The printer head is the part of an inkjet printer that contains all the tiny nozzles that spray ink onto the paper. If the printer head gets very dirty or clogged, it will really foul up your print job --some colors might not print correctly, or things might print with weird lines, streaks or smears. Luckily, modern printers do a pretty good job of making sure you rarely, if ever, have to manually clean the printer head. Hewlett Packard printing technology specialist Thom Brown explains how printer heads keep themselves clean:
"Most modern printers are designed so that the inside of the printer will clean itself. Between print jobs the print carriage (that holds the print cartridges) docks itself in a special place away from the paper path. This docking process accomplishes two things: it protects the ink cartridges and printer heads from dust, debris and dry-out, extending the life of the cartridges?. It also serves as a cleaning station between print jobs."
Brown continues, "The print head servicing process is where a miniature 'wiper blade' wipes across the print head to remove any old or dead ink and prepare the print head for printing. By performing this servicing, your printer stays healthy and ready for optimal performance."
If you keep your printer in a dirty environment, such as an auto repair shop, the printer head will be exposed to additional dust and debris. You might want to consider keeping a plastic cover over the printer when it's not in use to guard against these extra contaminants.
If you find you need to clean your printer head despite the automatic cleaning procedures, there are a couple of ways to go about doing so. The driver software that came with your printer should have a cleaning or maintenance cycle that you can activate. See your printer's owner's manual for details. The manual should also offer some additional troubleshooting tips, and can help you find the printer head itself if you need to clean it manually. In general, use isopropyl alcohol and a lint free cloth or swab -- the alcohol evaporates quickly without leaving residue.
If the print nozzles are clogged, you might have a more involved cleaning procedure ahead of you.