THE PAPER TOWEL AND WINDEX TRICK
it worked in the past, so why not now?

Used to be your parents walked twenty miles, uphill, in the snow, with bare feet to go to school.  Now kids cry about taking the bus.  Crazy right?  Well think of Epson’s latest generation piezoelectric printheads, with twice as many nozzles per inch, much the same as today’s kids.  They’re fragile, they’re high maintenance, and they don’t respond to old tricks.

You can wet a paper towel with Windex, you can park it under the head mid-stroke, you can let it sit all night.  From what I can tell from my own experiences, and from what I’ve been told by others, it does no harm.  Unfortunately I have not heard yet of this helping clear anyone’s un-clearable X900 clogs.  The reason for this I expect is the dried ink stuck in-between the channel walls is so tiny, and so impacted that it is very difficult for Windex, or any cleaning solution for that matter, to access the core of the actual clog.

…but who knows, maybe you’ll be the first.

As for cleaning solutions, some home grown concoctions have been used to clean clogged heads for decades – be they OEM inks or die inks.  Here is one such suggested concoction:

Use any window cleaner that has ammonia in it. In the USA that means either Windex original formula or any generic version – but MAKE SURE it has ammonia in it.  If you can’t use Windex Original Formula you can substitute it with NON-SUDSY ammonia, but first mix it with distilled water (do not use tap water, spring water, or toilet water please).  Mix the ammonia with distilled water at a ratio of  one part ammonia to 9 parts water.

You can read about the difference between distilled water vs tap water  HERE

Now take either your window cleaner or diluted ammonia and mix 8 parts of it with 2 parts of isopropyl rubbing alcohol.  Please be sure the isopropyl rubbing alcohol is either 70 or 90%, that it is transparent, clear isopropyl containing no additives, no oils, no skin conditioners, etc.  (Isopropyl is a humectant, it helps things retain moisture, so sometimes it is sold over the counter with conditioners added to it so people use it as moisturizing cream.  We DO NOT want that).
…and there you go – you’ve got your home-grown cleaning solution.

If you would rather use Epson’s Cleaning Solution you should first understand that you are crossing the threshold of typical user fixes, and now are taking the life of your printer in your own hands.  I award you wholeheartedly.  And I hope you have bandaids handy cause you could hurt your own feelings here pretty quick.  Epson’s cleaning solution, code named RED, is not readily sold – you have to search for it.  And once you have it, consider it like you would chemotherapy.  Yes it melts dried, hardened, clogged-up ink but it doesn’t stop melting things there.  Leave it in or on your head too long and soon your precious printhead will melt into oblivian.

https://i0.wp.com/gotagteam.com/epson/melting.jpg

If you want to chase down Epson’s cleaner it comes in two parts – RED (the cleaner) and CLEAR (the rinse).  I have a bottle of each and here is what lives on both bottle’s labels:

The numbers for the RED are as follows:
model: 4C1780
Name:  (Japanese writing, google interpreted – “Godzilla is coming!”)
LotNo:  2823N304
CodeNo: 6022802-00
Maker: nichiwa kogyo co.ltd/chino factory

The numbers for the CLEAR are as follows:
Model: 4CB520
Name: Shipping Cleaning Liquid, CR02, 1kg
LotNo: 2529ND01  Net 1 kg
CodeNo: 6022805-00
Maker: nichiwa kogyo co.ltd/chino factory

.

Once you’ve got your cleaning solution of choice you’ll want a safer way to stop your printhead mid-stroke, rather than simply unplugging the machine while it’s running.  Start it up in maintenance mode and do it right.  The process is as follows:

Hold the DOWN button, the MENU button, and the OK button simultaneously – then click the ON button.  Once she wakes up you can let go of all buttons, you’re up and running in Service Mode.  Now go to Menu/Maintenance/Wiper Exchange/Sequence/OK.  This will release the head and park it mid-way through it’s printing stroke.  Now you can power the machine off and try your old paper towel and windex.

One word to the wise;  Once you are done soaking or spraying or whatever you decide to do with whatever you decide to do it with – do a standard cleaning and run a few prints through the machine.  Best to get the home-grown juice replaced with ink asap.

Good luck.

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20 comments
  1. ATHERAYUB said:

    Name: Shipping Cleaning Liquid, CR02.. I WANT TO BUY THIS CLEANING SOLUTION .. PLEASE HELP ME.. FROM WHERE I CAN BUY.. AWAITING YOUR RESPONSE MY FRIENDS

  2. Gail said:

    I tried the windex treatment on my 7900 to clear a clog in the yellow and the result is a much worse clog on the magenta which was perfectly fine before. The paper towel was wetter than it should have been. i hope none of the paper towel stuck on the print head. I have been trying the piezo flush from Inkjet Mall, filling a cartridge in the magenta slot and letting it soak for 2 days, but so far not luck. I wonder how to check under the print head. Any advice would be much appreciated.

