How to Unclog Sublimation Printer in 3 ways | Maintenance Tips

No matter how much you try to keep your printer working regularly, clogs, ghosting, and banding are unable to guard against them. And honestly, none of you can actually sublimate daily with all the colors, so running into a blocked and clogged printer is an expected outcome, except that we all hate it. Luckily, we got a solution for you all! We’ll provide the three most exclusive ways how to unclog sublimation printers–even if you haven’t used your printer for years, you can make it run again.

uclog sublimation Printers

What we gonna do in this article is going to be a little exclusive. One of our team members had worked in the repair shop, and we all have been using his methods with which we unclogged hundreds of printers of our own, friends, and relatives. Spoiler alert: there are no expensive kits, no distilled water cleaning setup, and nothing fancy like changing the cartridges and getting too techy to involve hours in settings.

Sublimation printer unclog [3 ways]

The most popular misconception we encountered when researching the internet to find various studies about how to unclog sublimation printers was “cleaning the printer unclogs it”. It does, though, but you don’t have to perform a whole lot of cleaning just to unclog it. The three simple ways you can unclog the printers are.

  1. Hot water running
  2. Prime ink method
  3. Printing purge sheet

First, tell us which printer you’re using. There are two leading sublimation printers brand that everyone has nowadays. One is Epson, and the other is Sawgrass. Sawgrass printers have an automatic cleaning system that unclogs the printer. While so does the Epson have, but remember we converted the printer? Yes, now the cleaning system won’t work as effectively, plus it’s for 5 times only. The 6th time you run the automatic clean, it will destroy the printhead.

The methods we covered in this article, we precisely tested them on Epson printers. Sawgrass’s latest models, i.e., SG 500 and SG 1000, don’t clog much. The auto-cleaning setup is so efficient that it keeps the printer functional even if you leave it idle for a month or two. If you’ve previous versions of Sawgrass, you can use one of these methods.

How to know if your printer is clogged?

nozzle check
Nozzle Check

The printer has multiple problems when they stop working. Be sure that the problem is a clogged-print head before doing the method. How so? Do a printhead nozzle check. If your print has clear lines for all the colors and black ink, there’s no issue with the printhead. Perhaps there might be a bigger one, then. However, if lines appear faded and vanish, here’s what you’re going to do.

Hot water running

Headstart with the printer’s maintenance menu and go on the “printer’s cartridge replacement. This is the setting we’ll follow in all three methods.

When your printer directs you to the cartridge replacement setting, open the front of the printer. After you open it, touch nothing inside before unplugging it. There are electrical signals inside, so make sure the printer is powered off.

Now slide the print head from right to left, and you’ll see the wastage pad. This is where the ink gets stuck and causes all the vanishing and print to fade on the paper. Now take boiling water and fill up one syringe and add a few droplets to let the ink merge with the water. Water and sublimation ink? You may think it’s a foolish idea.

steaming the waste pad
Steaming the Waste Pad.

Well, the steam is what our focus is. That’s why we said boiling water. The droplets of hot steam combine with the ink, and it’ll go easy with a smooth flow. Leave the water on the pad and remove all the excess water from the sides because it’s an electrical machine, and you don’t want to risk any other problems when you’re fixing one. Now, slide the print head back to its original position, and close the printer’s lid for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, switch on the printer and run the printhead cleaning. After it’s done, do a nozzle check, and you’ll see the results.

One crucial thing to here: this method is suitable for the least severe clogging. For example, if a few lines are faded, then this will work at one time. However, if the printer’s completely been idle for years, and now the entire print is blank, you may need 3 or 4 rounds of this method until you get your printer functional again. And don’t forget, make sublimation ink run on the waste pad after you clear it. Otherwise, the water quill comes out on your actual print.

Results of hot water running
Results of Hot Water Running.

Prime ink method:

The prime ink method means soaking the ink waste with a paper towel. On the maintenance mode and the printer being switched off, we’ll open the lid. Now we’ll remove the cover of the print head. It may be a little hard, but stay gentle. You don’t want to break anything.

Now, we’ll fold a paper towel neatly in the same as the sliding area of the printhead.

In the next step, slide the print head over the paper towel without bringing any wrinkles. You want the paper towel placed under the printhead entirely.

paper towel  placed underneath printhead
Paper towel placed underneath printhead.

The next thing is interesting. We’ll fill up the empty syringe with air and put that one nozzle first. Some people don’t the same method and test the cartridge with a pin or toothpick. This is dangerous, the cartridges are sensitive, and you may break one while trying to clear the air. Passing air through it is the easiest and less hectic method. We like to try the black cartridges first. So, we’ll press the syringe, and the ink will pass. With clear nozzles, the air passes smoothly.

clearing nozzle with air pressure
Clearing nozzle with air pressure.

However, you’ll feel the tension with the clogged nozzle. And when you feel the tension, stay calm and slow. Don’t push hard. You’ll break the print head with the pressure. Once you’d feel the air is passing clear, slide back the printhead to its original position, and remove the paper towel. You’ll see the paper towel fully covered in ink. Now print the nozzle check, and you’ll have a cleared-up print.

prime ink test results
Prime ink test results.

Well, here’s a tip. Combine the water running and prime ink method. This way, the water ultimately gets out, and you’ll have a clean pad and nozzles for a long time. 

Printing purge sheet

cosmos' purge sheet
Cosmos’ purge sheet.
printed purge sheet
Printed purge sheet.

