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 $49 (a couple of years ago).   If you use them with non-OEM ink, you can get your cost per page down to pretty much the cost of the paper.

Unfortunately the MX922 has been discontinued.  I’ve done a lot of searching and haven’t found a reasonable replacement. at any price, from any manufacturer.  There are new and used ones for sale on eBay and other places, but you’re likely to pay over $300 for one (as of mid-2021).  It’s a measure of how good these printers are, and why it’s worth considerable effort and expense to keep them running.

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.

If you’re having double printing, see the end of this post.

What To Do

When this happens you can buy a new printer, they’re cheap after all (at least they used to be), or you can buy a new printhead, which used to cost as much or more than a new printer but now looks like a good deal if you can find one.  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.

Update:  as of July 2021, printheads are very cheap and very available on eBay.  It looks like somebody made a non-OEM version, and they are closing them out for around $25 or $30.  I would recommend buying a couple if you want to keep your printer working for a long time.  It also changes the economics of cleaning them — you have to ask whether it’s worth $30 to have to go through the trouble of cleaning the old one.

I got my cheap printheads from China, installed one, and it works! The nozzle check pattern isn’t quite perfect (faint unevenness in the small-ink-tank black), but for normal use it prints just fine. I recommend these printheads!

Get Some Supplies

Go to the drug store and get a bottle of ammonia, a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, and a gallon 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.

What you need
Take Out the Printhead

I have 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 (or distilled water if your tap water is not good) and add a little alcohol and ammonia.  The proportions aren’t important, use a tablespoon or two of each to each cup of water.  Dunk the printhead and swish it around.  Leave it to soak for a while.  (Don’t put the printhead in the microwave.  That would destroy it.)

The first soaking gets a lot of ink out

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 likely to be the problem you’re trying to solve.

Between soakings, also blot the bottom of the printhead on folded paper towels.  If you see ink, you’re not done yet.

This one needs another soaking or two

If you have one, you can try using something like a Water Pik, with warm water.  Direct the stream into the screens not into the bottom of the printhead — you want the clog to come out the bottom, not get pushed back in.

When you’re done the screens should be screen-colored, without gunk or ink residue.  Dunk and swish the printhead one more time, this time using half distilled water and half 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 overnight.  When you’re done you should be confident the printhead is dry inside and out.  If you heated it, let it cool before reinstalling it.

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 once you get it aligned right.  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 while on, which is OK.  Run a deep cleaning, then run a nozzle check.

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

This is what it should look like

If this procedure doesn’t fix your printer, well, you’re no worse off than when you started.  Be sure to Google 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.

If You’re Getting Double Printing

I recently got a printer that had been sitting unused for a few years. I expected all sorts of trouble, but after replacing all five (dry) ink tanks, it started printing pretty well. However, some of the black print was strangely doubled horizontally.

Double printing

Look at the “PGBK” or the “Ver. 3.001” or the middle of the PGBK grid.

I don’t have any idea what causes double printing. Since printing happens in two directions, it might be that the affected nozzles are firing a bit early or late. I was also thinking that the nozzles might be aimed wrong due to debris in them, but that wouldn’t change the print position with printhead direction. It’s a mystery.

I went through the process described in this post. The printhead did look like something was wrong with the middle part of the PGBK ink nozzles. Cleaning cleared that up. But after cleaning, the problem was still there. I’ve ordered a new printhead and hopefully that will fix it. I’ll report on my success once I try the new printhead.

But, while it’s probably worth doing a good cleaning if you have double printing, don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t help.

22 thoughts on “Canon MX922 Printhead Cleaning

  1. The clearest explanation on the way to clean the printer’s head. I really appreciated the information Thank you very much, Paolo Tenti

  2. Thank you for posting this cleaning procedure. It saved me from having to buy another printer. I was only able to print black for months. I figured the printer was beyond repair. I even left empty CMY cartridges in it for months. I really didn’t think that cleaning the printer head would work at this point. But it did. Now it prints all the colors fine now.

  3. My printhead is soaking as we speak. Thank you so much for this clear explanation, particularly on how to remove the printhead on this model. They don’t make it easy. Fingers crossed it worked, but regardless this was an enjoyable read.

  4. Update: It worked!! You saved me from having to buy a new printer (and throw the old one out). I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. Seriously, the tone in this piece is fantastic, would read even if I didn’t have printer problems. Well done.

  5. Mine double prints, black text. It’s challenging to read. I’ve replaced ink, cleaned, deep cleaned. Will cleaning the print head fix this issue too? Seems to me an alignment issue, not a clog, but really.. I am clueless.

