Home Tips & Tricks How do I Get a Blocked Inkjet Printer Cartridge to Work?

How do I Get a Blocked Inkjet Printer Cartridge to Work?


When one or more of the colors on an inkjet printer stops printing, there may be a blockage on the cartridge’s print head or at the point where the cartridge connects to the printer’s ink tubes. These blockages are caused by dry ink; you can usually clear off the blockages by running the printer’s self-cleaning utility. To clear more severe blockages, you can manually clean the ink cartridges and lines by wiping them with isopropyl alcohol or soaking the print head in water. If nothing works, you will need to replace the ink cartridge or have the printer serviced.


All inkjet printers have the ability to clean the print heads by flushing ink through the system, clearing off blockages and dried ink. The method of accessing this utility varies by printer model, but you can usually start it through the printer software on a connected computer or directly on the printer. Running this self-cleaning program will fix all but the most severe ink problems, so always try it before resorting to more drastic measures. You may need to run the cleaning operation twice before the printer works perfectly, but if you can’t see any improvement after two runs, more attempts are unlikely to help. If ink does come out but is misaligned, run the alignment utility instead of the cleaning utility.

Manual Cleaning

If self-cleaning doesn’t work, you can manually clean your inkjet cartridges and the print head. Remove the affected ink cartridge from the printer. On some printers, you will need to set the printer to cartridge replacement mode to access the ink. Soak a paper towel or cotton swab in hot water or isopropyl alcohol. On cartridges with built-in print heads, wipe off the print head until the towel or swab comes up clean. On printers where the cartridges connect to internal ink tubes, wipe off the connection point on both the cartridge and the printer side. Let all parts dry before reinserting the ink.