Our last method is pretty simple and just takes a few seconds. Print the purge sheet with the premium presentation matte setting and do a nozzle check. That’s it. This is how simple all of it is. It helps when you regularly use your printer; suddenly, the print is faded, and the lines appear. However, you must have a package from the ink manufacturer for the purge sheet. This will clear up the clogs and fade issues, and you’ll have all the lines appear on the nozzle check print.

purge sheet results
Purge sheet results.

Why is My Epson Sublimation Printer Printing Lines

Why is My Epson Sublimation Printer Printing Lines

One of the most common problems with the Epson sublimation printer is printing lines on paper. Besides the printer clog, an Epson printer might have three issues:

  • You’re using low-quality paper. Or even if it’s branded, re-feed it and ensure the paper is smooth, i.e., has no wrinkles, moisture, or dust. 
  • You’re running low on ink. 
  • Has system issues, which we brief below: 

Previously, there were printing units that had printheads inside, and there was no software that would tell if the printer had any ink remaining or not. Now, the Epson has come up with an upgrade. The program tells you if you’re at the end of your ink. But one thing that the Epson Workforce series and other printers with Cartridge setups don’t have is the built-in pumps.

Epson will give you two options when you refill the cartridge or replace it with a new one. Either run a cleaning setup or use a one-way damper. You’ll have the ink stored on the waste pad in both ways. This waste pad ink dries out and causes clogs, which in turn, causes ghosting, banding, and lines. 

Tips for Sublimation Printer Maintenance

You’d have an unclogged printer by now, but care to pay attention to why in the first place, your printer went under blockage of nozzles? There might be many reasons other than just keeping the printer idle. The very basic is you’re not appropriately using the printer, i.e., there is a  maintenance you need to follow which keeps your printer guarded against clogging and blockage. 

The most fundamental reasons for a printer clog may be: 

  • Leaving the uncleaned for many months:  

Cleaning the printer timely is essential. If you leave the printer on its own, relying on automatic cleaning, the dust, debris, and spider webs will make a home inside your printer, and you’ll have faded results. And how often you should clean your sublimation printer is kinda debatable. It depends on your usage. If you regularly use your printer, it’ll be less likely to clog because the ink is constantly moving. Still, make sure to run a cleaning setup every 3-6 months. 

However, with a rested printer, you might have to perform cleaning before using the printer. It’ll be hectic and requires double efforts. 

  • Ink is depleted: 

This is what many people do. They make the printer run out of ink entirely. Sorry to break it out, but if you left your printer empty, with no ink drop, the air would take the space. When you refill it, the bubble will form, making the way block. Most printers use their waste pad that stores excess ink, onto which the ink dries out, which is the third reason for a printer clog.

  • The ink dried out: 

The ink dries in the printer due to one of the reasons: the waste pad had too much ink, or you haven’t used the printer in a while. This will block the fresh ink comes out clear.  

There must be one of these reasons your printer isn’t working anymore. If all the signs are positive, you may have something severe, and now you’ve to consult a printer repair shop unless you’re in the warranty. With the Sawgrass and Epson new sublimation model, you can easily get everything fixed for free. However, it’s time to break the piggy bank if you’ve got a converted Epson model or your warranty period is over. 

Sublimation Printer Maintenaince 

Here are a few tips on what you can do at home for a printer’s maintenance. 

  • Use quality ink: 

First and foremost, your ink system is the soul of your printer, so there’s no compromise on the quality. 90% of you have converted Epson printers, and the ink that came with it needs to be discarded. Now you don’t care about third-party sublimation ink because they all seem the same. In fact, most people buy cheaper ink and don’t even read which ink is suitable for which printer. 

We separately wrote about the best sublimation ink, covering the top-of-the-line ink system suitable for printers of different types, along with a buyer’s guide that will help you purchase the correct ink for your printer. However, to keep it precise here, check the density of the ink and read the comments first. Sometimes, the manufacturers claim the ink to be useful for specific models. While in reality, it isn’t. So ensure you’ve enough knowledge about your printer and do it correctly. And yes, if you’ve got a Sawgrass printer, never use any third-party ink. 

  • Clean and clear environment

The environment matters a lot. If you’ve a dirty and trashy environment, your transfer paper will carry dust particles with them, and when they go into the printer, the dust will clog the entire printer. So, regularly dust off the place and secure the papers in a box in a covered container, so they don’t catch dust particles.

  • Temperature:   

Temperature plays an underground role which can secretly plan your downfall of the printer without you knowing. A temperature above 25 C is the enemy of your work. In fact, you’d see many ink packages that won’t survive above 35 C. That’s why storing them in a cool place is recommended. This is because high temperate and low humidity causes moisture which causes steam, and then the printing quality has to pay the price.

So, it’s better you store your supplies in a cool and dry place and the workspace is well-ventilated and cool.

  • Regular printer clean-up:

Last, keep a regular clean-up setup. The automatic clean-ups are limited, so don’t be lazy. Assign a day for manual cleaning, but hey, don’t burden yourself, though. You shouldn’t be running cleaning kits for hours every other week. It’ll be fine for 1 time every six months.

Wrap up! 

See how easy it was? None of the methods requires any added tools or accessories, and you just got your printer running again. We provided three different ways you can use either sequence-wise or just any one of them. Plus, memorize the tips because knowing how to unclog sublimation printer isn’t always enough. Make sure you treat your printer right, just as how it deserves to be treated. If we left anything unanswered or you have any queries, let us know in the comments. We’d love to help!


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