The weekend before this last one, I was poking around on Amazon, picking up a couple of things with a gift certificate I received as a Christmas gift. I finished my purchase, and, because I’m anal like that, went to print my usual invoice so I can reconcile my credit card account at the end of the month.
The printer, as it is wont to do (and as I was expecting to happen fairly soon) informs me that the Yellow cartridge has kicked and needs replacing. So I do so, and it goes back to work.
And the page comes out streaked. Uh-oh.
Now, I’m fairly confident when it comes to computer hardware. I roll up my sleeves, dive in, and eventually it gets fixed. But printers I am UTTERLY clueless about, and that’s kinda how I like it. They’re a pain in the ass.
However, there are at least a couple things I do know how to do: I print out a nozzle check, and lo and behold, several of them aren’t producing anything. Initiate head cleaning subroutine, lather, rinse, repeat, exact same nozzle pattern. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a clog.
The irony here kicks in on a couple of levels. On the top, we have the printer itself, an Epson CX6400. I bought Epson mainly because I was tired of replacing the all-in-one color cartridge on my old HP DeskJet 660C warhorse just because the yellow or magenta wore out, knowing that I was tossing away perfectly good cyan ink. So I wanted a printer that used discrete color carts. I also wanted a scanner and a memory card reader, and the CX6400 has all of that in one box.
The one thing that the HP had going for it, however, was that the print head was contained in the ink cartridge. So if it clogs, you chuck it, put in a new cart, and boom, new print head. With an individual ink-tank printer, if it clogs, you have to deal with it. Clogging is about the one thing that can screw you, in fact.
So, yeah, ironic.
Then, on the deeper level, in researching this whole thing, I discover that the CX6400 (and indeed any printer that uses Epson DuraBrite ink) is infamous for developing clogs after a couple years, because of the formulation of the ink, and because of this the DuraBrite printers are pretty much considered the scourge of Epson’s product line.
I bought this printer Christmas of 2004, and put in into service a week later. So I’ve had the printer exactly 2 years.
So, yeah, ironic.
Anyhow, when a friend of mine had a similar problem with her Epson, I did a little Googling and found fixyourownprinter.com, which gives advice for dealing with this sort of thing, in the name of getting you to buy their materials to fix it with. So, figuring I should follow my own advice, I order up some Head Cleaning Solution Plus, and figure out how to get through the week without printing anything. I don’t have high hopes for it, but after a couple days I make peace with the whole situation, figuring that if I DO have to replace the thing (and it kills me that tossing out what is otherwise a functional printer and STILL a fully-functioning memory card reader and scanner is actually cheaper than replacing the dead print head), I can get one that, well, isn’t universally hated.
I found that I print up a lot more over the course of a week than I thought.
Now, I don’t want the ink backing up too much (I figure I have enough problems), and running head cleanings and nozzle checks use ink, so I tried to leave it alone while I waited for the Magic Solvent to arrive. But, after a couple of days, curiosity got the better of me, and I ran another nozzle check. And it’s still not clean, but it’s a TEENY bit better than it was. But it’s still consistent, so I figure there’s still some clogging problems.
Finally, Friday, the stuff arrives: a little bottle of Magic Solvent, about an inch of surgical tubing, and a small syringe. I’m not really home for any length of time until Sunday, so printer servicing is going to have to wait until then.
Sunday morning comes, and I take a deep breath and head out to the living room to begin the surgery. Before I do so, though, I want to print out a receipt for something else I bought online, and I figure if it’s streaky, what the hell, I’ll just deal with it; I’m gonna chuck it when the credit card statement comes anyhow.
It prints flawlessly.
I do a double-take, and print up a nozzle check.
Perfect. Not one empty spot on it. Not one.
So, I have to offer up full kudos to the gang at Laser Service, proprietors of fixyourownprinter.com, for producing what is to the best of my knowledge the first effective print head cleaning solution that not only works as advertised, but doesn’t even have to be APPLIED TO THE PRINTER.