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Tip Top Tips: How I Rescued My Printer

Editor's Note: Tip Top Tips is a monthly column in The PCLinuxOS Magazine. Each month, we will feature -- and possibly even expand upon -- one tip from the PCLinuxOS forum. The magazine will not accept independent tip submissions specifically intended for inclusion in the Tip Top Tips column. Rather, if you have a tip, share it in the PCLinuxOS forum's "Tips & Tricks" section. Your tip just may be selected for publication in The PCLinuxOS Magazine.

This month's tip comes from PCLinuxOS forum member One_Beerhunter.

I have a Brother MFC J6920DW printer that doesn't get a lot of use. Recently, it quit printing text. I initially suspected some update may have messed up my system, but the more I thought about it, I became suspect of the print head.

This left me with few options: buy a new printer, run $100 worth of ink through the "clean cycle," purchase a print head cleaning kit online, or fake it. So with limited funds, I hit the dollar store and purchased a turkey injector, one of those syringe type devices. I then took a 6" section of Cat5 cable and removed the interior wires just to obtain the jacket. Using the jacket as a tube to extend the length of the injector outlet I could then reach the ink inlet (after removing the ink cartridge).

Using isopropyl alcohol, I partially filled the injector and holding the jacket/tubing to the inlet (not a perfect fit, I put some paper towels under the inlet), I pushed some of the alcohol into the fitting. I then withdrew the plunger on the injector to pull the softened ink from the line going from the print cartridge to the print head. I repeated this process several times, dumping the blackened contents of the injector each time, then refilling with fresh alcohol.

I then replaced my black ink cartridge and ran a clean cycle to flush the ink line, printed a test page twice for somewhat improved print quality. I then ran the clean cycle a second time with the same test pages and the printer is pumping out pages like a new printer.

I hope this saves a few printers from the landfill, and helps other PCLinuxOS users wondering why their printer no longer works as expected.

Agent Smith added the following to the thread:

I did something like this, but with an Epson printer.

[It was] good quality, but when the printer head gets jammed, the trash bin is usually its destination.

I recovered mine with a solution of hot water and a bit of mild soap, a syringe and a small rubber tube.

[It] worked for three more years.

Editor's note: according to, the price of black printer ink, at the prices the printer companies charge, is about $2,700 (U.S.) per gallon (3.8 L). That's roughly $1,200 more than a gallon of human blood, and about $700 less than a gallon of mercury. Almost always, the price of the ink cartridge(s) is/are far more than the price of the printer.

Factoring in the costs involved in printing your own pictures from your digital camera yourself, at home, you will find the costs way, way higher than taking your memory card to your local photo finisher and getting real photo prints. You have to factor in the costs of the printer, the ink (the most expensive component), and the special photo paper. The costs definitely don't justify the convenience, plus you end up with print with far higher quality.

You will be far better off and save way more money by getting a monochrome laser printer to print out text. The price of toner is often less expensive than the inks in a color laser printer, and the toner never "dries up" or clogs up. On my personal laser printer, I'm still using my original toner cartridge that came with the printer, after purchasing the printer over three years ago. You cannot do that with any printer that uses ink.

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