    1. It doesn’t sound like it is likely to be a printhead issue. Try printing a Nozzle Check page, scanning it, and posting it here. You can also try changing the paper type to Matte Photo, which will cause black to be printed using the small black cartridge instead of the big one.

  6. I’ve followed your method and still got the error message and no ability to print. I then improvised trying to blow air by mouth thru the interior pathways using clear 1/4″ and 3/8″ ID vinyl tubing – Nope. Using the tubing to clear all evidence of ink by sucking colored foam back thru the screens until clear foam only. Then let it soak over night. Still not getting forward air pressure thru. Unscrewed the electronic white bottom plate and gasket, soaked more… still no thru pressure relief.
    So off to the oven @170F for a couple of hours… After that I reassembled and reinstalled inmy MX922 and …

    still got error 1405!! Argh! so now onto buy a “correct print head” for what ? $50 to $100 🙁

    1. Sorry the cleaning process didn’t work for you. It only solves certain problems, and then not always. Used to be that the printhead was more expensive than the printer, but since the MX922 was discontinued they’ve gone up to $250 or so. So in my opinion it’s worth getting a new printhead (if you’re 100% sure that the printhead is what’s wrong). Otherwise just get a new printer — we’re all going to have to eventually.

    2. Please let me know where you can get a new printhead for under $200. I am also not able to print after cleaning. No error messages, just very bad quality.

      1. There are non-OEM printheads available right now on eBay very cheap (less than $50). I don’t know how good they are, though I will know soon as I bought a couple of them. Also they come from China so it takes a few weeks to get them.

        I suspect this is a closeout price and once they are gone there will be no more.

        Good luck!

  7. I have the very problem that you describe. Thank you for taking time to offer a solution.

    Would you please tell me what ratio of distilled water, isopropyl alcohol, and ammonia you blend together?

    Thanks again for offering this suggestion.

    1. After cleaning it, I was so hopeful, I put back the print head. It now makes a clicking sound when it is printing. Printing in grayscale is almost invisible and color printing is black and yellow only. I put in all new printer cartridges. I went from bad to very much worse.

      1. It sounds like the printhead is not installed correctly. Nothing about the cleaning process should result in a clicking noise. I’d take the printhead out, look at it for something that might cause the clicking noise, and put it back in carefully. If that doesn’t work I’m afraid you’re out of luck.

        There are new non-OEM printheads for sale on eBay for less than $50. However, replacing the printhead would be a gamble because it sounds like something else is wrong.

        1. I want to retract my comment. After cleaning my printhead I put in the cartridges that were refills from Costco. I had just gone into Costco in March before they removed their photo/ink services so I thought those cartridges would be fine, they always worked. The print was worse than ever. I did several of the print tests and utility cleanings and still nothing. Then I remembered I had a new package of ORIGINAL CANON ink. I put those in and YAY, it prints beautifully. It might have been the refills all along, but having a clean printhead cannot hurt. SO, with using the old refills, do you think after doing the 5 utility print tests, 5 utility cleanings: general and deep, I have gunked up my printhead, again? Thanks so much for your advice.

          1. If it’s working, don’t mess with success! If it starts printing badly, clean it again.

            I’m surprised that you had trouble with non-Canon ink. I use it exclusively and have had no trouble, though I’ve never used Costco. I get mine from Amazon, usually buying whatever’s cheapest; my recent ink purchases were from Inkjetcorner, EZink, and OfficeWorld. Throw out the Costco ink and buy some that has decent reviews from Amazon.

  8. How did the replacement print heads from ebay workout? I have print head error message but cleaning did not work so I may need to purchase a new one as I love my Canon mx922.

  9. Hello there. I am having a problem reinstalling the print head of my Canon MX926 printer. The print head appears to be jamming in the open position. Could you please give me some diagrams of how I fit the print head? Thanking you

    1. It’s very tricky to get the printhead in (or out). I just spent a half hour fussing with a printhead on a similar printer, but eventually got it in. Keep trying. It sometimes helps to approach it from a different angle — if you’re sitting down, try standing up, try when standing on the other side of the printer, turn the printer 90 degrees, etc. It also helps to look closely at the notches on the side of the printhead, and the grooves in the printhead carrier. There are big bumps on the sides of the printhead that must slide into grooves in the carrier. Make sure the printhead release bar stays pulled out; sometimes it will snap shut without you realizing it.

      If you get the printhead stuck, again be sure the release bar is pulled out, then just wiggle and pull. If that doesn’t work, pull harder. Things will flex but it’s hard to break anything.

      Good luck…

      -jimc

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