The nozzle and hotend on your 3D printer go through plenty when it comes to 3D printing, so properly cleaning them is essential. If you don’t properly clean them, you can run into quality issues and inconsistent extrusion.
The best way to clean your 3D printer nozzle and hotend are to take apart the hotend and use a nozzle cleaning kit to clear out the nozzle. Then clean off any stuck filament around the nozzle with a brass wire brush. You can also use a cleaning filament to push through the nozzle.
There are more details and other methods that you can use to clean your 3d printer nozzle and hotend properly, so keep on reading to find out how to get this done.
Symptoms of Clogged Nozzle on Your 3D Printer
Now, there are clear symptoms that the nozzles are clogged or jammed because they are not clean.
Continuous Adjustment of Feed Rate
You would have to adjust the feed rate or the flow settings again and again, which you never did before this time. This shows that your nozzle has started to clog, and the particles are accumulating there.
The Problem in Extrusion
The extrusion, the very first layer of the printing, will start to look uneven and would not stay consistent throughout the whole printing process.
Another symptom is the motor that is driving the extruder starts thumping means you would see it jumping backward because it can’t keep up with the other parts that make it turn.
You would see more dust than usual around the extruder and motor part, which is a clear sign that you need to clean everything starting from your nozzle.
The Odd Scraping Sound
One thing you can notice with your ears is that odd scraping sound which the extruder is making because it is grinding the plastic which is present in it, and it cannot push the gear fast enough now.
The printer would start showing print blobs, uneven or rough printing, and a poor layer adhesion feature.
How to Clean Your Nozzle
There are a few methods that people use to clean their nozzles, but generally, it comes down to heated up the nozzle to a fairly high temperature and manually pushing through filament.
It’s usually done with a needle from a good nozzle cleaning kit.
A good nozzle cleaning kit that you can get from Amazon for a great price is the MIKA3D Nozzle Cleaning Tool Kit. It’s a 27-piece kit with plenty of needles, and two type of precise tweezers for your nozzle cleaning worries.
When a product has great ratings on Amazon, it’s always good news, so I would definitely go with it. You have a 100% satisfaction guarantee and quick response times if ever needed.
After heating up your material, using a high-quality needle works wonders.
What this does it heat up any built-up material, dust and dirt within the nozzle then push it out straight through the nozzle. You are likely to get a build up of dirt if you are printing with many materials which have different printing temperatures.
If you print with ABS and some filament gets left inside the nozzle then you switch to PLA, that leftover filament is going to have a hard time being pushed out at lower temperatures.
How to Clean Outside of 3D Printer Nozzle
You can simply use a paper towel or napkin to clean the nozzle when it has cooled down. This should usually do the trick to clean the outside of your nozzle.
If you have larger, stubborn residue on the outside of your 3D printer nozzle, I would recommend heating your nozzle up to around 200°C, then using needle nose pliers to pick the plastic off.
3D Printer Nozzle Cleaning Brush
For rigorous cleaning of your nozzle, I would suggest you buy a good quality cooper wire toothbrush, which will help you get all the dust particles and other residues from the nozzle.
But remember, always heat the nozzle before using the brush to get it to the temperature where it was in its last printing session.
A solid nozzle cleaning brush from Amazon is the BCZAMD Copper Wire Toothbrush, specially made for 3D printer nozzles.
You can use the tool even if the wires get deformed. The best thing about this tool is that it is very handy, and you can easily hold the brush while cleaning the surface and sides of the nozzles.
Best 3D Printer Cleaning Filament
NovaMaker Cleaning Filament
One of the better cleaning filaments out there is the NovaMaker 3D Printer Cleaning Filament, which comes vacuum-sealed with desiccant to keep it in optimal conditions. It does an amazing job cleaning out your 3D printer.
You get 0.1KG (0.22lbs) of cleaning filament. It has excellent heat stability, allowing it to have a wide range of cleaning abilities. It goes anywhere from 150-260°C without giving you issues.
The slight viscosity of this cleaning filament means you can take easily take residual material out of the nozzle without it jamming inside.
Using cleaning needles alongside this is a great solution to prevent your nozzle clogging while transitioning between lower and higher temperature materials.
It is recommended to use the cleaning filament at least every 3 months for regular maintenance and unclogging procedures.
eSun Cleaning Filament
You can use the eSUN 3D 2.85mm Printer Cleaning Filament, which has a size of 3mm and gets easily inside the nozzle.
The good thing about it is that it possesses a certain level of adhesive quality, which clears out everything and will not clog the extruder during cleaning. You can use it for cleaning the nozzle and extruder both before and after the printing.
It has a wide cleaning range of almost 150 to 260 degrees Celsius that allows you to take up the temperature to a good level to let the particles inside the printer soften up for the removal.
How to Use 3D Printer Cleaning Filament
Cleaning filament can be used in your 3D printer to do cold and hot pulls which are popular methods widely used by 3D printer users.
A hot pull is perfect for getting those large carbonized materials out of your nozzle when there is a serious blockage. A cold pull is where you remove the remaining smaller residue so that your nozzle is completely cleaned up.
To use your 3D printer cleaning filament, load the filament as you usually would into your 3D printer until it has replaced your old filament and actually extrudes from the nozzle.
Change the extruder temperature to make sure it stays hot, for a temperature between 200-230°C. Then extrude a few centimeters of filament, wait, then extrude more a few times.
After this, you can remove the cleaning filament, load up the filament you want to print with, then make sure the cleaning filament is completely displaced after starting your next print.
This filament can be used to clean the printers print core by applying hot and cold pulls. Hot pulls are used to get the biggest parts of carbonized material out of the print core and are highly recommended when the print core is clogged.
With a cold pull, the remaining small particles will be removed, ensuring the print core is completely clean.
How to Clean a Hotend Tip Covered in PLA or ABS?
You can use a failed ABS print, push it onto the tip and push it straight up. But first, you have to heat the hotend to almost 240°C, and then when you have applied the failed ABS print, let the hotend cool down for a minute.
After this, pull or twist off the piece of ABS, and you will get a clean hotend.
If you are having trouble with cleaning the hotend covered in PLA, you can follow this procedure, which I am going to explain.
You have to first heat the hotend to a temperature of 70°C, and then you need to grab the PLA from any side with a pair of tweezers, or you can use pliers but carefully.
The best thing about PLA is that it gets soft on high temperature and makes it easy to be pulled off, leaving the hotend clean.
Cleaning an Ender 3 Nozzle Properly
Cleaning Ender 3 nozzle would require you to open up its fan shroud and remove it from its place to get a more clear view of the nozzle. Then, you can use an acupuncture needle to break the particles which are stuck in the nozzle.
This would help you to make the particle break into small pieces. Then you can use a filament from the top size of the nozzle from the extruder part and enter it from there until it comes out with all those particles.
You can also remove the nozzle completely from the printer and then clean it by heating it at a high temperature with a hotgun to let the particles soften up and then use a filament, let it stay inside for a while and then do a cold pull.
Keep doing this cold pull until the filament starts coming out clean.
How Often Should I Clean My 3D Printer Nozzle?
You should clean your nozzle as and when it gets fairly dirty or at least every 3 months for regular maintenance. If you don’t clean your nozzle too often, it’s not the end of the world but it does help to give your nozzle more life and durability.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who rarely clean their nozzles and things are still working fine.
It depends on how often you print with your 3D printer, what nozzle material you have, what 3D printer materials you are printing with, and your other maintenance.
Brass nozzles can last a very long time if you exclusively print with PLA at low temperatures and have your bed leveling methods perfect.