Simple way to rid cart of air blockages - but is it risky?

I stumbled upon a video on YouTube with a title something like “You may not have a clog”. The author of the video said what make look like a clog is in reality air blockages. Most of us know that… but his solution was something I never heard of. It’s so simple - he removed the filler plug, ran a cleaning cycle, replaced the plug, and then I think another cleaning cycle, then a nozzle check - got a perfect check.

I followed this procedure on a stubborn black cart and it worked flawlessly. I was a little reluctant, thought this might create some unwanted ink getting spread around but not a wayward trace was found afterwards. (btw my printer is an Epson 1430, using 6 IJM carts and the black cart was giving me trouble.)

Am I flirting with danger? I’m about to try it on a 1430, with a set of InkThrift CL carts. Again, it’s the black cart that’s the problem.

Are you flirting with danger? Hard to say. Possibly, although apparently there’s no evidence of it.

This is an interesting idea that I’ve not seen before. As you would probably know, I agree with the proposition that nozzle check gaps are often air in the system and not clogs. If the gaps move location in successive nozzle checks then my view is that has to be air, and not a clog. If the gaps don’t shift then a clog is more likely.

My understanding of this new technique is that removing the filler plug is going to remove the back pressure in the cartridge that helps control ink flow and prevent carts draining, which means that a cleaning cycle may pull more ink through. That may help displace the air I guess.

What are the risks? Well, if you did this several times perhaps the chip won’t be accurately measuring the cartridge level, not that they ever do. If you’re pulling more ink though it’s going into the capping station, and that may need cleaning more often. You’d need to watch this process carefully because you wouldn’t want a wet capping station to persist, as that can lead to other consequences, like cross-channel contamination and carts draining, because if excess moisture on the capping station comes into contact with the bottom of the print head it can cause carts to drain quickly via a capillary action.

But these are just possibilities to watch out for. In your case, and as the falling man said, so far so good.

Thanks, Brian… clearly you have a better understanding than I do of how and why this process works. Very helpful! I was able to find my original source for this idea:

It’s a fairly long video (about 21 min) and the section we’re discussing starts just before 9:00. As I viewed it again, I may have a small error in my initial post… it looks like he doesn’t necessarily run another cleaning cycle after replacing the filler plug.



If you haven’t seen them, you may wish to read my lessons, drafted several years ago. They summarise all that I learnt from years of struggles:

Re the video, I get a little frustrated with people who require you to watch 21 minutes of rambling video, when a tightly scripted 3-4 minutes would do.

As I said, it’s an interesting idea and worth a try, and easier than pulling the cartridges and sucking a bit of ink out of the cart and injecting a bit into the head to try to remove air, which is what some people do. This idea is the opposite of Walker’s suggestion to cover the vent hole with tape and put a pin prick through, which is intended for the opposite problem - too much ink flow from insufficient internal back-pressure.

A couple of specific observations:
. At the end of the video the author does still resort to injecting ink into the head with a syringe, I gather for more problematic cases.
. I’m sure at that there is a head clean after he removes the fill plug. The ramblings and video discontinuities at critical moments make it hard to be 100% sure, but if you look at 12:20, he says he is going to do a head clean, but I think what happens is that because he has unplugged the printer with the head in the ink exchange position, when he plugs it back in the printer does one automatically.
. What happens next is also unclear for the same reasons (I got tired of watching this section) - it looks like he does two nozzle checks to get the nozzle checks to come good while the fill hole is unplugged. Personally I’d be tempted to print a low dpi purge pattern, but this could be risky with the fill hole umplugged.
. He warns you not to touch the capping station, whereas IJM would encourage you to clean it with flush solution, which leads me to suspect that the video author doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does.
. He blames the capping station for the problem of air in the system when you remove and reinsert the carts, but based on my experience I think it’s more likely to be the cartridge quality. As the song goes, a good cartridge is hard to find.

Thanks for sharing.

Very helpful, Brian, thanks again.

Your point about the length of this video is well-taken. I got interested in some of his other videos as well, but this did require more time than perhaps necessary. I was pleased to see the very high marks he gave Piezoflush in another video.

As for your link to your thread “What I have learned, etc” was very helpful as well. I looked in my Quicken software and discovered I bought my first Epson printer, a 220, eleven years ago next week! So I’ve had two more years experience than you have but clearly you learned much more than me.

