HP printer, right-click, and select “Printing Preferences”. Then choose “Service” to reach the automatic cleaning option.

For macOS Computer: Go to “System Preferences” and choose “Printers & Scanners”. Select your HP printer and click on "Options & Supplies". Select “Utility ”, and then choose “Open Printer Utility” to reach the “Maintenance” tab.

2. Start Automatic Cleaning:

In the “Service” or “Maintenance” tab, you can find the automatic cleaning option. The exact display may vary depending on the printer model. Click on "Clean Printheads" or similar options, and then follow the instructions on the screen.

3. Confirm Cleaning and Test Printing:

Your printer will perform a series of automatic steps to clean the print head. This will last for a few minutes. After completing automatic cleaning, try a test print to check if the print quality has improved. If the test results are unacceptable, repeat the above process.

IV. Manual Cleaning of HP Printer Heads

When automatic cleaning fails to achieve satisfactory results, manual cleaning is required. Let’s divide it into integrated ink cartridge printhead cleaning and individual ink cartridge printhead cleaning. Here is how to clean HP printheads manually :

1. Cleaning the Printhead Integrated with the Ink Cartridge

The print head of the integrated ink cartridge is closely connected to the cartridge itself. So when we clean the printer head, we are cleaning the ink cartridge.

You'll Need:

A pair of gloves, a container, wet paper towels, dry paper towels, and distilled warm water.

Step 1: Put on gloves, open the printer cover, and remove the clogged ink cartridge. Note: Make sure your printer is now turned off.

Step 2: Gently slide the cartridge over a warm damp paper towel a few times until you see an even color. This can help clear clogged ink.

Step 3: Pour distilled warm water into the container. Make sure there is enough water to cover the printer head, but not too much. Place the print head side of the cartridge into the container and let sit for 20 seconds.

Step 4: Take out the ink cartridge and wipe it on a dry paper towel several times until the color is clear.

Step 5: Reinstall the ink cartridges and close the printer cover. Do a test print to see if print quality has improved.

Need more details? Check out the video below. It's a slightly different solution than what we offer.

2. Cleaning the Printhead Inside the HP Printer

The method for cleaning this type of printer head is similar to the above. Since the individual ink cartridges are separated from the print head, we only need to clean the latter. Examples include the HP 8600 printhead, HP 8610 printhead, and HP 8620 printhead.

You'll Need: 

A pair of gloves, a container, paper towels, distilled warm water, and lint-free cloth.

Step 1: Fold 3 to 4 paper towels in half and put them in the container. Pour in water until paper towels are completely covered.

Step 2: Make sure the HP printer is now powered off. Put on gloves and open the printer door. Remove all ink cartridges by pressing the tabs on the front. Place it all upside down on a dry paper towel. 

Step 3: Lift the print head latch and remove the printer head.

Step 4: Lightly dampen a lint-free cloth with a little distilled water. Then wipe away the dried ink from the print head. 

Step 5: Completely soak the nozzle side of the printhead in the prepared container and wait 10 minutes.

Step 6: Remove the printhead from the container. Place it on a paper towel with the printer head nozzle facing up, and wait for 15 minutes.

Step 7: After the printer head is dry, reinstall it into the printer. Then lower the latch and install the cartridge back in place.

Step 8: Close the printer cover and proceed to automatic cleaning (mentioned earlier). Finally, print a test page to check the printing results.

Watch the official HP video below to know more.

V. How to Prevent HP Printhead Error

Preventing printhead clogs is essential for ensuring the longevity and performance of your HP printer. Here are some tips to prevent clogs:

1. Regular Printing

Use your HP printer regularly to keep the ink flowing smoothly and prevent drying out. See the blog How to Keep Printer Ink from Drying Out for tips and tricks.

2. Use Quality HP Cartridges

Whether OEM or compatible, always use high-quality HP ink cartridges designed for your specific printer model.

3. Keep Your Printer Clean

Maintaining a clean printing environment reduces the risk of dust and debris getting into your printer and causing clogs. For example, a clean external environment, regular automatic cleaning, etc.

After following the above methods, you should be able to return to normal printing. If none of these work, buying new print ink cartridges is a good option. True Image has a wide range of affordable compatible ink cartridges available - delivering the same print quality as the original while giving you a bargain price.

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