How to Clean a Printer and Scanner

Keep your pictures clear by taking care of your devices

One of the best ways to keep printers and scanners working at optimal levels for longer is with regular cleanings. If you notice streaky, blurry, smudged, or distorted images when printing documents or scanning images, clean your scanner or printer before paying for a costly fix or replacement.

Even though most printers take care of this, manually running the printer's cleaning process can work wonders, especially on older models or when there's high printer usage.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and macOS.

How to Clean a Printer Using the Printer Settings on Windows

Check your printer manual to see if it has instructions for running the cleaning process. If you can't find the manual, and the printer has a display, you may be able to locate the cleaning process on the device. Navigate to Settings, Options, Maintenance, or something similar.

  1. Access the printer menu on Windows. Select Start Menu > Control Panel > View devices and printers.

    Alternatively, search for control panel using Windows search, then select Control Panel.

    View devices and printers under Hardware and Sound
  2. Right-click the printer you want to access, then select either Preferences or Properties.

    Some of these options may be printer specific. Refer to your printer instructions for how to start the cleaning functions on your model. You can find most printer user guides by searching for the printer model on Google if you don't have a physical copy.

    Properties in Windows 10
  3. Select either Hardware or Maintenance, then look for an option for cleaning your printer.

Find Printer Settings on a Mac

If your printer is connected to a Mac computer, you can access the cleaning utility from the System Preferences.

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences.

    The System Preferences command under the Apple menu
  2. Select Printers & Scanners.

    Printers & Scanners in System Preferences
  3. Choose the specific printer you're working with.

  4. Select Options & Supplies.

    The Options & Supplies button
  5. Look for a Utility option, which will lead you to open the printer app. The printer app contains its own cleaning section. Depending on your printer model, you may not see these options.

How to Clean a Printer Yourself

If the self-cleaning option doesn't fix the problem, get some isopropyl alcohol, a small brush or cotton swab, and a cloth. Then follow these steps:

  1. Open the panel to get to the printer's ink cartridges. Take the cartridges out, one at a time, and use the alcohol and cotton swab to clean the contact points of each ink cartridge.

  2. Before putting the ink cartridges back, remove the print head unit and swab any accumulated gunk on the unit. If necessary, soak it in a 1-to-1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water for a few minutes.

    The print head unit is the large base the ink cartridges sit inside.

  3. Make sure all components are thoroughly dry before inserting them back into the printer.

  4. Do a test print to clear everything further up and make sure the cleaning process was successful. Access this through the same preferences menu where you found the self-cleaning option.

How to Clean a Scanner

Cleaning a scanner is fairly self-explanatory, but there are a few things people can miss. For this, you will need a microfiber cloth and glass cleaner.

Microfiber cloth
Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

You can use isopropyl alcohol, but it leaves streaks if you use more than a tiny amount.

  1. Turn off the scanner and unplug the power cord.

  2. Use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe down the glass and the underside of the scanner lid.

  3. If there are smudges or residue on the glass, spray a bit of glass cleaner onto the cloth, then wipe the glass.

    Don't use too much or spray directly onto the glass. If a small amount of moisture makes its way into the scanner, it can cause problems.

  4. Use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe away any remaining moisture.

    Avoid using compressed air on your scanner glass. It can trap dust on the edges of the glass. The dust can then get underneath the glass and cause more problems.