How to Clean a Thermal Printer?

Thermal printers are a top choice for outlets and places that require a quick and effective churn of receipt paper and tickets. They have gained popularity because they are faster than traditional printers and can easily produce barcode labels and tags.

The only problem is they don't last forever. After a certain number of pages are printed, the print head begins to wear out and won't produce quality prints anymore.

But here's how we can help; you can extend the life of your printer by using the correct cleaning method.

This article explains how to clean a thermal printer properly, so you can extend its useful life and also double down on lower maintenance costs.


How Long Can A Thermal Printer Last You? 

A thermal printer is durable and has a relatively long, useful life. If you maintain and clean your thermal printer properly, it should last you for ten years before needing to replace the printer head and also provide good receipt print quality. 

To increase its useful life span, make sure you clean it regularly, using the effective step-by-step guide given below. 

Over time, printers can experience a buildup of paper dust and adhesive from environmental contaminants. The accumulation of paper dust can cause printing errors, paper jams, and poor print quality. 


Methods To Clean A Thermal Printer

A thermal printer can be cleaned using three common methods: 

  • Using a cotton swab or rag dipped in isopropyl alcohol: Using an alcohol solvent is considered to be one of the safest methods to clean your printer gently, but thoroughly. 
  • Using cleaning cards to clean the printhead and platen roller: It's effective in removing dust buildup from your platen roller, but is not as safe as the first method and shouldn't be used frequently. Using it in routine cleaning can also damage your platen roller, and become counterproductive.
  • Using a cleaning pen: Printhead cleaning pens are effective for quick clean-ups and can be used for ten cleanups. 

Below, we will provide a quick guide on how you can use the first (safest!) method to clean your printer properly.


The Step-by-Step Guide To Cleaning Your Thermal Printer

Before you can follow our step-by-step guide, it's important that you go through the user's manual properly, so you can spot any special instructions to be followed for your machine.

To clean the thermal printer head, follow these steps.

Step1: Make Sure Your Printer is Switched Off

Follow best practices and make sure your printer is thoroughly switched off. 

Step 2: Open Your Printer Gently But Properly

Proceed to open your printer by lifting the thermal print head access door. This will look like a panel that swings up to reveal the components of your printer including the print head, paper spool, and other internal parts of the printer.  

Step 3: Release the Ribbon 

To remove the ribbon, press down on the lever of the printer head and pull the ribbon aside. 

Step 4: Use Isopropyl Alcohol 

Use isopropyl alcohol to dampen a lint-free cloth or rag. You can also use a cotton swab dampened with an alcohol-based solvent. 

Step 5: Clean The Printer 

Use the damp rag to gently wipe the printhead of your thermal printer several times, being careful to apply adequate pressure. This is necessary to clean any carbon or residue buildup. After cleaning it, wait for a few minutes and allow it to dry completely. 


Step 6: Replace the Ribbon 

Proceed to replace the ribbon cable and press the printhead back, so it returns to its original position. 

Step 7: Close The Access Door 

Gently close the access door of your printer and switch on your printer to observe printing quality. Print a receipt or barcode to check the quality.


What To Do If You Have A Thermal Transfer Printer? 

For a thermal transfer printer, you can purchase replacement thermal transfer ribbons that have an in-built cleaner. It will automatically remove the buildup each time you install a new roll and pull it through.


How Often Should You Clean Your Thermal Printer? 

A golden rule that you can follow is, to clean your printhead each time you change your roll or ribbon. This will streamline your print mechanism and ensure consistent quality.