Canon MX922 Printhead Cleaning

I’ve been using (and selling) Canon MX922 inkjet multifunction printers for a long time and very much like them.  They do pretty much everything, and I’ve seen them on sale for $50 and are readily available (for now) for $99.  If you use them with non-OEM ink, you can get your cost per page down to pretty much the cost of the paper.

I don’t know if non-OEM ink can cause problems, but I use it exclusively with good results.  You may have trouble with colors being a bit off when printing on photo paper.  You also may end up with a clogged printhead, which is what this post is about.  I don’t know if I would have had the same trouble if I used Canon ink, but from what I read online, you will end up with a clogged printhead eventually no matter what ink you use.

This post really needs some pictures but I’m not that motivated right now.  Maybe someday…

The Symptoms

Your printhead is clogged if there are problems visible on a nozzle check print, and running the printhead cleaning and deep cleaning routines don’t solve the problem, or only solve it for a short time.

What To Do

When this happens you can buy a new printer, they’re cheap after all, or you can buy a new printhead, which will cost as much or more than a new printer.  Or you can try to clean the printhead.  It’s messy and takes a while, and you risk damaging the printer, but the printer is close to worthless at this point anyhow.

Get Some Supplies

Go to the drug store and get a bottle of ammonia, a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, and a bottle of distilled water.  Put on some old clothes, and find a sink you can get dirty.  You’ll also need a flat-bottomed bowl to work with.

Take Out the Printhead

I read lots of different advice about this.  I’ll describe what I did, which worked.  There are no doubt other ways.

  1. Open the printer and the ink door as if you were going to change an ink cartridge.  Then unplug the printer.  It will complain about this when you turn it back on, but it will get over it.
  2. Take out all the ink cartridges.  I put them in a pile and wrapped them with aluminum foil so they wouldn’t dry out.  You probably don’t have to.
  3. Make sure the printhead carriage is lined up with the opening.  The left edge of the carriage should line up with the left edge of the opening.  Move the carriage by hand if necessary.
  4. Open the lower door and make sure it is all the way down (it will click).
  5. Pull on the printhead latch, which is the horizontal plastic bar with all the ink colors on it.  Use a finger in each corner of the bar.  You have to pull pretty hard.  The latch bar should line up with the edge of the opening when it is all the way out.
  6. Remove the printhead.  This is tricky, but easy once you know how.  First, recognize what part is the printhead.  It has the ink ports on it (where the ink cartridges go), and a vertical divider in the middle.  Use two fingers to grab it by that center divider.  Pull it out, but realize that it rotates as it comes out; the top comes out before the bottom, and it will be rotated 90 degrees (with the back side with the electrical contacts facing up) when it comes out.
Clean the Printhead

It’s OK to get it wet.  Fill the bowl with warm tap water and add a little alcohol and ammonia.  Dunk the printhead and swish it around.  Leave it to soak for a while.

Repeat this process until you don’t see even a trace of color in the water after a good soak.  It will take five or ten times.  In between soakings, run the printhead under the tap until the water runs clear.  Be especially careful to clean the little screens in the ink intake ports.  They seem to collect ink-colored gunk, and I think that gunk is the problem you’re trying to solve.

When you’re done the screens should be screen-colored, without gunk or ink residue.  Rinse the printhead one more time, this time using distilled water and a good amount of alcohol but no ammonia.

Dry the printhead on paper towels.  If you’re in a hurry put it in the oven with it set to 120 degrees F for a half hour, or dry gently with a hair dryer.  If you’re not in a hurry let it air-dry for a day.  When you’re done you should be confident the printhead is dry inside and out.

Reinstall the Printhead

Put the printhead back in the same way you took it out.  Start with the contacts up and the ink intake ports down, with the bottom of the printhead going in first.  If you do it that way it will just drop in.  Close the latch to secure the printhead.

Get Ready To Print

Put the ink cartridges back in (in the right slots!)  I would replace any that don’t have a decent amount of liquid ink in them.  Close up the printer (don’t forget that bottom cover) and plug it back in.

Turn it on.  It will complain about being unplugged, which is OK.  Run a deep cleaning on all colors, then run a nozzle check.

If everything went well, the nozzle check will be perfect.  If not, run some more cleanings.

If this procedure doesn’t fix your printer, well, you’re no worse off than when you started.  Be sure to troubleshoot any error codes before giving up; you might have the cartridge in wrong or something else might be wrong that’s fixable.

With a bit of luck, the printer should be good for another couple of trouble-free years.

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