WARNING!  DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

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SS Cleanings could be the end of you!

Please, BEFORE you resort to SS Cleanings, consider the following:  I have invested a lot of time and money researching what exactly un-clearable clogs actually are in these X900 heads.  Recently I learned something that will drop your heart from your chest…  Terminal clogs are not clogs at all – they are failed piezoelectrics.  And failed piezoelectrics will never come back from the dead.  What causes failed piezoelectrics in your X900 printhead – I think it’s SS Cleanings, when run with an ink clogged printhead.
Naturally what we expect considering clogs is that they are caused by dried ink becoming lodged inside a nozzle, or between chamber walls, or on the face of the printhead.  Ok that’s fine, I agree – these are the most likely causes of “clear-able” clogs.  But dried ink lodged inside an Epson Stylus Pro 4900, or 7900, or 9900, or 11880 – is NOT what renders your Epson Stylus Pro printer “terminally impotent”.  Dried ink is not what causes the worst of “clogs”.  SS Cleanings are…
I have performed many autopsies on many different failed X900 printheads.  What I have learned is that yes, ink does dry inside the nozzles and yes this does cause clogs.  But these clogs are clear-able.  They may take a ton of ink to clear, they may take a lot of patience to clear, but for the most part they are clear-able.  When a clog becomes “un-clearable” is when the piezoelectric elements in the printhead fail.  My theory on how piezoelectrics fail in your printhead goes like this:  flowing ink through your printhead serves two purposes – one, it’s how ink gets onto your paper, two, it’s how the piezoelectric elements of your printhead keep from overheating.  Most cleanings that your machine performs DO NOT fire the piezoelectrics.  But SS Cleanings DO.  What happens when you send a million fire commands to an dry ink clogged piezoelectric nozzle with no flowing ink to keep it cool?  That’s right, it overheats.
When you run your machine in normal mode there are many safety features which run in the background which keep your machine out of trouble.  If the head gets clogs, it cleans itself.  If your head gets hot it stops itself.  ….and so on.  But when you run your machine in service mode, which is where you do SS Cleanings from, there are no automatic warnings.  If something gets too hot, it gets too hot.  And if your piezoelectrics get too hot, they overheat.  And when they overheat,  your head – in that region of nozzles – dies.  Period.
SS Cleanings, unlike all other cleaning programs in your machine, actually fire the nozzles.  Firing nozzles heats them up, clogged chambers block flowing ink from cooling the piezoelectrics, and the piezoelectrics fail.  Simple as that.  Having said all this, go ahead and try SS Cleanings if you still want to.  But I never will again.
UNDERSTANDING SS CLEANINGS
When you have a “stubborn clog” doing standard cleanings probably won’t help you.  The 900 series Epson Stylus Pro printers DO NOT fire the nozzles during any of the cleaning processes accessed through the machine’s standard mode of operation. The cap station covers the head and SUCKS ink out … several ml’s each time.To access a more powerful cleaning process you need to do a piezo-clean (SS cleaning) which is only accessible through the machine’s service mode.  This “super-strong” cleaning process DOES fire the nozzles, which is good, but this is also dangerous – especially if your printhead is caked solid with dried ink.  SS cleanings charge the piezo nozzles with electricity to both vibrate them, and to fire them.  The dangerous side of this procedure is dried ink-packed nozzle chambers may not be able to vibrate, or fire.  When this is the case, they simply overheat.  Thanks to other X900 users in our community we have learned of many cases where multiple SS cleanings produced nothing more than FATAL ERROR MESSAGES.  This is one message you do not want to flash across your menu – it means you just killed your printhead.  So never do back to back SS cleanings.  If you decide to run multiple SS cleanings, run a print through the machine between them.  Ink flowing through the printhead cools the piezoelectric chambers, and nozzles.
Disclaimer: The following is given for informational purposes only.  Entering the Service/Maintenance Modes is not looked upon with grace by Epson.  Perform at your own risk. YOU CAN FUBAR your printer in here.
Definition of SS CleaningThis is a quote from Epson’s service manual:  “SS Cleaning has a strong ultra sonic component. The Piezo Elements internal to the Print Head are used to attempt to break up pigment particles that may be clogging the interior of the Print Head.  Use SS Cleaning when a Nozzle can not be cleared through normal cleaning.”
* special note;  although it is possible to print with the machine running in service mode, I do not recommend it.  Your X900 printer, while being annoying as all hell far too often, is actually pretty smart.  While running in regular mode it closely monitors itself, and will stop itself mid-print if a problem occurs.  This is not the case in Service Mode.  I personally fried an X900 head mid-print, running is Service Mode.

