How to Clean Printer Heads Using Household Products Canon, HP, Epson

Working as an Electrician in Information Technology I am often asked to fix printers that are blurry, blotchy, and have substandard printer results. Often it is the result of running out of ink and letting the print head dry out.

When a printer is left without ink the print heads will block. Sometimes a deep cleaning with new ink will fix the problem but if it doesn’t then a manual print head clean will be required.

In this post, I will show you how to make your own printer head cleaning solution. As well as how to manually clean and flush the printer head on all types of ink printers. This procedure will work for all brands of inkjet printers such as Canon, HP, and Epson.

Now you can buy the ready-made prink head cleaning kit or you can make your own using some household products such as Windex and Rubbing Alcohol. Also known as Isopropyl Alcohol.

DIY printhead cleaning solution

DIY print-head cleaning solution
DIY printhead cleaning solution

I like to make my own homemade print head cleaning solution out of 8-parts Windex to 2-parts rubbing alcohol. Windex is used for cleaning windows and rubbing alcohol is also known as Isopropyl Alcohol. These are items I have on hand to quickly and easily make up the solution when required.

Methylated spirits can also be substituted as it contains ethyl alcohol mixed with methanol.

They will store forever in a sealed bottle ready for the next time you need the household printhead cleaning solution.

How to clean printer heads on a Canon

Items Needed to clean printer heads.

  • Print head cleaning solution. Either store-bought or DIY print head ingredients. (8-parts Windex to 2-parts rubbing alcohol)
  • Empty Syringe.
  • Small flexible tubing 1/4 inch or to suit syringe nozzle.
  • Paper towel.
  • Glad wrap.
  • Extra paper and ink for deep cleaning and printer testing.

Start by turning on your Canon printer and removing all the ink cartridges. I like to wrap them in plastic Glad wrap to keep them from drying out or leaking.

Canon ink cartridges removed for cleaning
Remove the ink tanks before doing a print head clean.

Turn off the printer and remove the power plug for safety. You will now see the silver print head filters. These are what we will be cleaning as they can block up with dried ink.

Put some printer cleaning solution in a syringe and attach the small tubing to the end.

DIY print head solution 8-parts Windex to 2-parts rubbing alcohol)
DIY print head solution

Fold up the paper towel a few times and place it under the Canon printer head. You may need to slide the printer head from side to side to get the paper towel under the printer head. I had to experiment a little to get the correct width and height of the paper towel so that it fits under the printer head.

The paper towel is to catch the free-flowing dried ink from out of the print head filter once we start flushing. You can also use printer paper folded over a few times. But paper towel works the best.

Canon printer deep cleaning not working fix paper towel
A Paper towel was folded and placed under the print head to catch the cleaning solution and old ink.

I like to clean each Canon print head filter one at a time rather than only the one that has the blockage. Squeeze some cleaning solution onto the ink silver filter. The fluid may get sucked in straight away or it may bubble on the top.

What if cleaning the printhead doesn't work?
Canon Print head filters

If it does bubble on the top then you will have to wait 10 minutes to see if it will filter down and clear the build-up blockage. A tube that perfectly fits over the ink holes is preferred.

If it is flowing correctly you will start to see some colored ink collecting onto the paper towel underneath the print head. Change the paper towel under the print head once it begins to get full of old ink and cleaning solution.

After a few print head cleaning flushes, I like to leave the print head to dry out any remaining cleaning solution. One hour should be enough to completely drain any remaining solution.

clean printer head manually
What a mess this is why you need to use paper towel under the Canon print head.

Remove the paper towels and replace the printer ink back into the correct placeholders.

Do a deep head clean using the Canon software to flush out any remaining solution and fill the filters with new ink. This should now give you perfect printing results. My latest Canon TS8360 was not printing black properly as the kids had let the ink run out and dry. Using my DIY Rubbing Alcohol/Windex solution cleaning solution worked well.

Deep clean print head software

This is the only way to clean a stubborn printhead.

Check out this short video that shows how to clean a clogged print head on an Epson printer.

Canon printer deep cleaning not working fix

If you have done the Canon deep cleaning on your printer heads and you still have lines and smudges on your printer paper then a manual cleaning is required. You could also do a print head alignment just in case something moved.

What if cleaning the printhead doesn’t work?

If the print head cleaning does not work try replacing the ink. Sometimes ink tanks can become faulty.

If you have done the Canon deep cleaning on your printer heads and you still have lines, streaks, and smudges on your printer paper then a manual cleaning is required. You could also do a print head alignment just in case something moved.

Can you clean the printer head manually?

Yes, a manual print head clean is required if a software deep clean does not work. Remove the ink tanks and place a paper towel under the print head. Use a print head cleaning solution and a syringe to flush through the print head. Wait to fully dry and replace the ink.

Do a deep clean via software to remove any excess cleaning solution.

What is the easiest way to unclog an inkjet printhead?

What is the easiest way to unclog an inkjet printhead? Software

Try a software deep clean via the printer maintenance tab. If this doesn’t clean the print head satisfactorily then you will have to do a manual clean using some print head cleaning solution.

How can you tell if a printhead is clogged?

You can tell if a print head is clogged if you have any of the following print issues.

  • Smudges.
  • Lines in the print work.
  • Light or dark patches.
  • Bad quality prints.
  • Leaking of ink.
  • Printer faults.
  • Faint, streaky, or spotty prints.
  • No color or black even though a new ink cartridge is installed.

These are all signs that you have a clogged printhead.

How do you clean a stubborn printhead?

Blocked print head on a canon printer
What a mess multiple blocked print heads causing leakage and bad prints.

Sometimes warming up the cleaning solution to around 45 deg Celsius will aid in resolving the stubborn printhead clog.

I like to warm up the print head cleaning solution in a bowl of hot water. Once it is up to the temperature you can put it in the syringe and squeeze it into the print head ink intake. Remember to place a paper towel under the print head to capture the excess solution.

Do not warm it up in a microwave. Bad things could happen.

Can I use methylated spirits to clean printer heads?

Yes, I have used methylated spirits to clean printer heads in the past. It works well but be aware that as it is not as pure as Isopropyl Alcohol it can leave behind some fine residue that will need flushing before using the printer.

Once you have cleaned the print head with 8 parts methylated spirits and 2 parts Windex you will need to do a deep clean with the printer ink to flush out any impurities. This is done via printer software.


I have cleaned hundreds of printheads over the last few years and there has been a few stubborn printheads. The DIY 8-parts Windex to 2-parts rubbing alcohol is the best cleaning solution around.

ciss how to install
How to Install a CISS for your Printer

Sometimes bubbles can form in continuous ink supply systems which can cause issues such as blocked print heads. So make sure to get rid of any air bubbles in the tubes.

Don’t throw away your printer when it is not printing clearly just clean the print head.

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