How to automatically clean an HP printhead

The easiest way to resolve your print quality issue is by running a cleaning on your printer.  The cleaning function is included in the software of every HP printer model and is usually found under the “printer maintenance” section of your printer’s display menu.  Consult your printer manual for specific instructions for you machine.

Printhead cleanings can take about 1 or 2 minutes and they do use some ink to run through the cleaning process. Once complete, print out a test page to compare print quality.  If the print results look good, you can continue printing.  If the colors are not up to par, you may have to run the printhead cleaning function 2-4 more times before print quality is reestablished.  If you still aren’t getting quality prints after a few cleanings, move on to our manual cleaning instructions.  You don’t want to run the cleaning function too often because it will deplete the ink in your cartridges.

How to manually clean an HP printhead
How to manually clean a cartridge with an integrated printhead

If your printer uses cartridges with an integrated printhead, you can try the “paper towel method” to resolve your print quality issue.

Required supplies: A warm, damp paper towel and a dry paper towel

Take a warm damp paper towel or coffee filter and blot the cartridge with the printhead facing down onto the paper towel.  This will remove any dried ink on the printhead.
Then, hold the cartridge with the printhead facing down against a dry paper towel for 2-3 minutes. A dry paper towel will wick the ink out. Do not wipe the print head as this may cause damage.
Reinstall the cartridge and try printing again.  If you are still getting poor print results at this point, you may need to replace your printer cartridge.
How to manually clean a printhead that is built in to your printer

Manually cleaning a printhead that is built in to your printer takes a little more work.  The steps below are for HP printers that have a removable printhead, like the HP OfficeJet 8710.

Required supplies: a plastic container, a couple of dry paper towels, a lint-free cloth and filtered or distilled hot water.

Fold the dry paper towel into quarters and place it in the plastic container
Pour about two inches of hot water on top of the paper towel so that it is completely submerged
Open up the printer and remove all of the ink cartridges from the machine
Set the cartridges aside on a separate paper towel while you continue the printhead cleaning process. Make sure the cartridges are facing up on the paper towel.
Lift up on the gray latch behind the cartridge carriage that holds the cartridges. This will release the printhead from the printer.
Pull the printhead up and out to remove it from the machine.
Dampen the lint-free cloth with hot water.
Gently wipe away an excess ink on the printhead nozzle.
Place the printhead in the container with the submerged paper towels. The nozzle should be facing down. Be careful not to touch the nozzle as it can be damaged easily.
Let the printhead soak for about ten minutes.  Then remove it from the container and set it on a dry paper towel to dry for fifteen minutes.  The nozzle should be facing up.
Reinstall the printhead back into the printer.  Don’t forget to secure the latch!  Then reinstall the cartridges and run the cleaning function on the machine again.