How to save ink cartridge from clogging or drying up

Updated: 11/13/2018 by Computer Hope
Inkjet printer ink cartridges

The ink in a computer inkjet printer is often the most expensive part of the printer. Keeping the ink cartridges clean and preventing them from drying up helps save you a lot of money over the life of the printer. Below are the steps for keeping your ink cartridges from clogging or drying up.

Preventing the printer from clogging up

By far, the best way to keep the printer from clogging is printer's self-cleaning mechanism. Every inkjet printer has one; check your printer's manual for instructions about how to start the cleaning process. Usually, there is a dedicated button, or a function in the printer's display menu, that starts the cleaning. When you start the process, the printer heads mechanically clean themselves, and you'll hear the printer making noise. It usually takes no more than a few minutes.


Unless you print a lot of documents we suggest only using the printer self-cleaning when you are having problems. Using the self-cleaning with some printers can use some of your printers ink.

Preventing an inkjet printer ink from drying up

Below is a list of recommendations to help prevent an inkjet printer's ink from drying up.

  • Turn the printer off when not being used - Leaving the printer on can dry the ink, make sure whenever the printer is not being used that it is turned off.
  • Turn the printer off correctly - When turning the printer off and on, it should be done using the button on the front or side of the printer. You should not be turning off and on using a power strip.
  • Print smart - Many people print something before thinking if what they are printing needs to be printed. Make sure what you are printing needs to be saved as a hard copy. For example, if you are printing a list of items to take with you, consider keeping a digital list on your smartphone or tablet instead.
  • Limit picture printing - Pictures take the most ink on your printer. If you have several photographs, consider using a print service at a local store instead of your home printer.
  • Print in black and white - Unless you need color make sure you print in black and white or grayscale. Most inkjet printers have more black ink than other colors.
  • Selective print - Most programs allow you to print certain pages or selectively print sections from a page. For example, you can highlight text you want to print in an Internet browser and press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+P and choose the option to print the selection or selective print.
  • Print in low quality or draft mode - If you believe you need to print something more than once, try doing a test print in a lower quality or draft mode before printing your final copy. Also, using the print preview option you can see how a document appears before it is printed.
  • Keep the printer nozzles clean - Ink can dry out, and cause small amounts of clogging in the inkjet nozzles on your printer head. Keep it clean to improve print quality, and reduce wasted ink. Perform a printer self-cleaning regularly. If that doesn't help, you can also try using a Q-Tip, lightly moistened with rubbing alcohol, to gently clean the nozzle.