I see dead inkjets, all the time. (They don’t know they’re dead.)


Bloody typical, I have a load of print to get ready for the Sheffield Zine Fest and my printer goes on the blink three days before. I hadn’t really left enough time anyway, and as usual I’m over-achieving, so the timing could not be worse.

Like I couldn’t see this coming.

I am a big fan of inkjet printers, but they need managing closely. It goes without saying that I’m using compatible cartridges as, even on the business-oriented Brother MFC-J6510DW that I bought for this very purpose, it’s too expensive to run (for my purposes) on original brand cartridges. Manufacturers are quite correct to say they don’t guarantee the quality or reliability when using third-party supplies, but in my experience it’s normally not a problem.

However, any printer that is used as much as I use mine will need some TLC now and then. I can’t deny that I have neglected the maintenance so far, mainly as it is fairly new, but it started printing badly in a way that was not soluble not matter how many times I ran the built-in cleaning routine. The printer can’t tell it’s not working correctly, it just goes about its business as usual, leaving ghostly blanks in your prints.


Printhead Hospital to the rescue. I could have easily predicted this, of course, but a bit of panicky googling threw up a number of resources and articles on cleaning fluids, methods and suppliers. Having discovered a recipe including the no-brainer component isopropyl alcohol, it also included other words that I was not so enamoured of, including “ammonia” and “surfactant”.

I ain’t no chemist, and developing recipes involving deadly poisons is not my core activity, so I decided to go for a ready-made solution thanks to Printhead Hospital who offer a complete kit for flushing out a wide range of common inkjet printers, including the line-fed Brother of mine.

Like I’ve said before the 6510 is not fast, but it’s darned cheap to run on compatible cartridges, and this is the real pay-off. If you are only making small quantities of print, want to keep the cost down, and have the time, inkjets are unbeatable. But you must expect them to clog at some point.

In the old days, I printed thousands and thousands of prints on an Apple StyleWriter 2500, and I found that the printhead could be cleaned quite effectively by rubbing it with your finger, and using the widely available solvent commonly known as “tap water”. The line-fed 6510 is another matter because the printhead is fed by tubes running from static ink cartridges and is not accessible in the same way, so pumping solvent through the system is the only effective way of clearing any blockages.


Delivery was prompt and it seems to have fixed the problem. There is an explanatory video online and the kit includes everything you need, including solvent, syringe, tube, gloves and blotting paper (top).

So, all being well I will get my printing done, and I’ll see you at Sheffield Zine Fest in Electric Works on Saturday 16th March 12-5pm.

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