How to Unclog a 3D Printer Extruder Nozzle

What to do when it clogs up

One of the common challenges with 3D printers is a nozzle that gets jammed or stuck. Each 3D printer is different, of course, and the manufacturer likely has recommendations for clearing their specific printer nozzle that you will want to follow, if at all possible. Here are the best tips and tutorials for 3D printer nozzle cleaning.

Always read the fine print so that you do not void your warranty.

One of the best resources comes from Deezmaker, a 3D printer store and hackerspace in Pasadena, California that also created the Bukobot 3D printer. Founder and owner, Diego Porqueras, often shares in-depth posts and tips for not only his printer but 3D printing in general. His detailed nozzle cleaning post is helpful and has inspired an excellent video walking you through the steps, which you can read below.

A clogged 3D printer can ooze or leak
 lppicture / Pixabay

How to Quickly Clear a 3D Printer Nozzle

It could be that your hot end, or nozzle, just has a small amount of residue or material build-up – sometimes, you can clean it out with a probe. Some users recommend a thin wire, but that can scratch the inner wall of the nozzle, something you want to avoid. The best material I have found is guitar string – it is rigid, but will not scratch the metal interior of the nozzle. If you need something more durable or more rigid, some short pieces of wire from a brass wire brush can work if used carefully. Often, you are just trying to dislodge a piece of clogged plastic (ABS or PLA).

Removing and Cleaning the Blocked Extruder Nozzle

Again, depending on your 3D printer, you may have to remove the printer head and clean it. A short two-minute video about cleaning a blocked extruder nozzle from user "danleow" on YouTube is helpful.

Signs of the blocked nozzle include when the filament is not extruding uniformly, extrudes very thin filament, or nothing comes out from the nozzle.

What you need: Acetone, a torch, and a very thin wire.

Here's how to remove and clean a blocked extruder nozzle:

  1. Soak the removed nozzle into acetone for about 15 minutes to clean out exterior dirt. Use a soft cloth to clean the nozzle.

  2. Place a nozzle on a stone and burn it using the torch for about 1 min. Make sure it is extremely hot until you see slight changes in the color.

  3. Use a very thin wire to clear the hole in the nozzle. If the wire cannot go through, repeat step 2 until it can go through. Do not force through the hole with the wire. You do not want to scratch or damage the internal wall of the nozzle. I use soft copper wire stripped from an unused phone cable.

Finally, MatterHackers is a detailed resource with an article about clearing and prevent jams on 3D Printers.

They explain how to understand what causes or can create jams in the first place, such as nozzle height, temperature, tension, and calibration. The article also has some terrific visuals.