Davyd is absolutely right: steer away from any new-ish Epson printer you see, no matter how cheap they throw it at you.

When I was living with my parents, I “inherited” an old StylusColor 760 – easily the best printer I’ve ever had under Linux. When I moved in with Marta, we decided to buy a combined scanner/printer CX3650 (it came cheap at ~100€). Making it work under Ubuntu wasn’t that hard: only the scanner required adding a line in /etc/sane.d/epson.conf; it actually required more work for installing it on Marta’s iBook. But unless you print at least a page every day or so, the ink solidifies on the heads and creates white stripes on the printouts. You try and clean the heads, and you get a puddle of ink on the bottom, which marks the paper.

To make a long story short: the printer is now sitting on a shelf, disconnected, and I’m really thinking about buying an HP – which would suck, because I still got a perfectly working scanner attached to a useless printer.

Unless, my dear Lazyweb, someone knows a way to clean the heads of an Epson without a) calling tech support or b) destroying the chassis. Thanks.

14 Replies to “EpS.O.B.”

  1. FWIW, HP is offering nifty rebates these days. I just got an HP 1320 for $184 — a great price for a full-duplex, Linux-friendly, Postscript-speaking HP laser printer. If you need to do color, this won’t help, but if you only need black, I figure it’ll be cheaper than an inkjet pretty darn quick.

  2. Maybe I’m missing your point, and I’ve never tried this myself but I’m told, that non-Epson-original cartridges don’t include the isopropylalcohol that the Epson-originals include, which cleans the heads as it goes through. You can buy cartridges for cleaning with that _only_ contain isopropylalcohol, though my wholesalers have always found it hard to source them; or you can build your own (though I don’t know how the chip in the cartridge these days might dissuade the printer from allowing you to use a recycled cartridge).

    About 5 years ago an Epson engineer told me that the ink dries up if you don’t use it every couple of weeks, has this changed or is this a problem with really cheap non-Epson-originals?

    There are high and low quality non-Epson-original cartridges; I only ever buy the high quality Print-Rite brand from Medea International (http://www.medea.co.uk/) (not to be confused with the printer consumables company PrintRite that coincidentally has the same name)

  3. if the alternative is to throw the printer away – try isopropyl-alcohol to clean the printhead.
    easier are the “ink-cartridges” containing a cleaning fluid, which are available for a lot of printers (not from the manufacturer, though)

  4. Tried escptool?

    Description: maintenance utility for Epson Stylus printers
    escputil is a utility to clean and align the heads of Epson Stylus
    printers. It can also check the current ink levels in the printer.

  5. tim: unfortunately, sometimes I need the pretty and shiny colors, so a b/w laser won’t do. but it’s worth a look

    pete, cs: will see if I can get one of those, as it seems that they should solve the issue

    ross: the printer has the “heads cleaning” button combo, and in theory it should work; unfortunately, the clean up process just leaves the ink at the bottom of the paper tray without really cleaning anything

  6. fwiw, I love my Epson R2400. Their (higher end) photo printers blow away everything else in that market. As for low end printers, I’d say most of them suck in general. You get what you pay for…

  7. This is how we used to unjam the printheads of inkjet printers back at the computer repair shop I worked at: make a page in the color that is having problems and print copies of it until you get solid color, works most of the time, at the expense of some ink, but at least it doesn’t stay in the printer as with the “official” cleaning method.

  8. I saw someone talking about the cartridges in the comments, I don’t recomend using the non-brand cartridges in any printer, because they have a tendency to ruin the heads, using off brand in and epson tends to be worse because all epson printers have fixed heads, they are more precise but if they get ruined it’s usually not worth fixing, unless it’s one of there several bundred dollor printers. A good way to clean the heads if the built in routine doesn’t work. Open the printer, and act l like you are replacing the cartdridges, usually on the right you will see the pads under where the cartdridges rest, to help keep them from drying, dab some Isopropyl on them with a cotton swab, and then tell the printer to clean the heads, that will usually fix it.