  3. Dan said:

    Eric, thanks sooo much. When all seems hopeless- total channel missing that got halfway better until a powerful cleaning that made it go back to zero again(!) your step by step sure helped. I parked the head over an ammonia/alcohol mixture on a paper towel a few times in a row. It made a mess on the towel- good news, I then powered-up and did a cleaning first thing. Then, a 5×7 print. ONLY then did I run a nozzle check, which looked normal. If of note: I powered-up and cleaned same afternoon when the paper towel was still damp- not all dried out the next morning. I think being freshly damp helped. Other times I did the ammonia trick overnight seemed to do nothing. Probably dried again by morning. GOOD LUCK, EVERYONE! And remember…Epson SUCKS!!!

    • Dan said:

      Should say “Rick”, not Eric. I dictated and copy/pasted. iPhone, you’re next on my watch list!

  4. Rick said:

    Any suggestions as to how to tell the difference? The green channel dropped out over a period of weeks during exceptionally dry weather and got worse as I tried every method to attempt to clear it. Is that a symptom of a mortally wounded head getting fried by multiple cleanings?

    Any idea how much ink and money we’re talking about to run an initial fill cycle(s)?

    • Eric said:

      My standard advice, and experience, has been when you see a “clog” only getting worse, it is not a clog. I never measured how much ink an initial fill takes on various machines. Obviously machine size impacts that cost the most due to the length of the hoses.

  5. Hi Rick –

    With my 4900 the Authorized Service company (Dawn Electronics just outside of Atlanta – http://dawnelectronics.com/service-and-repair ) tried to soften or clear the clog by using the Cleaning/Shipping solution applied to the printer head station. They gave it two days and did not have any success in clearing the clog. It’s not so much a matter of clearing the clog as it is softening the dried ink enough for the normal printer functions to clear it. The printer jets are microscopic and wiping them or other treatments just make a mess unless the ink is truly softened and will stay that way. My take is flooding the lines with ink is not a good answer unless you have solved whatever led to the clogging. The Shipping/Cleaning fluid is used by Epson for indefinite storage as it does not dry out and leave a residue, and can work as a solvent for ink. It’s more useful though in its role for storing the printer.

    If it’s practical to get your printer to an authorized service shop, they may be able to fix it. I’d check with them to see what they think. In my case, it was not the head at all but rather the pump that maintains a seal. My guess is this could apply to the 7900.

    • Rick said:

      Thanks for the input Eric. My green channel slowly dropped out over a period of weeks during an unusually warm, dry summer a couple years ago here in Seattle (go figure). The relative humidity dropped to record low levels and I suspect that the ink had an opportunity to dry…my guess is that the green/orange pair gets used less than most other channels. This was before I knew about Eric’s excellent advice to humidify the printer’s environment and since then I’ve kept two buckets of water underneath the printer with a plastic cover over entire machine.

      At this point, I don’t know if the green channel is recoverable at all…I went throughout a number of desperation cleaning cycles…everything short of the demonic SS…and have probably fried the head.

      The initial fill option rung a bell because it supposedly pushes ink through the entire head without heating it up electronically. But, I wonder if a clogged head would suffer further from the pressure applied to a clog that won’t clear. Wondering if other people have tried this technique with any success?

      At this point, the cost of replacing the head, again, doesn’t make sense compared to just getting another printer. Now the question is, do you buy the next generation Epson’s…are they really that much better…or go with Eric to another brand and kiss Epson goodbye. I’m disinclined to reward a company that has so little regard for its customers or the reputation of its products.

  6. Hello Eric. I have slightly more than 20 different Epson printers in my studio ranging from the humble but useful 1430 to several 9900s. Your comments match my experience. I have begun to form an idea about recovering printers with ink delivery tubes and would love your comments. When a printer comes up with stubborn or repetitive nozzle dropouts I have seen the problem get worse during common flushing protocols requiring more time and effort. My take is this new level of difficulty is due to loosening more hardened material in the ink delivery system to the point of creating ‘clots.’

    I wonder if it does not make sense to access the dampers and using a syringe pull flush through the lines over time until the lines and dampers are clear of built up coagulated, settled and dry material. once that is accomplished then put the head assembly back together and start using Initial Fills with good cool downs in between each cycle to deliver flush to nozzles and soak out crap inside the head itself. BTW, I tried the extreme ‘waterfall’ cleaning on one printer. Pretty sure that head is gone. I also see on blogs that the SS cleaning can be a shortcut to burning out a printhead.

  7. Dave Wetterstroem said:

    First, thanks for the sight and for sharing a smile here and there will all of us that are at our wits end dealing with our printers. I have a 9900 that I am currently fighting a clog in the VM channel. I have tried the windex on the paper towel, lifting the paper towel and sliding it back and forth as well as cleaning modes in both regular and maintenance modes. About the only thing I haven’t tried is the SSCL that you warn against.

    I use the printer in my business and it has to be right. I am just about to pull the trigger on a canon pro-4000. What I am wondering is there anything I should try before abandoning this printer?

