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Cleaning your printhead on Label Printers

28 November 2016

Improving your printed image by cleaning

Thermal label printers (roll fed) use thermal printheads to transfer heat onto a thermally sensitive surface. This is how your image appears on the paper. The label paper runs between the printhead and a roller (called a platen roller). Proper cleaning of these surfaces can vastly improve a substandard image. Problems in this area are usually lines or blurry areas of print. The printhead and the platen roller are usually near where the label exits the printer.


TOP TIP: If you have white lines etc showing in your printed label then use one of these labels to help you determine the area of the platen/printhead to pay particular attention to. Just place the label on the platen roller (in the same orientation as it came out) then use it to locate the area of problems.


CAUTION: Very Important, NEVER EVER use sharp or metallic objects for cleaning, they can damage the printhead/roller permanently.

Platen roller:

This is a small roller about where the label exits the printer but underneath the label. You should be able to visually inspect this roller for damage or label adhesive or sometimes parts of labels. If it looks like it needs cleaning use an alcohol based cleaner (or methylated spirits) with a soft cloth.


Printheads are extremely sensitive to damage, never use anything sharp. The printhead sits on the opposite side of the label stock (printed side) from the platen roller. The best instrument to see if the printhead is clean is a natural fingernail. Using the edge of your fingernail and moving it along the glass side of the printhead you will be able to tell the smoothness and where they may be buildup. You will not damage the printhead with your natural fingernail.

To clean the printhead you can use specialised printhead cleaning pens (available here) or if you don’t have one then you can use a soft cloth and an alcohol based cleaner. Double-check with your fingernail to make sure you have removed any adhesive/dirt from the printhead if necessary.


How often will I need to do this?

You should do a clean regularly. It is hard to quantify but it is an easy time to quickly clean the printhead when you change label rolls. Certainly if you are experiences print quality problems then the first thing to check is the printhead/platen roll cleanliness.


What if my printed image doesn’t get better?

If cleaning has no effect then sometimes it means that you need a new printhead. Typically a printhead fault is when you have vertical lines or vertical blocks of unprinted label. Unfortunately printheads are expensive so repeated cleaning should be carried out before replacement to make sure as adhesive buildup on the printhead can also cause lines. If you do need a new printhead then contact us for a quote on a replacement printhead, we will need your exact brand/model.





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