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How to Clean 3D Printer Nozzle

© by Adobe Stock

Your nozzle is one of the most important parts of the printer. If it gets clogged, you won’t be able to extrude the plastic properly. This is a relatively common, and frustrating, problem. The good news is that there is an easy fix. Let’s look at the best ways to clean your nozzle.

How to Tell When a Nozzle Needs Cleaning

Let’s start, though, by looking at how you can tell your nozzle is blocked. The best way to determine this is by looking at the way your filament comes out of the nozzle. Ideally, you should be seeing a steady flow. If it’s blocked, it will often appear as a trickle, or it will only be coming out of one side. Sometimes, you might not be able to get any filament to be released at all.

Another sign is to look at the quality of the print. If the nozzle is blocked, the uneven flow will produce a weaker model, which will have a lot of holes. You might also notice some unevenness around the edges.

If you suspect that it’s blocked, there is an easy way to check. You can look inside the nozzle. You might need to use a light to see this. You might be able to see the plastic filament blocking the opening.

Remove Old Filament.

The first thing that you need to do is remove the old filament. To do this, you will need to heat the hot end. Then, you will need to use a wire brush. Gently remove any old pieces of filament that have become attached to the nozzle.

As the nozzle is hot, you will be able to force the old filament out. To do this, you will need to wait until it reaches temperature. Push the filament forward, until you meet resistance. Then, you will need to pull it out. This should remove most of the filament. You can then fold it up and store it in a cool, dry place.

In some cases, you might need to use a thin needle to ease the old filament out. This will be needed if the filament has become stuck in the tip of the nozzle. Remember, this part of the printer can be very delicate, so you will need to be gentle. If you are doing this, you don’t need the nozzle to be hot enough to melt the filament. You just need it to be warm enough to make the plastic softer.

When you are doing this, you aren’t trying to remove the filament. You just want to get it into a position where it will be forced out the next time you turn it on. To do this, place the needle into the top of the nozzle, and try to shift the blockage. This can be a fiddly task, and it might take a few attempts before you can get it out. This video goes into more depth about the tactics you can use.

It should be noted that some printers come with tools to help you keep the printer clean. This will most commonly be a set of needles, which are designed to help you extract any material that has become stuck in the nozzle.

Use Cleaning Filament

One of the best ways to clean your printer is by using a cleaning filament. These look like ordinary plastic filament; except they will be white. Here is how you can use them.

First, you will need to heat the hot end. In most cases, it will need to be 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Then, run it through the printer as you normally would when doing a print. This will help clean out any pieces of plastic that are stuck inside the nozzle. It also helps get rid of any dust or dirt that has built up. The instructions will go into more detail about what you will need to do.

The good news is that you won’t need to use a lot of this filament to start results. It’s recommended that you do this fairly regularly. Stopping build-up from happening is a good way of protecting the nozzle.

Using Acetone

This method uses acid to clean the nozzle. It will most commonly be employed after you have been printing with soluble plastic materials. It can also be a good way to get rid of any dirt that has become built up on the nozzle or a plastic blockage that you are unable to dislodge with your needle.

To do this, you will need to unscrew the nozzle from the machine. If you are unsure about doing this, you can turn to the instruction manual. Then, you will need to place it into a dish that contains acetone. Don’t dilute this chemical.

It will need to stay in this mixture for the next 24 hours. During this time, you can use needles to try and loosen and remove the blockages. This should become easier over time, as the chemicals break down the plastic and dirt. Once the blockage is gone remove it from the chemical and wait for the nozzle to dry. Once it has, you can re-attach it to the printer.

Emergency Tactics

If you apply the above tactics, you should be able to get the blockage out of the nozzle. But if you are still having issues, there are some other options you can try. These have the potential to damage the nozzle, so you should only do them as a last resort.

First, you can try making a cold pull. In this case, you will need to heat the printer and use a piece of ABS filament. Push it into the nozzle, if you can, keep pushing until it starts to extrude plastic. If you can’t get past the blockage, push it as far in as it will go. Then turn off the printer and wait for the nozzle to cool. Pull the filament out. This should suck out any dirt or grime, which would have become bonded with the plastic.

The other option you can try is burning the filament. This is the most likely to cause damage, so it should only be used in emergencies. In this case, you will need to apply a substantial amount of heat to the nozzle. This will melt the plastic. If it still isn’t coming out, you can poke a needle through the nozzle. You can also try tapping the nozzle against a solid surface, to see if this can break off the plastic.

Replacing the Nozzle

There are a few reasons why you might want to think about getting a replacement nozzle. First, a piece of filament might have become lodged in the nozzle, which you are unable to remove. However, it’s most common for the nozzle to have become worn out.

There are a few signs that this might have happened. First, the damage to the tip of the nozzle has caused it to become larger than normal. This will lead to uneven print speed. At other times, the tip of the nozzle might have become dull. This article goes into more depth on what might be causing nozzle damage.

Many manufacturers will sell replacement parts. If not, you will need to purchase one that will be compatible with your machine. This should be as simple as getting something that will be the same size.

You can purchase replacement nozzles in advance. However, you will need to make sure that you are storing them properly. It’s best to put them into a Ziploc bag. This ensures that dust won’t accumulate inside the nozzle.

Preventing the Nozzle From Getting Clogged

While removing a piece of filament isn’t a big deal, there are some steps you can take to make sure that you don’t have to do this in the first place. First, you can use a soft cloth to keep any dust off the nozzle. You should also wipe down the filament.

It’s also important that you are using cleaning filaments. As we mentioned, these will get rid of any dirt and grime that has become lodged inside the nozzle. It’s best to do this once a month. You should also refer to the owner’s manual, to see what additional maintenance tasks you will need to perform. This can sometimes include things like oiling around the bearings.

It should be noted that all types of printers will follow the same procedure, including dual extruder printers. These are some of the best options on the market, allowing you to print with two materials. Or you can use it to print with two differently colored materials. If you want to learn more about these printers, and what to look for when you are purchasing them, read through this dual-extruder 3d printer comparison.


Cleaning a 3D printer nozzle is a fairly common task. While having a piece of filament stuck in the nozzle can be frustrating, there are lots of ways you can get it out. Then, you can return to using your printer to bring your imagination to life.