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Printhead Cleaning [Canon]

This guide is one based on an article originally written as a number of forums posts on PrinterKnowledge.com. These have been reviewed, amalgamted and updated to include a few additional tips on how to clear some common printhead issues on Canon inkjet printheads, specifically the types that are a single unit and separate from the cartridges.

[Our] Standard Printhead Cleaning Technique

You will need:

  • A printhead cleaning solution (eg: OctoInkjet cleaning solution [Canon])
  • Kitchen paper towel (the absorbent tear off type)
  • A waterproof surface (preferably lipped to contain any spills)
  • A shallow plastic tray/container big enough to hold your printhead
  • A plastic bag that can hold the container (above) and the printhead comfortably
  • Cotton buds (Q-tips) or similar
  • Distilled/De-ionised or other mineral free water
  • Time (Impatience/Rushing = mistakes)

Cleaning Process:

  1. Use some of the cleaning solution to fill the shallow plastic tray to a depth of around 2mm deep
  2. Carefully place the printhead and tray in the bag, close it and place it somewhere horizontal and safe.
    The cleaning solution will wick into the printhead and work on any clogs
  3. After 30 minutes to an hour remove the tray/head from the bag
  4. Wad up a few sheets of paper towel (3-4 layers thick) and soak an area of it in the cleaning solution
  5. Place the printhead on the soaked area
  6. Gently press down on the printhead sides to force it down on to the soaked pad.
    This will force cleaning solution and any ink up into the nozzles and out the ink receiver mesh
  7. Hold the printhead in its pushed down position and use Cotton buds to soak up the ink/solution from the ink receivers
  8. Repeat steps 5 to 7, swapping out the kitchen towel (as per 4) as required
  9. Repeat steps 1-2 for an overnight soak if you believe it's necessary.

Once you have finished cleaning you can rinse the printhead gently using distilled/de-ionised water. Dry the head thoroughly, particularly the electronic contacts/circuit board on the back of the printhead.


Once the printhead has been reinstalled with the cartridges, run a single printhead clean and then print a single nozzle check. If the check appears clear, try printing a standard test image and look carefully for any sign of poor ink flow and/or missing colours.

AVOID, printing multiple images until you are sure the printer is working normally.

Cleaning a "Yellow Jello" Type Clog

There is a known issue with CLI-42 yellow cartridges and most OEM yellow cartridges, since the x50 series of cartridges (eg: CLI-551Y) appeared.

While the exact nature of the problem is not definitively understood the best guess is that the dye used in these cartridges uses a co-solvent to make the yellow dye soluble with the ink carrier fluid. Use of water and other incompatible fluids results in the OEM ink reaching a critical dilution point where the ink components drop out of solution and create a "gunk" which clogs things up.

So with this in mind we've found a way that seems to resolve the issue.

  1. Install a new OEM/Original yellow cartridge (Not refilled)
  2. Run a single head clean. This flushes the nozzles in the yellow channel with the OEM/Original ink and encourages the gunk back into solution
  3. Leave for a few hours
  4. Run another single head clean and then a print a nozzle check

If this encourages the yellow back into a reasonable amount of functionality (but not complete) use the Standard Printhead Technique (described above) to finish cleaning out the head. Repeat use of the OEM yellow cartridge as necessary.


If you manage to get the yellow channels working again it's important to avoid the problem repeating so you need to think about how you're going to provide yellow to your printer in future. Some suggestions include:

  • Use an OEM Yellow cartridge while you refill the other inks
  • Use a compatible refillable cartridge set instead of the OEM cartridge
  • For Pro-100(S) use a CLI-8Y cartridge with a CLI-42Y chip (using a chip swap). The cartridges are physically identical but the CLI-8Y does not contain the same ink so you can safely use it with the correct chip attached.
  • Thoroughly clean out the OEM Yellow cartridge using the technique described here (TODO: Add link to Cartridge cleaning article)

Other Approaches

Numerous other techniques/suggestions exist and many of the best can be found in this thread on Printerknowledge

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