Printer Health

Published 14 May 2019

Surely everyone who has used a printer enough times knows that they have a tendency to conjure the most annoying problems at very inconvenient times. Perhaps a few maintenance tips can help to calm some of the hair-pulling frustration that comes along with these issues. So here are some things to keep in mind about your printer’s health:

Ink: For peace of mind, use genuine manufacturer-approved cartridges when replacing your printer ink. It might be tempting to save a few bucks here by buying “generics”, but you might find that they cause problems (eg. a loss in print quality or damage to your printer because of incompatibility).

Keep an eye on ink levels (usually indicated by your printer software or on the printer’s own interface). For some models the ink should not be allowed to reach absolute zero before replacing it, as printing with a dry ink cartridge can do damage to the printer head. Check your manual to confirm if this applies to yours. When replacing ink cartridges, make sure that you remove the seal covering the ink outlet, but do not touch the bottom of the cartridge, or you may hamper the flow of ink (thanks to oils and dirt from your skin).

Also, be gentle but firm when seating the cartridges into their carriage. If not seated properly, your printer can’t do its job… If you are too rough, you risk damaging your printer and giving yourself a headache.

Paper: Don’t fill up the paper tray to capacity as this may lead to paper jams or multiple pages being fed through the printer at once. Also consider the type of the paper and its condition. Trying to print on paper that is folded or torn can lead to jamming. Most household/office printers can only manage paper of a certain thickness and size. Trying to print onto thick card-paper higher than 200gsm is likely to cause issues. This all depends on the particular model though, so be sure to read the manual.

If you have a paper jam, please resist the urge to forcefully yank the offending page out. Consult your user manual for the correct way to remove stuck paper. Also make sure to inspect the machine closely to determine whether there are any remaining shreds of paper, and remove these carefully.

Drivers: Remember, your printer runs on software too and may need some updates here and there. If your printer doesn’t do this automatically, you can find these updates or patches on the manufacturer’s site. Sometimes simply doing this fixes a lot of issues!

General tips:

  • Make sure to clean the printing heads a few times a year to remove grime and dirt that may be causing streaks on your printed work. Often there is a way to commence this via the printer software, but sometimes this needs to be done manually with cotton buds and some water or isopropyl spirits. Again, consult the user manual about this. Giving your printer a bit of a spring clean once a year to remove dust is also a good idea.

  • It’s been reported that some inkjet printer models ink cartridges can dry out after extended periods of disuse. Keep that in mind and do a couple of “exercise” prints once in a while to prevent this from happening (Again, check your manual regarding this).

  • Every now and then, check your printer’s power and USB cables to make sure they are all securely connected. If your computer is having excessive problems recognising your printer, a damaged or faulty cable might be the issue.

  • If you know you and your colleagues won’t be using the printer for a while, turn it off. Some models generate a lot of heat when running continuously, and this will contribute to long-term wear and tear.

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