Why Printer Leaving Black Marks / Smudges On Printed Pages – Troubleshooting Guide

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Printers are designed to deposit ink onto paper, but only in the way you want them to. So, why would a printer leave black marks or smudges on printed pages and ruin the printout?

When printers leave black marks or smudges on printed pages, it’s because the printing paper is too thick or is curled. The excessively thick or damaged paper will rub against print nozzles and printheads, causing those smudges. Besides that, dirty ink nozzles, printheads, and misaligned cartridges will also cause the same problem. 

Check out the rest of this article to understand why this problem happens and how you can resolve it yourself.

Why Is My Printer Leaving Black Marks And Smudges On Paper?

A printer should only deposit ink on paper according to the original document’s designs. So, smudges and other black marks are not normal and require further troubleshooting.

Here are the causes behind this problem and how you can correct each one:

Printing Paper Is Too Thick

What it is: You probably know that printing paper comes in many sizes. However, most people overlook how their paper stock can differ in terms of thickness.

Copier paper, for example, tends to be thinner and lighter. That’s why it costs less and is better suited for printing and copying in large quantities.

However, some situations might require thicker, heavier, and more expensive paper. For instance, if you’re trying to print posters that need more durable paper.

Printers are capable of using paper of different thicknesses. However, each printer model will have a maximum paper thickness that they can allow.

What happened: The first reason your printer leaves black marks or smudges on printed pages is the printing paper itself is too thick.

Paper that’s too thick for your printer will press against the printhead as it moves through. So, any remaining ink in or around the printhead will smudge all over your printing paper as it passes underneath.

How to correct it: You can solve this problem by switching to slightly thinner printing paper. 

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You can also prevent this problem by understanding your printer’s limitations better. Be sure to refer to the user manual to determine the maximum paper thickness your printer can support.

Then, purchase printing paper that suits your needs while remaining within your printer’s maximum capabilities.

Read: Why Does My Printer Say No Paper When There Is Paper? – Troubleshooting Guide

Paper Is Curled Or Damaged

What it is: A sheet of printing paper goes through quite a journey traveling through a printer. The sheet will move from the input paper tray through one or more rollers to reach the printhead that deposits ink onto the paper.

All of that will happen smoothly and without problems so long as the paper is in perfect condition and aligned correctly. More specifically the paper must be flat, free from any folds, curls, or other physical imperfections.

Any damage or flaws on the paper will cause printing problems, including paper jams.

What happened: Another reason your printer leaves black marks or smudges on printed pages is the printing paper is curled or otherwise damaged.

As you read above, each sheet of printing paper must travel through several small spaces from the input tray to the output tray.

A paper with curls, folds or any other damage will brush against parts with excess ink. For instance, those parts will brush against the printhead or ink nozzles, which will smudge against the paper leaving black marks.

How to correct it: This problem is entirely preventable. Firstly, you should know that printing with used paper sheets is completely alright. However, any paper that goes through your printer must be free from damage or imperfections like curls and folds.

When the paper is in good condition, you can expect a high-quality printout missing any black marks or smudges.

Read: Why Brother Printer Keeps Dropping Off The Wifi Network? – Troubleshooting Guide

Ink Nozzle Or Printhead Is Dirty

What it is: Printers work by taking ink in cartridges and depositing it onto paper sheets that pass underneath them. Then, that ink must flow through a component that controls or regulates its flow, like an ink nozzle or a printhead.

When the printhead is in excellent working condition, the printer can deposit ink onto paper sheets efficiently and produce the complete printouts you want.

What happened: Another likely culprit behind the black marks and smudges on your printed pages is a dirty ink nozzle or printhead.

These parts can get dirty with excess ink that passes through them. But, at the same time, they can also get dirty with dust or debris that gets stuck around them thanks to that excess ink.

When that happens, the dust or debris will get soaked with excess printer ink and smudge it onto any paper that rubs against it.

How to correct it: You can fix this problem by thoroughly cleaning your printer ink nozzles and printhead.

Firstly, you must clean off any excess ink in those parts. You can start by wiping those components with a dry kitchen towel to absorb and remove the excess ink. Then, use a 50-50 isopropyl alcohol and water mixture and a cotton swab to clean it further (e.g. remove dried ink).

Next, clean the inside of your printer, so it’s free from any dust or debris. A brush is enough to help you do that. However, a low-power vacuum can also be handy in this situation.

Read: How To Fix Printer That Is Making Noises? – Troubleshooting Guide

Ink Cartridge Issues

What it is: Printer ink cartridges store and help distribute printer ink. Each cartridge only stores one ink color. So, a black and white printer will only have a black ink cartridge, while a color printer will have an additional tri-color cartridge.

Each cartridge will release ink when the printer instructs it to do so.

What happened: Last but not least, consider that the black ink cartridge could cause black marks and smudges on printed pages.

More specifically, the cartridge is likely misaligned or installed incorrectly. As a result, the cartridge has direct contact with the printing paper, rubbing against it and leaving black smudges.

How to correct it: Fixing this problem will require you to remove the ink cartridges and reinstall them correctly. Besides that, you must also check that your ink cartridges, the printhead, and the carriage are all aligned perfectly.

If the problem is caused by a hardware issue that you can’t fix at home, you’ll have to contact a qualified technician to fix the printer for you.

Read: Why Printer Not Printing In Color? – Troubleshooting Guide

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are a few more questions and answers to help you better understand your printer and the smudges it’s causing:

How Do I Fix Low-Resolution Printing?

When your printer produces low-resolution printouts, you’ll have to check the original document on your computer. The document you’re trying to print might be of low resolution, or your application has incorrect settings. Check its print settings before printing another copy.

Why Does My Print Look Blurry?

Blurry printouts are typically the result of low ink levels or damaged paper. For example, printing on damp paper will cause a blurry printout.

Does Any Ink Cartridge Work On Any Printer?

No, you cannot use any ink cartridge to replace the one in your printer. A printer can only use genuine ink cartridges that are compatible with the printer model.

How Do I Know What Ink Cartridge My Printer Needs?

The quickest way to identify the correct ink cartridge is to look at the one you already have. Then, knowing your ink cartridge model number, you can purchase an identical replacement.

Read: How To Fix Problem “Printer Offline”? – Troubleshooting Guide

How Do I Get Rid Of Streaks On My Printer?

You can get rid of streaks on printouts by cleaning your printer ink nozzle, printhead, and its rollers. The streaks are caused by excess ink that’s being transferred to the paper. So, a thorough clean will solve the issue.

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