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Cleaning Up Your DeskWriter Rollers

Back in TidBITS-261, we ran a short article about Hewlett-Packard’s Paper Feed Cleaning Kit, which solves a possible paper-feed problem for DeskWriters and DeskJets in a specific serial number range. Not all TidBITS readers have DeskWriters or DeskJets within that serial number range, and several people wrote in to share tips about cleaning rollers and fixing paper-feed problems. Dirty rollers can cause various problems – including dirty paper and paper not feeding at all.

Clean Your RollersCharlie Mingo <[email protected]> wrote to say that cleaning his rollers made for a "dramatic improvement" in his DeskWriter’s functioning. He also wrote, "HP says that regular (non-defective) rollers should be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm water. I managed to use paper towels and Windex quite well. Just remove the paper tray from your DeskWriter, then power-cycle the printer with the cloth or towel held against the rubber roller. Repeat twice for each of the three rollers."

I called HP Technical Support to find out what HP currently suggests, and spoke with Randy, an extremely personable technician. Randy sounded rather down on the paper towel concept; instead, he suggested using a lint-free cloth, moistened with water, or – if you don’t have any clean water – moistened with alcohol (of the rubbing persuasion). According to Randy, the lint-free cloth and either water or rubbing alcohol represent the only official "HP-supported" cleaning techniques. Also, water is better than alcohol; if you clean your rollers repeatedly with alcohol (once a month for three years, say), the alcohol eventually deteriorates the roller rubber.

In regard to using water, Milton Diamond <[email protected]> found that using "HOT HOT" water cleaned his rollers so that they could pick up paper again.

Renew Your Rollers — If cleaning doesn’t help your rollers, and you enjoy "do not try this at home" type experiments, (meaning, don’t complain to me if you have problems) you might try a product called Rubber Renue. Derek Fong <[email protected]> had great success fixing the paper pickup on his "vanilla DeskWriter (no AppleTalk, vintage 1989-90)" with Rubber Renue. Derek’s story begins:

"About a year ago, my DeskWriter began having paper feeding problems. I posted a query about my problem on <comp.sys.mac.hardware>, and Alvin Croll made a helpful suggestion. He told me about a product made by M.G. Chemicals called Rubber Renue. By painting this chemical on the DeskWriter rollers, he found that the hardened and slick rollers regained their ability to grab a sheet of paper.

"Alvin bought his bottle of Rubber Renue from a company in Canada called Active Components. I gave them a call, and found to my dismay that they could not legally ship the chemical across the border to me in the United States. I eventually tracked down one of Active Components’ sister stores here in the states to place an order, and – after $20 in phone calls, $6.45 for Rubber Renue, and $5.00 shipping – I received a bottle of Rubber Renue. (Unfortunately, they only sell Rubber Renue in 250 ml bottles, which is enough for a lifetime.)

"I painted some of the chemical onto my DeskWriter rollers using a few cotton swabs and the Prime button (to keep the rollers spinning), let it dry for a minute, and presto, I have not had a mis-fed page in the past four months, and my DeskWriter works as good as new. I, of course, don’t guarantee this will solve the problem for all people, but it certainly was a well spent $31.45 for me."

Switch to a New Paper Type — If a regular cleaning doesn’t solve a paper-feed problem and painting chemicals on your rollers isn’t quite up your alley, consider changing your paper type. J. Quinn <[email protected]>, who did need the HP Paper Feed Cleaning Kit, suggested, "A hint for DeskWriter users – try duplicator paper (more absorbent), which is better than bond (photocopy or laser) paper for these machines. Even with the acknowledged fault with the rollers, I got fairly consistent feeds with the duplicator paper, but the bond paper fouled up!"

Active Electronics — 617/932-0050 (U.S.) — 204/786-3075 (Canada)
Hewlett-Packard Technical Support — 208/323-2551

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