A Brief Guide on How to Clean, Unclog, & Clear a 3D Printer Nozzle

If you’ve noticed that your 3D printer has been facing trouble doing its job lately, you might consider taking it to a professional to see what’s wrong. Yet, the problem may be as simple as a clogged nozzle, which you can easily solve.

In this guide, we’ll steer you through the process of checking for a clogged nozzle. After that, we’ll discuss how to clean, unclog, & clear a 3D printer nozzle.

Let’s dive in!

How to Check If Your 3D Printer Nozzle Is Clogged

To make sure that the issue doesn’t require professional involvement, you must be able to tell if the nozzle is actually blocked by material. Of course, there are some initial signs that the nozzle is clogged.

For instance, the quality of your prints will be lower than usual. You may also notice faded colors or strange lines on your prints. Faded marks, broken lines, track marks, and smears are other signs of that issue.

Now that you suspect that the nozzle is blocked, it’s time to learn how to check if this is true.

First of all, you should disengage the extruder gear lever carefully. Next, push the 3D printer filament through the opening by hand and see if it reaches the other side.

If the filament starts curling, faces difficulty going through, or doesn’t seem to move at all, then you’ll know that the nozzle is clogged.

How to Unclog a 3D Printer Nozzle

Now that you’re sure that you’re facing a blockage, you could try one of the following ways to clear the nozzle. Better yet, you can always go through all these methods to ensure that your nozzle is cleaned efficiently.

For the best results, you’ll want to shop for these items first.

  • A brass wire brush
  • Nylon filament that’s compatible with your printer’s diameter
  • Acupuncture needle
  • Acetone
  • Heat gun or blowtorch
  • Socket wrench
  • Crescent wrench

Now, let’s go through each cleaning method in depth.

Method 1: Using an Acupuncture Needle

Start by preheating your printer to the print temperature of the last material you’ve been using. Once you reach that point, gently insert the acupuncture needle through the nozzle.

Here, you shouldn’t be aiming to get rid of the particles. Rather, you’ll be breaking them up so that they’ll easily come out the next time you extrude filament.

Method 2: Using a Brass Wire Brush

Although this method isn’t as thorough as the previous one, it can quickly remove any stuck debris. Simply enough, take a brass wire brush and clean off any particles on the nozzle.

You must pay attention not to use a steel wire brush since it can damage the 3D printer nozzle.

Method 3: Using the Cold Pull Technique

The cold pull is another straight-to-the-point method that many users swear by. It uses nylon or cleaning filament to clear any clogs in the nozzle effortlessly.

First off, you’ll need to make sure that the cleaning filament is the same diameter as the one you normally print with. Then, heat up the nozzle to 480 degrees F and push the filament through it until you no longer can see the previous filament coming out of the opening.

Once you’ve reached that point, let the extruder cool down to room temperature. This will ensure that the filament inside the nozzle becomes solid.

After that, set the temperature of the hot end to 240 degrees F, then gradually decrease it until it reaches 190 degrees. Then, pull on the cleaning filament until it snaps out of the nozzle. At this point, the filament will take the shape of the inside of the nozzle.

Therefore, you should be able to see the particle that has caused the blockage on the filament.

Next, heat up the nozzle to 480 degrees again and push the filament through until it comes out of the hot end. Now, it should go through easily and cleanly, ensuring that the nozzle is back to work like it’s supposed to.

Method 4: Removing the Nozzle Entirely

Even though the previous methods should do the trick, sometimes it’s better that you remove the nozzle for a more thorough cleaning session. The first thing you should do is heat up the printer to the temperature of the last material you’ve worked with.

Secondly, you’ll need the help of the crescent wrench to hold onto the heater block. At the same time, use the socket wrench to twist off the nozzle until it comes free. You must take extra care when removing the nozzle not to touch any of the hot parts.

After that, you can easily use cleaning chemicals to dissolve the filament and wash out the clog with water. You could also use heat to burn the filament out. Simply enough, use a blowtorch or a heat gun to melt out any remaining material particles.

However, you shouldn’t use the blowtorch directly on your nozzle, or it can easily melt the nozzle itself. Instead, wave the heat source over the opening like you’d do with a blow dryer.

Also, acetone is pretty effective in dissolving filament, especially if you’ve been printing with ABS. If that’s the case, drop the nozzle in a container filled with acetone, and it should do the trick.

What Causes a Clogged 3D Printer?

To keep clogs to a minimum, it may do you good to understand what causes blockages in the first place. 

The most common scenario that leads to clogs is filament stripping in the extruder gear. When that happens, the filament residue that’s left in the nozzle solidifies into a plug. Also, using dirty filament can quickly form a plug.

The next time that you use filament for printing, make sure that it’s clean. Luckily, you won’t have to worry about dirty filament if you buy it straight from the manufacturer. On the other hand, it might still gather dust if not stored properly.

To prevent this from happening, store the filament in an air-tight bag, namely a vacuum bag.

Even the mere act of not cleaning the nozzle when shifting from one material to another can leave a buildup of particles in the nozzle. Thus, it’s always recommended that you clean your 3D printer nozzle regularly to keep the machine in perfect condition.

How Many Times Should I Clean My 3D Printer Nozzle?

For the best print quality and a long-living printer, you must go the extra mile and clean the tip of the nozzle each time you switch the filament. 

Of course, that won’t clear the inside of the nozzle efficiently, so you’ll need to push some clean filament through the nozzle to get rid of any leftovers.

To Wrap It Up

Learning how to clean, unclog, & clear a 3D printer nozzle is essential to keep the quality of your work always top-notch. Hopefully, after trying one or all of the methods we’ve suggested, you’ll find that cleaning a nozzle is pretty easy to do.

Just make sure that you get all the necessary items and take safety precautions if you’re using a blowtorch or heat gun. 

In no time, your 3D printer should be back to creating awesome projects!

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