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2,862 Tutorials

How to troubleshoot printer problems

Overcome printer nightmares

You probably get frustrated when your document fails to print. We've identified the five worst printer problems and show you how to solve them, as well as ensuring they don't occur again.

Spilled ink

It's unusual for ink to spill from a cartridge unless the cartridge has been punctured, cracked, squeezed, or crushed. A refilled cartridge may be more susceptible to leaking or spilling; handle it carefully.

Online advice about cleaning up printer ink spills recommends using substances ranging from rubbing alcohol and WD40 to hairspray and bleach. The effectiveness of these nostrums will depend on where the ink landed, as well as on the ink's chemical content.

A common-sense approach would be to handle spills quickly yet cautiously, starting with basic cleaning procedures and escalating as necessity dictates. Before applying any cleaning substance over a large area, test it to ensure that it doesn't cause damage of its own.

First step in all cases
Blot spilled ink with an absorbent cloth or paper towel.

Ink on skin
Use soap and water to clean further. If ink remains (and it probably will) try scrubbing. Use additional solutions on your skin cautiously - and at your own discretion.

Ink on fabric or carpet
With soap and water, brush the stain using an upward-inward motion - upward so as not to push the ink deeper into the fabric, and inward so as not to spread the stain across a wider area. Use additional cleaning solutions with caution.

Ink on hard surfaces
If a stain remains after blotting, try another method or cleaner that is appropriate to the particular surface.

Ink in the printer
This is a messy job, and the outcome of your efforts is uncertain.

First, turn off the printer, if you can. If the printer offers access the cartridges only when it is on, keep it on for now. Check the ink cartridges. If the offending ink cartridge is still in the printer, you must decide whether the spill is likely to be worse if you leave the cartridge where it is or if you remove it. Do whatever you can to minimise further spillage while you clean.

Turn off the printer now if you haven't already done so, access its interior, and find and remove as much spillage as you can through blotting. Then use rubbing alcohol and dust-free cloths to clean further, taking care not to get anything stuck in the printer.

Run a test page and check for evidence of leftover ink, such as splotches or continuous streaks on the page. Observe the printer as it operates to ensure that it is acting normally again.

If you're lucky, everything will be fine after you run pages through the printer so the spilled ink can print itself out. If you're unlucky, ink that you couldn't remove will lead to further damage.

How do I avoid this next time?
Handle ink cartridges carefully, especially if they're refills, and especially during insertion and removal. If you're spill-prone, use newspaper or paper towels to protect the surrounding area.

NEXT PAGE: Power loss in the middle of a print job

  1. We show you how to ensure they don't happen again
  2. Stuck in the print queue
  3. Spilled ink
  4. Power loss in the middle of a print job

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