Printer Head Cleaning Message

Prevent Printer Head Cleaning with Automation (Podcast 448)

Today we're going to take a look at how to create a fully automated scheduled printer workout to prevent printer head cleaning, after periods when the printer was not used, to avoid having the printer throw away large amounts of ink. When I first bought my Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6350 24" wide large...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Mark Friedman
    Posted at 12:30h, 19 November Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks very much for sharing this great idea and also your solution. I’m sure it took you hours of work to get this done. My Epson 4880 (17″) is prone to clogs so I print a sample photo every few days. But I’ve been using ordinary photocopier paper to save cost. Is there a reason you use full width photo paper?

    I’m also sorry to hear that Canon printers also have the clogged head issue. I’ve gotten so angry at my Epson that I’ve been seriously thinking of switching to Canon.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 15:58h, 19 November Reply

      You’re very welcome Mark.

      I did spend a fare amount of time initially trying to make this work with Mac OS Automator, but it was just not that easy. Once I decided to give Keyboard Maestro a try, it took me probably 90 minutes all told, so not a big deal. 🙂

      The only reason I use full width paper is because I want to ensure the heads move their full distance, and give them enough colour and depth variation to really give the heads a good workout.

      Note though, that the really annoying thing about this is that the heads are not actually clogging. I’ve never had problems with the heads clogging in my Canon printers. Before the main board was changed, this printer rarely ran head cleaning processes. I’m sure it’s a change Canon made to err on the safe side of over-cleaning. And of course this forces us to spend a lot more money on ink, which probably suits them nicely. 🙂

      I used to use Epson, and one of the main reasons I switched is because of the nozzles clogging. Epson printers have a lot going for them, but I haven’t regretted the switch once.


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 16:43h, 19 November Reply

      Oh, and I use photo paper rather than plain paper, again, simply because I want to ensure that he heads are given plenty to do. Plus, if I want to really quickly print out a photo just to look at, I don’t have to switch rolls this way. 🙂

  • Jeff Fisher
    Posted at 02:47h, 20 November Reply

    Thanks for the info Martin. I just upgraded to an iPF6400 and am concerned about ink waste. I have a couple of questions though before I start trying your automation. The first is my iMac goes into password mode on wake up. Should I just turn off that feature when I’m on the road? Second, doesn’t this print head exercise use a similar amount of ink as a result of the process?


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 19:52h, 21 November Reply

      Hi Jeff,

      Good point. The script won’t work when the computer is locked, even if only the screen is locked but the computer is awake. There are a few options to get around this though. One is to set your computer to login automatically, and set a schedule to have it power up on the days that you want to run the script.

      You could either use the schedule option under System Preferences > Energy Saver, or probably use the pmset command in Terminal to do this only on say Tuesday and Friday. I haven’t tested this, but running the following command would probably do this:
      sudo pmset repeat poweron TF 08:00:00

      You could then use the Energy Saver schedule to power the computer off again 10 minutes later for example. Then, with the computer powering on and running the print job in the mornings, you could set the computer to require a password after the screen is locked during normal use, for some added security. Of course, if the computer was stolen and powered on, it would login automatically, so I’m not sure this is ideal.

      On your second question, I haven’t done any detailed measurements of the ink usage, but before the main board change, and regular head cleans, I was using much less ink than I have been since these head cleans started, even when I was printing a lot. Once the regular head cleans started I could almost watch the ink going down in the admin console, even when I wasn’t doing much printing. I can’t imagine that running this job is going to use anywhere near as much ink as the head cleans.

      I hope that helps!


  • Jeffrey McPheeters
    Posted at 04:05h, 21 November Reply

    Perhaps the reason for the increase in cleaning frequency is related to Canon’s ink head system where it’s not that they don’t clog, but that they have thousands of nozzles available and as they clog, the printer keeps track and when a certain number have clogged, it’s time to replace the print head, which costs a lot of money and there are two of them. At least they are user replaceable! Historically, 600-700ml of each color would begin to reach the limit for a print head, but with rising costs this could be a way that Canon can increase the length of time before print heads go bad. Or it could be related to changes in the pigment based inks that make clogging of individual nozzles more likely and they wish to keep their long term customers happy. Either way, I’m glad to see your workflow in this and thanks for sharing. Based on my years

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 19:54h, 21 November Reply

      I’d like to think that you’re right Jeffrey. 🙂

  • Jeff Fisher
    Posted at 03:12h, 22 November Reply

    Hi Martin. Thanks for the reply. I think I might just take the password off while I am traveling as I think it’s unlikely someone will break in and “look” at my data–there’s more valuable stuff nearby! I do have a couple more questions.

    First–I can’t find your paper by the number–called BH and they referred me to a roll of canon premium semi-glossy photo paper 2. This seems a bit thick. Maybe you could provide the manufacture’s model number?

    Second: Do you just print these and leave them until you return and cut of the strips at that time?

    Third: In my printer manual it mentions more ink use when printing borderless. Seems that leaving some white space at the ends would prevent ink loss.

    Thanks again

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:58h, 22 November Reply

      Aah, it seems that the paper I use is the Japan branding. I bought it locally.

      This is the same paper on B&H:

      I chose this because it’s very thin, at 170gsm, and that’s important as it will be left in the printer most of the time.

      I set the printer to auto-cut, so these strips just fall to the floor after printing. I throw them away anyway, so I don’t pull out the print cradle.

      Borderless printing is different to what we’re doing here. We’re just not printing any white space that it there because of the paper size. When you print true borderless, you actually print over the edges of the paper, allowing ink to be picked up by the sponges inside the printer.


  • David Ramsey
    Posted at 12:56h, 06 January Reply

    Martin – This was a really helpful post. It took me a while to get this to work with my Epson 4900 just right, but your tip to Jeff Fisher is what finally made it work for me. I didn’t realize that just because the screen went to sleep (but not the hard drive) on my Macbook Pro it wouldn’t work. I couldn’t figure out why when I hit the “try” button in Keyboard Maestro it worked flawlessly, but not when I left it to run automatically. So it was great to come back to the comments to pick this one up. BTW, I had intermittent problems with clogging on my 4900 and I’m hopeful this will end that, so I think this will really solve that problem.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 20:31h, 06 January Reply

      Yes, sorry about that David. I should have actually mentioned that in the Podcast. Sorry it took a while to figure out. I’m glad the podcast in general helped though. I hope all is well!

  • Guillaume Berche
    Posted at 06:51h, 30 August Reply

    Thanks for the great post. Some printer support cloud printing (e.g. ) It might be possible to schedule a cloud printing job automatically without requiring a local computer to be turned on.

    Related to power and standby mode. This printer has an auto power on documented as “turning on the machine when printing data is sent to the machine”

    I’d be interested in hearing anyone taking advantage of these to schedule a weekly print job as to save ink waste due to unconfigureable printer head cleaning.

  • Polly Simpson
    Posted at 04:33h, 22 June Reply

    The printer head and the printer cartridge should be managed well for that they can achieve the possible goal for the print to generate our best service provider to provide the actual service or the update of the machine for more contact the Canon Driver Support for the best service.

  • Technicians Today
    Posted at 16:22h, 30 June Reply

    i personally used cannon driver. the printer working so except able. Canon provide you best result if you can generate it. Thanks MARTIN

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