I’ve often thought of digital b/w printing as a dark science… sometimes I miss my low tech darkroom where the only tech issue was a burnt out enlarger bulb. What I gleaned from your experience is that many of our printer troubles are out of our control - they involve quality control issues in printers and cartridges. It’s the luck of the draw to get a 100% trouble-free setup. It’s also having enough experience to develop a sixth sense, a gut feeling, when diagnosing a problem to know which trick to pull out from our reservoir of experience.

Although I’m using some competitors’ inks, I continue to use IJM carts and cleaning materials. As you say, how many suppliers would actually travel to China to seek out the best. I seem to be tolerated here for my apostasy!

Best regards.

We’re not so different. This is not exactly a competition, but in fact I bought my Epson 2200 towards the end of 2003 (as it was in another country I’d have to locate and open another Quicken file to get the exact date). I used OEM carts for the first few years. As that lessons post was written 2½ years ago, that would make around 11½ years with refillables. As part of a house move last year I finally donated all my darkroom gear including my Durst enlarger to a local photo co-op. I think I included a spare enlarger bulb.

I think you nailed it when you talked about needing a gut feeling to diagnose the problem and the best attempted solution. That lessons post was written to make precisely the point that many of our printer troubles are out of our control, and out of the control of the cartridge retailers, and less a summary of how to diagnose problems. It’s hard to document how to apply all that gut feeling to the wide range of possible symptoms, and it’s not just the first round symptoms but how the printer responds to the first round of attempted solutions.

Best of luck with your black cart.

Excellent approach. With that in mind, here’s my black ink pattern:

It’s been that way for a couple of months, and I’ve been using the “shoeshine” cleaning under the head every few days. Sometimes using Piezoflush, sometimes alcohol and water. The pattern does not change.

So: if it doesn’t change that means a clog, right? If it does change from cleaning to cleaning, it’s likely an air block. On my 1400, the K pattern did change, so I used the fillerplug removal because it was an air bubble - and it worked. (is this “air bubble-ink clog” analysis dependable - or are there exceptions to this “rule”?)

Your tip to note “how the printer responds” tells me I have a clog, and the fillerplug removal would not work. Possible approaches: go to the next level, use some Windex in my shoeshine. I’ve avoided that because I hear Windex can corrode the copper in the head. Is this true? Another approach would be to use the syringe and inject Piezoflush , or something else … into the K nipple.

I admit to perhaps a flaw… I tend to overthink an issue - I’ve been told this, kindly, and my critics have a point.

In closing… here’s something else we have in common, besides the 11 year timeline. A couple of years ago I donated my darkroom, Beseler enlarger, Nikkor lenses, digital timer, 8x10 safelights, easels and so on to a nearby high school where they’re still teaching darkroom photography, bless their hearts. And the kids love it! It’s a booming subject.Oh, and I did enclose a spare enlarger bulb.

Paul, if it has been that way for a couple of months, and the location of the gaps hasn’t shifted, then I’d be fairly certain that it’s a clog. Moreover, and being completely honest, I don’t like your chances, given the duration of that clog. These things are best dealt with promptly.

I take it that you’ve seen the IJM small printer cleaning video? The only thing that I think has a chance of working at this stage is the cleaning kit with the little syringe and dummy cartridge and piezoflush. A word of warning. With a stubborn clog it’s tempting to push really hard, but the dividers between the ink channels inside the print head are thin, and people have ruptured them by pushing too hard. How hard is too hard? Dunno.

That said, at this stage you don’t have a lot to lose, and in a K6 R1410 that I once had with a totally blocked black channel (due to neglect) , I pushed and pushed really hard and didn’t do any damage, but also I didn’t clear the clog, which may be why I didn’t do any damage.

Re Windex (the version with ammonia, which is hard to find in this country now), I really don’t know. IIRC, the IJM position is that a fast-drying solvent like Windex risks damaging the print head. Out on the wider internet flame wars have been fought over the issue. I used to use it, but don’t any longer. I don’t think I did any damage, but honestly, if you had a printer that eventually died after some years, how would you know whether it was the Windex or old age? I don’t use it any more because I don’t like the smell and piezoflush is not that expensive if you buy in bulk at the same time as ordering ink.

Re over-thinking and that gut feeling, when you have shifting gaps in the nozzle check, it can be mighty hard to make an educated guess as to what the precise cause is. Is it air in the system? A slowly leaking cartridge, and in the case of piezo, which one? A dirty or faulty capping station? A printer that doesn’t like refillables? IJM have been quick to blame the capping station and absolve the cartrige, but I have found cartridges to be the problem in many cases. So I am not surprised that IJM have a completely new cartridge design.