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13 comments
  1. I would like to expand on my previously posted problem. This 4900 has only printed 1200 copies, but was not used for a very long time. All nozzles are clogged. I was keeping ammonia wet paper towels under the print head for days at a time. Each time I changed the towels, they were saturated with ink. However, a nozzle check showed only 3 printed, and not well at that. I have done several cleanings, including 1 power cleaning, I just purchased a program to let me do an ink charge, which i did on one side only. it made no difference. Now that I am not keeping the ammonia towels under the print head, i am getting almost nothing on a nozzle print check.

    Could anyone tell me what either I am doing wrong or what else I can do to clear the print head? Also, I cannot understand why so much ink is on the paper towels if the nozzles are clogged. Explanation please?

    • Eric said:

      This is the million dollar question Mary – what is a “clog” and what is a head simply not firing its nozzles. I cannot count how many times I have gone through this with people in your position. Common sense need not apply. It’s not that your X900 head has 1200 prints on it or 12000. It’s whether or not trying to clear dried ink lodged inside the chambers damaged it. I’ve been inside many of these heads, literally, with a stereomicroscope. The inners of these things are highly complex and extremely fragile. Epson did a great job designing a head which prints with such tiny detail. The problem is such tiny detail requires such tiny piezoelectrics – and tiny = fragile.

      The typical rule I suggest to X900 users with problems is this; if you have “clogs” try cleanings. If you still have “clogs” try more aggressive cleanings. Try the paper towel trick, pray, try dancing if you feel like it. But all the while keep your eye on your nozzle patterns. If said “clog” improves with all the dancing and praying and flushing expensive Epson ink down the drain, then keep at it. If said “clog” does not improve, or in many cases actually gets worse, your head is dead. There is no returning from the abyss of confusion and frustration.

      To clear up any confusion you may have about why ink shows up on a paper towel but not on a print, remember ink runs through an X900 head two different ways – it gets forced out when you print, or it gets sucked out when you run cleanings. I guess in your case, with paper towels, ink comes out a third way – it drools out as the paper towel wicks the ink from the head like a sponge. Remember a dead head is not a clogged head. Ink runs through a dead head with ease, because there is no clog. The head simply cannot fire the ink out on it’s own. Make sense?

  2. my 4900 has 10 clogged heads. I have been soaking ammonia on paper towel and the towels are soaked with ink. If the heads are clogged, where is all the ink coming from? I printed a picture and orange, pink, and blue printed (not well). Is there any hope?

