Monday, 18 February 2008

Epson 4800 “Puddle Method” for clearing nozzle clogs

I have been experiencing serious nozzle outages with my Epson 4800 inkjet printer for sometime. If simple head cleaning cycles do not work one of the methods for clearing nozzle clogs them is the so called “Puddle Method”, which I have seen attributed to Scott Graham of the Yahoo Epson4000 forum. Here is how I use the method.

I learnt the basics of this method from several postings on the Yahoo Epson4000 • Epson 4000/4800/4880 Support Group and I shall try to answer some questions that I had along the way – but, while I use this method on my own machine I can not advise you to use it on yours – that choice is up to you.

Tools & materials needed:
  • 20 ml syringe with a plastic extension tube (Kwill) fitted
  • Distilled water
  • Torch

The Method:
  • Start with the print head parked to the right.

  • Turn the printer off.

  • Fill a syringe with 15 – 20 ml of distilled water.

  • Release the print head, either by using the command on the printer menu “Cutter replace => Exec” or by my preferred option of pressing in the spring loaded cutter release (the top of the light blue release arrowed in the photo below), and move it to the left as far as necessary to be able to get at the print head cap.

  • Identify the right place to puddle. In the photo below the print head cap is arrowed – this is where you want to create the puddle. The pad next to it is the Flushing box, also arrowed in the photo below (sometimes called the purge pad), which I assume is where the ink goes when you purge the lines for changing over between photo and matt black inks and run head cleaning cycles.

  • Gently squirt some distilled water into the cap and watch it leak away (it ends up in the maintenance tank). I do this several times until the cap looks clean – the distilled water washes out the pad leaving it fairly white. Then fill the cap to the brim. (See below for the photos of the process).

  • Quickly, before the puddle leaks away, move the print head back to the right until it clicks into place.

  • Turn the printer on and off again to make sure that the print head is properly parked and capped.

  • Leave for an hour or two, or however long it takes. I start at an hour and move up to leaving it overnight.

  • Turn the printer back on. Decline any offer to run auto nozzle checks or power cleans and run a normal clean cycle, then a nozzle check.

  • If this has not cleared the problem run another cleaning cycle and nozzle check.

  • It that does not work, then puddle again…

If the distilled water does not do the trick I then try Fixyourownprinter Epson inkjet head cleaning solution – I follow their instructions and use around 1 ml of solution, although I don’t follow their advice to run three cleaning cycles.

I follow the general advice from various on-line sources not to do more than two clean & nozzle check cycles without printing a full spectrum image (I use a RGB colour patch that I use for generating ICC profiles to make sure that all the colours are exercised) as many uninterrupted cycles can make the problem worse.

I am aware that there is quite a lot of controversy about what fluids to use (Windex is often mentioned but it is not available in the UK and I have certainly not tried anything other than distilled water and FYOP solution); whether it is better to leave the printer on or off etc, etc. This method works for me, but no doubt it will be refined further over time.

So far I have not yet failed to get my printer back to perfect nozzle checks, but it seems to be a basic design flaw with these printers that we should have to even consider this process, let alone do it routinely. I would truly love to find a solution to these recurrent problems and make this method redundant.

Still when working it does produce beautiful prints…


roberto said...

Hi, I'm Roberto
I write from Italy

I've tried the "Puddle Method", but after 2 day this is the result

Is there any solution?
I think to put cleaning solution in the cartridge of the magenta.
What do you think about that?

I use no original ink in epson 4000

Churchill Photographer said...

First - I would not use Epson's auto nozzle check routine as it mostly makes things worse.

Without knowing how long you puddle cleaned for I can not really comment, but if you tried for an hour or two then I would try overnight.

Run simple nozzle checks not the auto version after cleaning cycles to check to see if they have worked.

If that does not work I would get some fixyourownprinter fluid and puddle clean in that.

I would also make sure that the humidity in the print head area is >40%, preferably >50%.

Also make sure that you do not do more than 2 cleaning cycles without running a normal print - and patience...