My general advice is that patience and purge patterns are better than head cleans. Patience can be hard, but waiting a day allows air to settle and the brain to think. If the gaps shift locations, then head cleans can cause more problems than they solve. Of course, even this rule does have exceptions. E.g. if you have a channel that is barely working with only a couple of nozzles printing, and they shift, but the number of working nozzles doesn’t increase much, then my experience is that a head clean is needed to pull the ink through. But this doesn’t apply in your current case.

Glad to hear that you included a spare bulb.

I looked at my saved nozzle checks and my trouble began a month ago, no more, so maybe the nozzles are not as solidified as we feared.

Yes, I have seen that video, where Dana explains clearly and succintly the various steps to cleaning a small printer… in fact I’ve viewed it several times. A well done video, and quite helpful.

I just cleaned the capping station, wiper blade, performed the “shoe-shine” procedure. Was ready to take the plunge and use the syringe and dummy cart from IJM (I do have that, been reluctant to use it) when I remembered a trick I used a while back on an R1800. I left a length of tubing attached to the nipple that fed a stubborn cart and filled the tubing with cleaning fluid. I let gravity do the work, over a period of several hours (or was it overnight?) and this cleared the clog. It was less invasive than a syringe would have been. Do you know long I can leave the printer head off the capping station with the nipples exposed before they dry out? (I’m using Piezoflush, btw.)

This is where one of those cases where time is a tool.

How long is a piece of string? It will depend on temperature and humidity. This is another of thoses thing where I have to say I really don’t know. If we’re talking about a day or two or three, I’d expect that a head clean would deal with any issues that emerge in the other channels.

I’d have thought that a flush cart, perhaps with both plugs removed, might have been as good as your tube, or better, as you could leave the head back in the parked position with all carts in.

People often get nervous about using the cleaning kit, and my comments above may have reinforced that, but it is simple, safe so long as you’re not totally ham-fisted, and effective. You may get lucky without it, but my expectation is that sooner or later you’re going to have to resort to it, and the sooner you do so the easier it will be.

Or, what’s it going to cost to remodel our bathroom? :wink:

I do have a set of flush carts… IJM carts filled with Piezoflush. So, I replaced my K cart with a Piezoflush cart, removed the two plugs and ran a couple of nozzle checks. Two dashes improved… but I’ll be patient and let this sit overnight. I take your point about eventually going the syringe route - and better sooner than later.


This thread has run its course, but before I leave it I want to thank you again for your contributions. I’ve started several threads in my digital life but your answers rate the best. They were clear, to the point, accepting and respectful of my misunderstandings… all seasoned with a dash of dry humor.

So once more, thank you.


You’re most welcome Paul. Did you succeed in clearing that K channel?

(it’s too late now, but looking back at this thread, and my initial post, I have this phrase:

I followed this procedure on a stubborn black cart and it worked flawlessly.

That was for my 1400! I should have been more clear, but evidently you figured what I meant.)

Then I shifted my post to a stubborn black in my 1430 and the rest of the thread pertains to that printer. And to your last post, no, I did not succeed in cleaning the K channel. In fact, the other channels are acting up. I’m still afraid to use the syringe injection and currently I’ve replaced all the carts with my set of cleaning cartridges, filled with Piezoflush. I’m in no hurry to get the 1430 running and decided to let the cleaning carts do their work, running a nozzle check every day. Time is on my side and it’s the path I’m following now.

This morning’s nozzle check shows some gaps in some of the carts (including the black) but I’m just getting started on this procedure.

Yes, I understood your differing luck with the two printers. You were lucky in one respect. The 1400 apparently (and in my experience) was the one recent desktop printer from Epson that doesn’t have the micro-banding in the first and last inch problem, unlike the 1430. I really wish I had kept mine.

To repeat what I’ve already said, I really don’t understand your reticence to use the cleaning kit on the 1430. A lot of people have done so with success. If you’re facing the prospect of junking the printer then what have you got to lose? If you’ve had a genuine clog in one or more channels for a month or more, then I’m not so sure that time is on your side. By the time that you decide that nothing else has worked, it may well be too late for the cleaning kit. I speak from personal experience here. I would use it immediately after unsuccessfully trying everything else in that IJM maintenance video. My view would be that if leaving the flush carts in doesn’t work after a couple of days then it’s not going to, and it’s on to the cleaning kit. Your call.

