How to get the most out of your inkjet printer

Printers are probably one of the most hated pieces of consumer electronics. Most of the time we can live without them, but when we need them, we really need them, and more often than not, that's the time when they decide to play up.

Printers are probably one of the most hated pieces of consumer electronics (obligatory link to a relevant Oatmeal cartoon). Most of the time we can live without them, but when we need them, we really need them, and more often than not, that's the time when they decide to play up.

But you can take some steps to help make sure your printer is ready when you are.

  • If you print fewer than 50 pages a year, you probably don't need a printer. If you must get one, pick up a cheap unit.
  • If you're leaving your printer off for an extended period of time, switch it off. That way it can park the heads properly to prevent the ink from drying.
  • Dust is a printer's arch-nemesis. It clogs up print heads and gums up the works. Keep your printer clean and give it the occasional blow out with compressed air if it lives in a dusty spot. Also, photocopier paper generates a lot of dust too, so it might be best to avoid it and buy paper specifically for inkjet printers.
  • Don't use expired ink cartridges because they can clog your print head, leading to an expensive repair.
  • Inkjet printers also dislike heat, so keep them away from windows or radiators if as all possible.
  • If you're going to ask me what ink to use, my advice will be the same as if you asked me what oil to use in your car - use what the manufacturer recommends. I've had very mixed experiences with third-party inks, and that means I'm not comfortable recommending anything other than the manufacturer's recommended inks. If you get good results with something else, then that's great. Keep doing what you're doing.
  • Every six to 12 months or so clean your printer's head using the built-in process (check your manual if you're uncertain).
  • If your printer head becomes clogged and the head is part of the ink cartridge then you'll need to replace the cartridge. If the print head is a separate unit then you can try to clean it either using a homebrew method or a kit such as this) but in my experience once a print head is clogged, chances are good that it will need replacing. But bear in mind that print head replacement can be expensive and usually it's cheaper to buy a new printer.

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