Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Inexpensive printers are great, but when it comes time to repair, your choices are somewhat limited.

I haven't used my nice little Canon BJC 2100 printer for more than a year so it won't print now. I've pressed all the cleaning & nozzle cleaning buttons, printed test pages all to no avail. The ink pad on the cartridge is still wet with ink so it must be the print head that's dried out. Canon tried to help but suggested a new print head but at a price that would buy me 2 new printers! I'd like to use that printer again so is there any way to refurbish & clean that print head?

I'll throw this one to my readers, buy my off-the-cuff answer is no.

I mean, yes - but no.

Let me explain...

Of course I'm sure that there's a way to refurbish the print head. The problem is the cost. As with replacement, getting something refurbished is going to cost you and probably cost more than the value of the printer.

In insurance terms, your printer's been "totaled". The cost to repair exceeds the cost to replace.

It's a frustrating side effect of inexpensive electronics. I mean, it's great that there are very good quality printers and other electronics as exceptionally reasonable prices, but that means that when they break or wear out they're effectively disposable.

It doesn't take a lot of parts and labor to quickly cost more than the original $120.00 purchase price of an inexpensive printer. Not to mention the value of your own time and hassle arranging for repair/refurbishing.

"In insurance terms, your printer's been 'totaled'."

The net result is kind of frightening. Without getting into a lot of the social/political ramifications, all those disposable electronics end up somewhere. Landfills, or perhaps recycling facilities often of questionable impact themselves.

It seems like there would be a big market for inexpensive ways to extend the life of inexpensive electronics. Of course, if it's not inexpensive, then it's not going to happen.

Personally, I would expect that there might be "do it yourself" print head cleaning kits, though I I've not had any experience with them myself. This is where I'll ask readers: any thoughts?

Article C3100 - July 29, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Neil Hardy
July 29, 2007 2:24 PM

After leaving my one year old Canon printer for a few weeks unused, the print nozzles blocked.

I successfully cleaned the printhead using car washer bottle antifreeze. I had read that isopropanol is recommended but as it was not easy to get any, I used this material instead as it contains compounds which have similar chemical properties to isopropanol.

I put the head to soak in the liquid for about an hour and ran it with the ink cartridge, but the print quality was patchy. I repeated the soaking then printing procedure twice more to get back the print quality.

My printer went on to give me another two years of faithful service, with the nozzles never blocking. However the drive mechanism failed and I had to junk it.

Jay Brooks
July 29, 2007 2:32 PM

If you want a printer that will last. Chose a printer with a printhead on the ink. HP Printers all have a print head on the ink cartridge. Epson Cannon printers that I owned all eventually get clogged up. You can clean them but you can never get them perfect. Alcohol doesn't really help. You usually end up with partial opened ports that you will need to clean almost every time you need to print.

Another thing you can do is get a LED printer or a Laser printer.

July 29, 2007 2:49 PM

I agree Leo, I have not bothered to have a printer refurbished since the one I had hooked to my Commodore 64. I have pretty much switched over to ink jet and laser jet. The last ink jet I tossed was a Lexmark Z52. I worked fine and there was not a thing wrong with it.

Why pitch it?

It needed a new ink cartridge and I could buy a brand new printer with better resolution for 20 bucks less than the cartridge. (I could not even give the old printer away.)

DG Cox
July 29, 2007 3:07 PM

I agree with everybody above, but basically, I wouldn't, knowing what I know now, ever buy another inkjet printer. We've all been told the hardware is a honeytrap to lure us into buying expensive new ink refills, and its true. But I do use one when I want to print borderless photos and labels on CD's & DVD's.

When I had to refurbish an Epson printer a few years ago I tried to go to the local service company, but I was told all they would do would be to run the nozzle-cleaning utility about 30 times & charge me for the time & the ink. So I took an old dry ink cartridge & a refill needle and filled it with methylated spirits, and ran the utility myself. This actually worked, but please don't do it unless you're prepared to take the risk with your own printer, I'm sure its not a recommended procedure.

It's probably best to find an electronics recycling facility near you and dispose of the old machine responsibly and get a decent laser printer. The colour ones are coming down in price & if you go monochrome you can get one that faxes, copies & scans as well, with cheap consumables.

July 30, 2007 7:22 AM

"Honeytrap to lure us into buying expensive new ink refills" is certainly true in many cases.

