Printing has enabled billions of people across the world to physically produce documents and pictures in the comfort of their own homes. This technology has become steadily more available and affordable in the recent few decades, but one price just never seems to drop quite far enough, that of printer cartridges.
Since replacing cartridges carries a significant cost, it makes sense to want the most possible value out of them. That concern is undermined, however, when a cartridge clogs up and refuses to work, and with a good two-thirds of the printer ink left. Inkjet cartridges are manufactured extremely precisely and require regular use or maintenance in order to live a full service lifetime.
In the case of colour printing, roughly one or more full-colour pages should be printed within any seven-day period, in order to prevent the nozzles of one or more colours from drying up.
The first sign that your cartridge has clogged or has dried nozzles is the appearance of straight white lines over the whole page. These can be either faint or definite and can run vertically or horizontally depending on your printer. The cause of these types of lines is a few nozzles being blocked in a specific area on the printhead. Being blocked, these nozzles do not deliver printer ink to the page and leave consistent ghostly lines where the printer ink cannot cover the page properly.
Another striking signal that the nozzles are becoming blocked is drastic swings in the colour of your prints. If a cartridge of a certain colour becomes clogged, the print result will lack that colour completely, and appear very different from what you expected. One common response to this is to blame the printer ink formulation and colour, but a simple clean is usually enough to correct the issue.
If you see either of these symptoms, your cartridges probably need a clean. Cleaning printer cartridges is a delicate task, and it’s recommended that you follow the instructions of the manufacturer when doing any maintenance on your printer.
There are some steps you can take to avoid having to rescue a dried cartridge. One is to swirl or gently shake cartridges regularly, say, once every few weeks, depending on the workload. This serves to keep the printer ink mixed properly and prevent any settling within the cartridge. Pigment ink formulations are more prone to these effects, though settling is not often a cause of problems.
Regular printing and/or maintenance is the best way to keep an ink printer working smoothly. Regular operation of the nozzles keeps the printer ink fresh, so if you do not print anything using one or another colour for a while, give the automatic cleaning cycle a spin.
Another option is to sidestep the problem entirely and opt for a laser printer instead. If your prints are mostly paperwork in grayscale, or very far between, then toner is the most cost-effective option for you. Toner is already dry in its cartridge and can sit for a very long time without encountering problems when it is called upon once more.