  3. Mario said:

    Hi everyone! I have an Epson 9900 myself and love the printer when it works. Recently I was getting a Photo Black Cartridge error and kept trying to re-install it and various other things to get it to work (that have worked in the past). Finally bought a new cartridge, installed it, and then thought to re-install the previous one and it worked. After some cleaning the nozzle print test was perfect. After a few days of not printing, (I leave the printer on all the time) I got a really bad clog on the black channel towards the middle all the way from left to right. About 4 lines of it. I tried and tried to do cleanings and did power cleanings. Same exact place clogged. Finally I tried to see if switching to matte black would work. It started its cleaning cycle (which I despise) and then I got an error that it could not complete the cleaning cycle. Ok I tried again (mistake), same thing. So I said no to the third try and then it proceeded to swap inks. Crap all the ink wasted….sigh. After all that the problem was still pretty much there. It would come and go. But always in the same spot. So I thought I would try Piezo flush and tried it out per their instructions. Well it worked, but now I have a problem in that there appears to be a slight bulge from the left inside to the right out side of the black test pattern in the middle. Basically instead of a vertical straight line as it gets towards the middle it bulges out and then back into a straight line on both sides (bulges in from the left and out from the right overlapping the color next to it magenta). When I do a manual print alignment all the MK channels are missing MK from the middle section. In that middle section the ink looks like it’s leaning towards the right in the middle. It’s kind of hard to explain without showing a photo. I swapped back to PK and the problem is not as bad but still there. I managed to get much better nozzle print test and proceeded to print a 24X30 full color on Enhanced Matte. After about half an inch of printing there was a noticeable lighter ban across the width of the print about a 1/4inch thick. Then after that dark light bans every 1/8th of an inch. Ran a nozzle test pattern again after the print and the PK channel was once again clogged in the middle all the way left to right. I am about tempted to try Magic Bullet, or could I do the same with Piezo Flush and leave it setting under the head for an hour or so. Any input is welcome. Thanks. Sorry for the long spill, but could use some support here. Was almost tempted to do a SS clean, but if there is no ink, I do not want to take the change of frying the head. Thanks!

  4. Bill F. said:

    Just thought I’d add to my post of April 30, 2015 (a year ago) that after a year of working perfectly (with the help of almost daily very small colorful prints) my VLM ink clogged again. This time I did the same routine previously mentioned for 3 weeks waiting in between cleaning routines for a couple of days. But the head never unclogged. I finally gave up since I had a back log of prints to get out. I bought a new P800 with roll adapter a few weeks ago and am quite pleased with it. The P800 is not as mechanically elegant as the 4900 but the prints are excellent.

  5. valentine reilly said:

    can’t find the SS in the maintenance menu for the 4900 – it mentions it in the manual – but then there is no option once in the m. mode – PLEASE HELP!

  6. Bill F. said:

    Here’s another solution for you to try. I’ve tried everything (I thought) with my dead VLM color on my 4900 (all of the above suggestions except the SS cleaning. Soaked in Windex “original” on paper towels (3 thick, which has worked in the past). Did this 4 different occasions overnight. But after reading all the comments, two got some bells ringing. One by the site owner who said that none of the cleanings except the “SS” actually run ink through the head . . . the second by Jan Foran who said he made up a print of just the color he was trying to clean (sadly, this didn’t work for him). But I just tried it, so to force a lot of VLM actually through the head. With a couple tries at this print and after 3 weeks of trying everything else, AND after Epson declared my print head dead, my printer is working and back making great prints. The nozzle check comes out perfect. BTW, the print image I made has several sections of various shades of VLM so I would be close to getting just the right solid color and forcing the VLM cart to “blow” hard. Now, tomorrow, I get to cancel my order for the new P800 I just placed !!! Thanks, a donation is due AND I hope this helps someone else. Another thought is that possibly and maybe probably many of the things I’ve been trying, ending with this last effort, added to the final solution.

    • That’s an interesting concept. How did you make such a print ? … for example, I am currently having a problem with my Magenta channel – so I would envision setting up a grad fill in PS with pure magenta – and that would vary the density … what did you do to vary the ‘shade’ … hue with an adjustment layer ?????

      April 26-2017

  7. Jorge Cazares said:

    Hi, do you know how I can test 11880 head? mainboard was damaged (two transistors are out) and Epson technician said we will replace head too, without test.

  8. Marine said:

    I have stubborn clogs in the light black channel since 10-15 days (after 5 years without problem). I tried all the kind of cleaning, including the SS cleaning. Nothing works. Then, I got an error message: Call for Service – Code D130. Do you think that it’s related to the SS cleaning?
    Thank you anyway for your precious information.

  9. I will be trying this first thing in the morning. I have a green print head clog and it’s driving me nuts. I did a power clean for the pairs “green/orange” about 4-5 times and had no luck. I ran 8 42×6″ solid green swatches and still no luck. I’m about to pull out my beautiful hair (which I don’t want to do… because it’s so beautiful) out of frustration! I hope this works, and if it does I will be making a donation to this site. Thanks guys

    • Alejo said:

      Any luck?

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