  9. I have the same problem with my Epson, mostly I run a couple of clean cycles and then print a demo test photo that I downloaded so that it prints a lot of colour at about 2″ square. This normally does the trick. I might have to repeat some times to clean the last of the heads.
    If it get’s really bad I do all the above, go away for a couple of hours then repeat allowing the ink soak in. In the end it’s a stupid problem and they should really fit some sort of ultrasonic head cleaning feature as part of the head clean that runs at startup.


  10. Think about a HP ink cartridge that has a warranty. Bad ink cartridge, color bad, light ink which appears watery, what-ever, they give you another one. That’s the way a warranty works. You buy a recycled ink cartridge, with no HP warranty. It may work momentarily, but then you get these same messages, remove cartridge. Why should my printer shut down after purchasing a recycled ink cartridge? But then if you buy an HP ink cartridge, your printer is up and running again. Or until that time HP thinks you have printed long enough, even if you have plenty of ink. HP forces you, according to HP predetermined usage, in order for your printer to work, to buy their ink cartridges, or HP will shut your printer down.

    Don’t focus on the ink cartridge, focus on the fact HP, and other printer manufacturers, stop your printer from working, because of some silly game they are playing of cheating customers before the ink runs out, or wrong ink standards, or what-ever. I say, go ahead send these stupid messages, but don’t stop my printer from working. This is anti-competitive, and in violation of anti-trust laws.

    To be perfectly clear

    Hewlett Packard recycles their ink cartridges by promoting that HP cartridges be returned for recycling, using a self addressed, stamped envelope. Allowing HP, through their “refurbishing and reselling” effort to conserve resources, using the various recycling facilities of manufacturers around the world contracted by HP. Thus, the mere fact that there also are other recyclers available to refurbish, and recycle ink cartridges, but except for lower cost, and the free choice of the consumer, HP has restricted the consumer the full use, and the operation of HP printers.

    Smith and Roberson’s Business Law, ninth edition. West Publishing. Chapter 43; ANTITRUST.
    “Characterizing a type of restraint as per se illegal therefore has a significant effect on the prosecution of an antitrust suit. In such a case, the plaintiff need only show that the type of restraint occurred, she does not need to prove that the restraint limited competition…..Tying arrangements. A tying arrangement occurs when the seller of a product, service, or intangible (the “tying” product) conditions its sale on the buyers purchasing a second product, service, or intangible (the “tied” product) from the seller….Because tying arrangements limit buyers’ freedom of choice and may exclude competitors, the law closely scrutinizes such agreements.”

    Hewlett Packard has, unbeknownst to customers who purchased HP printers (tying product), tied as a condition, the purchase of new HP ink cartridges (tied product), or HP recycled ink cartridges, through the use illegal anti-competitive consumer practices.

    After all, what are we talking about, it’s a ball point pen refill morphed into a printer ink cartridge. It’s a recycled auto part! Again, I say Hewlett Packard, and the rest of the conspirators, play your silly games by cheating consumers on ink cost, and supplies. I say go ahead! But don’t stop me from the use of my printer.

  11. I realize that this is a little off topic and that this thread may be dead, but I had a slightly different problem with an Epson C82. The yellow and magenta needed replacing and so I replaced them with new epson cartridges. Now the printer won’t print yellow or magenta like it did before I replaced the cartridges! The only thing I can think of is that I waited until the printer wouldn’t print before I replaced them. Any ideas? Thanks much for any!

  12. I had the same problem and ended up junking the printer. It might be fixable if you are lucky. The problem is that a purge line under the print head gets clogged and then the printer can no longer prime new cartriges or re-prime existing ones that have been ‘standing’ without use for a while.
    This purge tube can be seen if you power down the printer while it’s in the reload ink mode and then slide the head to the left. The purge block is located under the print head’s rightmost position. Sometimes the purge tube becomes disconnected and must be plugged back in. This requires good eye-hand coordination and a long needle nose tool (such as a hemastat). You also might have to force feed solvent into the tube to unclog it.
    A messy job. You might also have to disassemble most of the bottom of the printer to get at the tubing.

  13. One more thing, maybe the photo printers (6 ink) might clog less often than the color (4 ink) ones. Different ink formula I think.

  14. I’m sure this thread is dead at this stage, but I just want to say I had the same issue with my CX3650..they are just cheap old rubbish printers that require expensive ink !!!

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