I run the following sort of cycle (although since I have maintained the humidity at >50% around the print head I have not had to do this):

Clean / nozzle check / clean / nozzle check / print a real image / puddle soak / clean / nozzle check etc until the nozzle clears.

NEVER run auto nozzle check...

I hope this helps

Sam said...

Great advice! I just used this to clear a stubborn clog problem on my 4800. In the process I noticed the flushing box was crusted over with old ink. This was the main culprit in all the clogging problems as I would run a cleaning cycle only to have the heads dirtied again by the crud on the flushing box. I scraped it off and rinsed the whole assembly out. It has been very difficult to find the replacement part, but I finally found it for $70. It appears to me all that really needs replacing is the actual purge pad, not the plastic "box" and tube. Any suggestions on how to replace just the pad? I don't think it is sold separately, but it seems you could fashion your own; out of what I don't know. I'm shocked there isn't more info on this bit of maintenance out there. I can't be the only one who has run into this problem.

Churchill Photographer said...


I find that it dissolves in water and soaks away in due course. If it is stubborn then FixYourOwnPrinter fluid should work better.

I haven't seen anything about replacing the pad myself so it would be interesting to hear your experience if you manage it.

seansmitty42 said...

I used a folded up paper towel to replace the pad and it worked fine. Also do u puddle on the capping station?

Anonymous said...

Hi I have followed most of the methods here to try and coax my 4800 to print. Two things that have been missed that I thought are very relevant is the cleaning of the flushing box by removing one retaining screw and washing it. Next to the flushing box is the wiper blade which builds up with ink and also needs cleaning. When I removed my flushing box it had a scaly type encrusted(dried ink deposits on it) It took 7 cotton buds (Q tips)to remove all the gunk off the wiper blade.

Hope this helps

Kendra Dixson said...

Hi, I have an Epson 4000 which I've been using since September 2004. I love it but right now I am so frustrated because the magenta has been clogged for almost 2 months and I've gone through 3 maintenance tanks plus ink trying to fix it.

I have done about a hundred cleaning cycles. I see now that I should have done more printing in between, thank you for the advice! I often resorted to the auto test too since it is so time consuming to self test, especially when I was going through sheets and sheets of tests.

I did a several puddle cleans and finally I got magenta long enough to print a few prints and then it completely disappeared. I did some more puddle cleans including left a bowl of water in the paper tray and covered the whole printer for 3 days

I am now resorting to the dreaded power clean. groan.

I am going to see if I can remove the flushing box to properly clean it, but as for the wiper blade, I can see it but I can't get to it. Do I have to take the printer apart to clean the wiper blade?

If you have any new advice too then I'd really appreciate it.


Kendra Dixson said...

PS I did the power cleaning and it didn't work. :(

I know everyone said not to, but it was so tempting when nothing else was working and I couldn't print anything for over 6 weeks.

I also took out the flushing box and rinsed it out and I reached in and wiped off the wiper blade with a Q-tip soaked in Fantastik.

I also put a wet paper towel down and rolled the printheads over it.

I feel like I've tried everything and the magenta is still completely nil.

If there is anything else I can try, please let me know. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Thanks very much for all the great hints on keeping the 4800s clog free. I had never heard of the puddle method before but after a bit of baby sitting through a few puddles (I used Windex)and sitting overnight followed by a basic cleaning,I had yellow again after a week of frustration. I am going to use your colour grid every few days when I'm not printing in addition to daily nozzle checks.
Thanks again
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sam said...

I've tried everything listed here. went through a whole set of cartridges. light black is completlely clogged. nothing at all comes out. is there a way to take out the print head and scrape off the clog? or anything more drastic? it seems my only other option right now is to buy a new printer.

Tom Loepp said...

I spent two weeks puddling, water-falling the heads, etc. on my Epson 4880. Puddling worked in previous attempts but somehow I got a major clog on one color. Finally the thing that cleared it was a folded napkin soaked in alcohol and clear ammonia placed in the center of the runway with the heads parked over it for the night.

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