  8. Jack Praul said:

    I had print head problems on my11880. The Windex did work for me after a few trial and errors. What I did. Was after I got the Windex soaked paper towels under the print head I put strips paper heavy paper behind the paper towels until the paper towels were tight up on the print head it self. Left that on for a few hours. Got a lot further along unclogging than just soft paper towels.

  9. Tom Kluzak said:

    After suffering a clog in 5 heads on my 4900, even though frequent nozzle checks were run, I came to understand that you must print something! A local repairman cleared previous clogs on my machine but not wanting to develop another hernia taking the printer to him, I used many cycles of Windex-soaked paper towels, changing at least twice a day. When a few didn’t work I kept it up for about 5 days, then ran cleaning cycles with lots of nozzle check prints in between. It finally worked! I believe the Windex makes sense because it approaches the clog from where it is actually clogged, on the distal end of the head. Anyway, persistence paid off, with some heads showing little change until they showed up clear.

    • Hello, not sure if this thread is still active. I’m now experiencing clogs with my 4900. I have tried the 3 button power on procedure to park the head, but I don’t get the menu/maintance/wiper selection that is mentioned. I ended up unplugging when the head was mid-stroke. Now I’m wondering how to fit a paper towel under the print head???? Where is the print head relative to the carrage body??? I’m going to try the windex method for a day or two, then move on to the charging scenario described below.

      • There is a YOu tube film that demonstrates where evereything is..the best one is a US woman (I think) using some sort of red stuff you can’t get here in New Zealand. 🙂

    • Eric Bowles said:

      The Epson 4900 has a problem with the pump unit causing a poor seal that allows the ink to dry on the print head. They are on their third part number. It’s about a $450 repair, but if you replace the pump unit your problems should be resolved. There are a variety of bandaids, but if your printer was purchased in 2015 or earlier, I’d just take it for service.

  10. RPS said:

    I’m a hobbyist photographer and stopped using my 4900 about 18 months ago because I got busy at work. It was around 6 months old at the time and had printed no more than a dozen times (about one print every other week). I tried to get it to print about 9 months ago, but some of the colors weren’t printing so I turned it off and printed at Costco instead.

    Yesterday, I decided to have another go. Four colors could not print at all (C, GR, LVM, and LC) and every other color had some problems (missing segments in the nozzle check print). After reading as much as I could online, I was discouraged and thought I’d wasted a good printer without getting much use out of it. My cartridges were still the original ones that came with the printer!

    I did the following, and now have it working again as good as new:

    1. Ran every nozzle cleaning built into the printer menus multiple times (no SS on 4900)

    2. Windex on paper towel trick
    a. Let it sit for 15 minutes
    b. Then RUBBED it back and forth against head
    c. Then let it sit for 30 minutes
    d. Then rubbed it back and forth against head again

    Between each of the above, I tried printing the nozzle check pattern again. Each time, I saw some improvement.

    Then for each color that was giving problems, I ran the power clean for that color pair only. Some took 3 or 4 tries.

    I’m keeping my pattern results and hope this lasts.

    I’ll try printing something (even if the photo is crap) every couple of days now.

  11. Tandy Howard said:

    Thanks for your recommendations regarding nozzle cleaning,all to no avail. I’m convinced, as are many others who own the 4900, that the heads on these unit’s-or at least the majority of them- are defective and should be recalled. I’ve contacted Epson and they are not interested. So,…I’m left with an expensive 150 lb. paperweight and I’ll never purchase another Epson product!!

    • GoGo said:

      From what I have been told Tandy Howard, there are endless Epson 4900 paper weights lying about at repair facilities across the world. Once clogged they are useless it seems… UNTIL you consider the experience of a 4900 user who contacted me recently about his terminal 4900 clogs. After much back and forth with this user he finally decided to try a trick of his own – he ran three consecutive processes of charging the 4900 with ink, as if it were a new machine – and it worked. It cleared his terminally clogged head. This process does not fire the nozzles, it simply runs a ton of ink into the machine from what it thinks are new carts. I think the trick here is in running a ton of new ink into the machine, with the lines already charged with ink from previous use, what actually happened was he flushed his 4900 thoroughly using nothing other than pure (expensive) ink. He never took one thing apart. He just bought ink and charged the printer with it. Back to printing for him. If you’ve got ink it might be worth a try. Good luck Tandy

      • Rick said:

        Hey Eric…thanks for all the great info…best site on the web for this subject.

        Do you recommend trying an initial charging as mentioned above for clearing a clog on the 7900?

        I have an 8 year old 7900 that I lost the green channel on about a year ago and gave up trying but I’m wondering if this might be worth a try if there’s no risk to the printhead…already ponied up for one of those right after I got the machine.

        Thanks

      • Eric said:

        The only harm I see you doing Rick, is to your wallet. Epson ink aint cheap. But yes, doing an initial charge could, theoretically, clear your “clog”. The key question to ask before dumping all that ink down the drain? Is your clog an actual clog or a dead head.. If you can answer that question accurately, BEFORE dumping money down the drain, you win

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