Reviving/unclogging an Epson printer

Started Aug 16, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Michael Thomas Mitchell
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Reviving/unclogging an Epson printer
Aug 16, 2012

We have a great thrift store close by, and they regularly have a lot of printers coming in. On any given day, you can find a couple of Epsons which, with a coupon, cost about five bucks. Over the past year, I've picked up five or six, found them clogged, and then put them away and forgotten, not wanting to throw it away but unable to use it.

My wife's Workforce office printer recently clogged up from non-use, and repeated head cleanings did nothing. So I decided to finally look into what it would take to get these things going. I reviewed many methods. One seemed pretty credible, and involved injecting a cleaning solution through the nozzle ports and letting it pass through to the bottom of the print head onto a cloth or paper towel. I never could get a consistent preference on what to use, though. One person would say alcohol while another would scream no. One would say Windex while another said stay away.

Finally, however, I just looked around on ebay. Saw lots of promises. Just in case it was snake oil, I settled on something in the middle, an amber solution called Clogbuster. It came with a syringe, about two inches of clear tubing, and a couple of bottles (8 oz total) of cleaner.

I tried it first with just one printer. It formerly had a pigment-based continuous flow ink system installed and had clogged a couple of years ago. I first ran a "flush", in which I injected the solution into the ports and let it drain onto a paper towel. Immediately, the towel turned black. Wow! So I ran two more flushes, each without 6ml of cleaning fluid. Each time, the power towels looked better, though still bad. Who would have thought there was so much ink there? The fourth time I just let sit overnight. The next morning, it was black, too. But another quick flush and I felt it was lots better. Popped the carts in, ran one head cleaning to prime them, and then made a 4x6 test print.

In a nutshell, it worked. The print was beautiful. A few stray areas told me that ink had not completely primed through, so I ran one more head cleaning and the test print became PERFECT.

Thrilled, I set out doing 4 more printers that day alone. Each them were completely unable to provide a useable print prior to cleaning, and in some cases didn't put any ink at all onto the paper. (i figured that's why they were taken to the thrift store.) All were cleaned about the same way, and showed the same characteristics. And afterwards, all worked superbly.

I honestly have no use for all these printers, but a couple of them will indeed see service in the field with my business. And my wife will have a second dedicated BW printer. I thought to write this today, though, because I just set out to restore the last one, a vintage Epson 1200 in immaculate condition. Probably just sat in someone's home for 10 years unused. I don't see why it cannot be restored. I lost one of these to a pigment system ten years ago, and feel guilty that I tossed it when it probably could have been revived using this method. In fact, I tossed several Epsons over the years that probably didn't have to be.

And that's why I'm sharing this now. These things CAN be restored, but I have joined those who believe that repeated driver head cleanings will ultimately only make matters worse.

NOTE: Working on the 1200 today, I realized that it was probably unnecessary to perform the initial flushes using the more expensive cleaner. But I also read not to use water, alcohol or generic cleaners. So, I used instead the clear base stock from MIS intended for diluting inks into shades. It did VERY well. Flushed just as well as the Clogbuster. The difference, though, is that it costs a whole lot less. After three flushes, I used the cleaner, and that's what it is sitting in now. We'll find out tomorrow!

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