Horizontal lines across prints are most commonly experienced with inkjet printers and are usually down to a partially blocked printhead. Inkjet printers from many different manufacturers are prone to this including machines by Brother, Canon, Epson, Dell, Hewlett Packard (HP), Kodak, Lexmark and many more. Such an issue can easily be resolved with a bit of basic maintenance.
How can I tell if my printhead is partially blocked?
If a slight blockage is present you will notice breaks in your prints as the printhead moves from left to right dispensing ink. These lines will be in a regular pattern and usually run consistantly down the length of the page as demonstrated below.
Looking at this image it may not be evident that the gaps in this text form a regular patten. It is particularly difficult to identify a partially blocked printhead when only printing black and white text as only a single colour ink is being used and gaps also appear naturally. To demonstrate what I mean clearly I have marked in red on the same image where the lines are occurring.Conversely, printing colour images or photos presents an entirely different issue as it is not always evident which colour is at fault. This is because your printer combines two or more inks when creating almost any colour, making determining or even describing the fault a challenge. Take a look at the image below for example.
You would be forgiven for describing this effect as pink/magenta lines across your photo. However what you are actually looking at with these lines is an absence of cyan and yellow on the print. To determine the affected colours with certainty I would recommend doing a test print or nozzle check (depending upon how your manufacturer refers to it) from your printer. if you are unsure how to do this please consult your printer manual or just print our very own Colour Inkjet Printer Test Page.
If however you are experiencing something similar to either of these two issues it is safe to say that one or more colours is partially blocked within your printhead.
How do I clear this blockage?
Thankfully the majority of printers available have cleaning facilities built into them which are ideal for clearing such blockages or dried patches from printheads. Depending upon the manufacturer of your printer the cleaning facility will carry a different name, for example Epson refer to it as “Clean Print Head”, Brother call it “Head Cleaning” and Canon simply “Cleaning/Deep Cleaning Cycle”. Whatever your printer calls it I recommend running the cycle 1-3 times. This cycle forces additional ink into the printhead and will hopefully flush out any dried ink causing print quality issues.
The final step will differ depending upon whether the printhead is part of the cartridge is part of your cartridge or your printer. If you are not sure for your particular printer please use the image below as a guide.
Cartridges with a Printhead Included
The printhead being attached to the cartridge actually works in our favour here as it can easily be removed from the printer. I now recommend taking the relevant cartridge from your printer and running through the physical cleaning procedure mentioned in the second part of the article you can find linked here.
If the blockage remains after the physical clean then it is unlikely you will be able to remove it and I can only recommend replacing the cartridge all together.
Cartridges without a Printhead
Sadly the only option that remains is persisting with more cleans, but I recommend leaving a few minutes between cleans to avoid damaging the printhead your of printer. I would however like to warn you that cleaning cycles use a fair amount of ink so don’t be surprised if you notice ink level estimates begin to decrease on all colours.
For the sake of completeness you could always try replacing the cartridge but, print quality problems of this nature are unlikely to be caused by any kind of cartridge defect.
Some of these printers have replacement printerheads available as consumables, most printers however will require the intervention of an engineer to resolve a blocked or dried printhead. Hopefully your printer is in warranty and you can get the printhead exchanged free of charge. Otherwise if you want to carry on using the printer expect to pay £60+ to have the printhead replaced.
I hope you have found this article useful. If however there are any points that need clarification or you have further questions please let me know in the comments below.