Printers are office workhorses and they seldom receive respect in return for the work they do. However, printers can fail prematurely if they aren't used correctly or if preventative maintenance is ignored. Below are some simple things you can do to keep your printers operational for a long time:
Materials and tools you will need
- Isopropyl rubbing alcohol – use 91% or higher concentration to speed up evaporation and lessen the risk of water entering sensitive components. Most pharmacies carry 91% rubbing alcohol if you can't find it at a retail general merchandise store.
- Cotton swabs – choose swabs with long wooden handles so you can reach into crevices and cracks
- Stretchable dust cloths – these special cloths are ideal for wiping dust and toner residue
- Long-handled tweezers
- Fine-bristled camel hair brush – purchase a small paintbrush for use with oil or acrylic art painting
- Compressed air in a can
- Fine particulate vacuum – this is strictly optional due to its expense, but this machine excels at removing super-fine toner particles
Prevent damage from occurring
The first and most important thing you can do to provide your inkjet or laser printer with a long life is taking a few preventative steps so it won't fail prematurely. Below are some things you should always do:
Print with high-quality paper
Printer paper is available in all shapes, sizes and colors, but it also comes in various weights. The weight of paper is in pounds, and this number indicates the weight for 500 sheets of a particular kind of uncut paper. Thus, the larger the pound rating, the heavier the paper. Occasional usage for thicker materials is acceptable, but consistent use with paper that is too thin or too thick will cause wear to rollers and other internal parts. Most printers perform well with paper in the 20 pound (20#) range, but be sure to read your manual to know what paper weights are recommended for your machine.
Keep foreign objects out of printers
Printers are designed to operate within certain tolerances regarding paper thicknesses and other close parameters. If you insert paper that contains staples, clips, dried glue, adhesive notes, or other foreign objects into the printer, it will likely either jam or the object may cause damage to the rollers or print head.
Use your printer in a controlled environment
Printers are designed to operate within the confines of an office. They work best in dry, cool conditions; high ambient temperatures will cause the device to overheat, and dampness can cause paper jams and clump the toner.
Avoid static electricity
Like most electronic devices, static electricity is bad for printers. That's why you should endeavor to insert empty paper and withdraw printed pages slowly. Try to lift rather than slide papers; this will help reduce the amount of static electricity from building inside your printer.
Inspect and clean your printer
This last step in preserving a long life span for your printer is to perform routine inspections and cleanings. This is not difficult, but failure to do so could be costly if the printer fails. Below is how to inspect and clean your printer:
- Open top panel – while each printer is different, most have hinged top panels that pop open. These panels provide access to the interior of the printer, including toner and ink cartridges. Turn off the power to your printer, and carefully open it.
- Remove the toner/ink cartridges – after gaining access to the inside of the printer, remove the toner or ink cartridges. If you aren't sure how to do that, consult your manual.
- Pull all paper from the trays – be sure that none of the trays contain paper, including the manual tray or backside feeders.
- Inspect the inside of the printer – with the flashlight, take a minute to look around inside your printer. Observe anything that looks broken, cracked, fatigued or displaced. Take a look at the paper rollers and touch them; if they look shiny or feel hard and brittle, they probably need replacing.
- Remove debris from printer – when you spot bits and pieces of paper as well as any other foreign objects that might have fallen into the printer, remove the pieces large enough to pick up with your tweezers. Use the fine-bristled brush to help manipulate pieces or to reach into crevices to brush-out particles.
- Vacuum the printer/Air dust the printer – if you own a fine particulate vacuum, now is the time to use it. Gently suction inside the printer, including underneath rollers and in crevices. Be careful not to pop a wire loose or damage any circuitry. If you don't have a vacuum, you can give a few short bursts of compressed air inside the printer to remove as much debris as practical. Do not hold the can upside down or it will squirt cold liquid into the printer; this could potentially cause damage to components.
- Swab the rollers and other pinch points where paper is fed – dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and run it over the rollers and other points inside the printer where paper passes. If you see any other dirty corners, use swabs for cleaning them, too. Be careful not to rub too hard, or you may loosen wisps of cotton fiber that will work their way into the components.
- Wipe down the printer's interior and exterior – after allowing the alcohol to dry completely, use a stretchable dust cloth to wipe down the inside and outside of the printer. This should remove all remaining traces of toner and dust.
- Replace the toner or ink cartridges and front panel – power on your printer and run a test page cycle to ensure the printer is still operating as it should be.
Professionals, like those at Nation's First Office Repair, can assist you if you need it.