Yes, I’m happy with that 1400… I’ve heard that about the banding top and bottom, too.

Well, your message got me going, thank you. I did my first syringe method and didn’t feel like I had to exert excessive pressure. It was a firm but smooth and even push all the way. However the results were not encouraging, you may be right in that I waited too long.Not only was the K position cart totally blank, but also the Y cart next to it.I went through three cleaning cycles and nozzle checks with same result, but I’m hoping that letting it sit over night may help.

Thanks for the push… it was a relief to finally do it.


I’m pleased to hear that you finally took the leap. You’re right that it’s one of those things that turns out to be simpler than you feared. That said, there are a few tricks to using the cleaning kit not mentioned in the IJM video. In my experience, and also JeffG, if you push the little syringe all the way to the bottom it’s easy to inject air into the head, which could be your current problem. One suggestion I’ve read is not to push the syringe all the way down. The idea is that this should leave the head full of flush. You may find that the cleaning kit drips when you remove it, but this is easily cleaned up and is the lesser of two evils. Beyond that, it’s worth experimenting with how you use the cleaning kit. IIRC, in the video Dana recommends gently pulling and pushing on the syringe to try to dislodge a clog.

It has been some time since I’ve had to use the kit, but my recollection is that your situation does happen sometimes - that is, getting the ink flowing again after using it can be a struggle, and requires a little patience and perhaps purge patterns to get it going again. This is one of those situations I alluded to above, where it’s really hard to know what the best next step is - head cleans or patience & purge patterns. Head cleans often exacerbate air in the system, but ultimately they may be needed to pull the ink through and get it flowing. I’ll see if I can prod JeffG into sharing his more recent experiences.

I can’t add a lot to this. Since Walker gave me the tip to cover the air hole with tape and pierce it with a fine needle, my carts have been much more reliable. My 1430 is sitting in a box with flush carts as an insurance policy. On the R2000, I have found, as Brian has, that purge and patience are the way to go. I have occasionally used a head clean when that fails, and it does work.

Brian, thanks for extra tips on this technique. I ended up not using the syringe in the IJM kit - the plunger didn’t slide smoothly in the body, it moved in a rather jerky manner which made it difficult to get a smooth push. Luckily I had on hand some 5ml syringes which functioned quite smoothly. And in some ways I found a length of tubing easier to work with than the dummy cartridge.

To you both: I’m interested in the purge approach. I do have some purge patterns. One set I got via a reference here, they’re 8x10 and 300ppi. They all look like several shades of magenta, and I remember being confused by that… a thread here helped me understand why. When printed, they turn out to be the colors named in the file name. The other set I have are 8x10, 72ppi. These show the actual colors in the file name. From those I created some patterns only 1 inch wide.

Philosophically, I like this approach better. Please give me some instructions on how to use these… eg how many times do I run them each day, do I use draft mode or quality print mode, etc.

Welcome aboard, Jeff! Tell me more about covering the air hole with tape and piercing it with a needle. What does this accomplish? What kind of tape? How about painter’s blue tape? It doesn’t leave a residue. Intriguing!


I think the thread you’re referring to is this one:

By the expression “purge patterns” we meant printing one of those special charts in calibration mode. If you enter calibration mode and just print, you’ll print out what is known as the ink separation page. This page if printed at 720dpi unidirectional is good as an alternative nozzle diagnostic, but it doesn’t do all that much purging. The files in that zip from the above link are better - QTR Cal Mode Flush Images\QTR-6 Channel flush.tif for the R14x0. If you print at lowest resolution you’ll see what is going on more readily. If you print at 2880, you’ll use more ink and do more purging.

You could use a colour purge pattern rather than one of these special encoded charts, but you won’t see what is going on in individual channels, which is what calibration mode plus those special charts enable, so that’s what we always do.

The idea of printing the purge patterns is that alternating them with overnight rests seems to help dislodge air, at least in my experience. Walker from IJM cautions that printing with genuinely clogged nozzles risks burning out nozzles. I’ve not experienced that, but if he’s right then you need to be fairly certain that you’ve got air rather than a clog. I’ve managed to clear the odd small clog by printing purge patterns, but it only seems to work for a fresh (recent) clog.

The pin and tape method was first mentioned here. There’s not a lot to it:

But it’s intended for the opposite problem to yours - too much ink flowing through, leading to drops on the page, cartridges mysteriously draining, etc.