I'm sure we've all seen "free after rebate" ads for such printers. I can tell you that, from what I've seen, they're not worth the price. :-)

We actually had one cost us "negative money" a few years ago. The cost of buying the computer we wanted plus the printer was actually less than buying the same computer without the printer. Yes, they paid us to take the printer home! It worked well enough for a couple of months, but then the print heads clogged. (Sound familiar?) After numerous tests, cleaning runs, and so on, using more dollars in ink than we saved by buying it in the first place, we discovered that this model was prone to this behavior. The internet concensus was "it's a piece of junk". The only redeeming feature was that it was an all-in-one, and our kids now have a flatbed scanner for their computer.

Inkjet printers are fine, but avoid the cheap ones. We're on only our second inkjet printer in over 10 years. (Not counting the above-mentioned junker.) Get a "real" printer and save money and headaches in the long run.

July 30, 2007 7:30 AM

As a quick followup...

The first inkjet printer we had for the office, which we got 10 years ago, only recently died. When we replaced it, we gave it to our son, who used it (admitedly very lightly) for a few more years. In case you're wondering, that was an HP DeskJet 672C.

Unfortunately, most people seem to buy based on initial purchase price, and I doubt that any of the majority of the printers you find at your home/office supply store nowadays would last anywhere near as long.

Dennis Anthony
July 30, 2007 7:44 AM

Thanks Leo for the response but I actually found a pretty good web page on print head cleaning thru!! Have a look on

Carl Johnson
August 3, 2007 6:45 PM

First, hold a wet paper towel on the cartridge nozzles for a couple of minutes. Wipe dry and use.
If that does not unclog, then drop the cartridge in a bowl of water and leave for 5 minutes. Wipe dry and use.

August 4, 2007 6:17 AM

Many inks for inkjets use a solvent called iso-propyl alcohol. It can be used in small quantities in the home, but with care- definitely NOT for internal use. having said that, let's get down to the important message. If there is a chemical supply shop nearby, you could buy a litre cheaply- otherwise a local pharmacist will charge for say 400 ccs. That should last quite a while.
I had an old Olivetti inkjet printer that I refurbished and cleaned up for several years. When it gummed up, I would soak the cartridge in the iso-propyl alcohol, and was able to release the dried-up ink on many occasions. I could also take a swab, holding cotton wool- tightly wound on the ends of tweezers- soaked in this alcohol and cleaned up the insides of the printer. I have never had a Canon, so cannot comment on your particular printer.

Ken Crook
August 4, 2007 8:39 PM

Iso-propyl alcohol can be found for a dollar at your local Dollar Tree Store.

August 5, 2007 1:30 AM

Hi Leo,
I had one time experence like that with my HP jet printer. Maybe the reason is dryness of the printing hole.

Put the print head bottom into warm water for 0.5-1 hour, then try to print again.


John E
August 6, 2007 4:18 AM

It's a shame that so many printers are destined for landfill because minor faults are 'uneconomic' to repair, although the new European legislation that forces manufacturers to take back old electronic equipment for disposal at their cost, plus the rising charges for landfill dumping, may persuade manufacturers to make their kit more repairable.
If you're thinking of buying a colour laser printer, check out the cost of new toner and other parts first as they can make inkjet cartridges seem really cheap in comparison - a full set of 4 toner cartridges for our office HP A3 colour laser costs around 700 ($1400)!!!!

DG Cox
August 6, 2007 2:25 PM

Just a follow-up to John's comment. Yes, the upfront costs of colour laserjet consumables can make your eyes bleed, but you need to look at the duty cycle of the refills and try to work out the cost per copy of the competing equipment. When you break it down, make sure you include the cost of a new drum every once in a while, which lasers have but inkjets don't. Still, the cost per copy of lasers is almost guaranteed to be cheaper than inkjet. Also I have a good toner refilling company which refills my toner cartridges at a huge discount over new ones & the quality is "as new". They even do it as an exchange, I take in the old cart & trade it for a remanufactured one. Cost effective *and* eco-ethical: win-win!

October 27, 2009 3:45 PM

I just picked up an Hp 2300 business jet and the print heads were pretty bad. I have heard of the wet paper towel but that did not work. I even tried the water in a cup and let it soak. That sorta worked. But what really did the trick was taking a cup of really hot almost boiling water and letting the heads soak for a minute or two. Now my printer works just like new.

November 23, 2009 2:28 AM

my HP psc2210all-in-one wouldnt print after not using it for 6-8mths so I dropped the head of the cartridge in very hot water for 1min & it works like a dream..It must be the hole gets blocked with dry ink...11.20am..23/11/09

February 1, 2010 7:02 PM

is it possible to refurbish a drum kit for a canon mfc8180c and how do you do this

October 26, 2010 10:08 AM

Regarding bjc2100 series printhead; as with most printheads and cartridges, I have had considerable success with imersing the INK HEAD ONLY in warm/hot distilled water...This has wrked for me many times.

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