Why and How You Should Regularly Clean Your Printheads

With proper care and maintenance, you can dramatically extend the life of the printheads in your direct thermal or thermal transfer printers.

This can potentially save you thousands of dollars in costs because printheads are the most important and expensive consumables in the printing process.

Top quality printheads, such as those found in Zebra printers, are designed to print as many as 10 million barcode labels or other media. But they can burn out much faster if you don’t take care of them properly.



Printheads usually fail due to the fast heating and cooling processes as printing elements pass over media and switch on and off.

They can also break down due to required pressure for finely tuned print quality. The harder your printhead has to work to achieve your desired print quality, the faster it burns out.

As it fails, the evidence will become obvious as your images and print become lighter, sections fail to print, and you end up with increasing white space.

Thankfully, you can help prevent these issues by cleaning your printhead regularly.

Depending on your application, you might choose to clean your printhead before and after every roll of labels you print. Another method is to clean your printhead every time you change your ribbon or label roll.

However, it can be easy to forget to do this, so sometimes it’s best to establish a standard procedure of cleaning your printhead after every print job, especially if you’re running longer jobs.

6 Steps to Cleaning Your Printhead

To clean your printheads, follow these steps:

1. Make sure your printer is turned off and open the access door panel located on the top of the printer. After you open it, you should be able to see your printhead, paper spool, ribbon (if applicable), and other printer components.

2. If the paper spool is in the way, you may need to remove it. You may also need to remove the ribbon if your printer uses one. You can do this by pushing the lever that releases the printhead.

3. When cleaning the printhead, make sure to only use isopropyl alcohol. It must be 70 percent rubbing alcohol by volume.

You can use a lint-free rag or pre-saturated wipe to do the cleaning, and we strongly recommend using printhead cleaning and maintenance kits from our partners at Zebra Technologies.

Zebra’s kits give you everything you need to do proper printhead maintenance and cleaning, remove abrasions and do touch-up on your printheads, and maintain optimal printer performance.

4. Moisten the rag with alcohol or use an alcohol wipe to wipe the printhead a couple of times. Use only a small amount of pressure. This allows you to remove any ribbon dust and carbon that has built up over time.

5. Wait until the printhead dries, and then replace the ribbon cable and re-insert the printhead. You’ll know it’s locked into place if the printhead lever returns to its original position.

6. Now replace the paper spool and close the access door. Turn your printer back on and print a barcode label or your preferred media to ensure it’s working correctly.

For more advice on how to clean your printheads, extend printer life, and use Zebra cleaning kits, contact our experts at DataGear.

We’ll also explain how you can get guaranteed protection against premature printhead failures and get a printhead replacement at no cost if you own Zebra printers and agree to use Zebra supplies exclusively.

Contact us now to get started. Call us at (714) 556-5055 or email us now.



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Author: Shannon Abiteboul

Hi, I'm Shannon and I am the Director of Marketing at DataGear®, Inc., an industrial data solutions company based in Santa Ana, CA. One of the great things about my job is that I get to run our company blog here and share information about us and the things we do. I also enjoy posting about marketing related news and business tips and so I try to incorporate them into our posts.

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