How to Clean 3D Printer Nozzles (2023)

Selecting the appropriate approach to clean your 3D printer nozzles is crucial. A blocked nozzle can cause various issues, such as incomplete extrusion, skipped layers, or no filament flow. This post will guide you through identifying nozzle clogs, determining the underlying cause, and cleaning the nozzle to prevent future clogs. Keep reading to learn more about maintaining your 3D printer and producing high-quality prints.

How to Clean 3D Printer Nozzles (1)

Identifying a clogged nozzle is essential for optimal 3D printing performance

Recognizing a clogged nozzle in your 3D printer can be done by looking out for several indicators. These include material stringing, missing layers, clicking sounds from the extruder gears, and inconsistent extrusion patterns, particularly thin layers. In the worst-case scenario, a fully clogged nozzle will prevent any filament from extruding onto the build platform.

How to Clean 3D Printer Nozzles (2)

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To confirm if a clogged nozzle is causing issues with print quality, disable the extruder gear and manually feed filament through the hot nozzle. If the filament moves through the nozzle effortlessly, the nozzle is not clogged. However, if you experience resistance or the filament appears thinner than usual and starts to curl up onto the nozzle's exterior, there is likely an obstruction inside the nozzle. Follow these steps to identify and resolve nozzle clogs, ensuring that you maintain optimal 3D printing performance.

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What may cause a clogged nozzle?

A clogged 3D printer nozzle can be caused by several factors, ranging from simple issues to more complex ones. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the leading causes of nozzle clogs, including dust contamination, temperature-related problems, and other common issues.

Dusty Filament: Improper storage of filament can result in dust or dirt particles adhering to it. These particles can then enter the nozzle during printing, where they can cause carbonized buildup and blockages over time. It's important to be mindful of this risk, especially if your printing environment is dusty or dirty.

How to Clean 3D Printer Nozzles (4)

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Changing Materials: Not cleaning the nozzle during material transitions is another common cause of nozzle jams. If you're switching from one filament type to another, it's crucial to clean the nozzle to prevent any residual material from causing clogs. You can use techniques like cold pulling or a wire brush to remove any buildup between filament changes.

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Wrong Temperature: Setting the wrong temperature on your 3D printer extruder can be another cause of nozzle clogs. If the nozzle temperature is too low, the filament won't melt properly, leading to material buildup and pressure inside the nozzle. Conversely, if the temperature is too high, heat creep can occur, causing the filament to melt before reaching the hot end and leading to extruder gear failure and clogs.

Nozzle too close: Placing your 3D printer nozzle too close to the print bed can also cause clogs. When the nozzle is too close, it can't deposit the first layer of melted filament onto the print bed correctly. Instead, the melted thermoplastic can adhere to the outside of the nozzle, causing an external blockage and potentially leading to filament retraction inside the nozzle, resulting in an internal clog.

How to clean the 3D printer nozzle

If your 3D printer is exhibiting signs of a clogged nozzle, there's no need to panic. You can often remedy the issue with a few straightforward techniques, which we'll discuss below. It's important to note that the cleaning process will differ depending on whether your printer has a partial clog (with inconsistent extrusion) or a full clog (with no extrusion at all). Here's how to clean your 3D printer nozzle:

Partial Clog

Clean the filament: If you have a partial clog in your 3D printer nozzle, using a dedicated cleaning filament can be an effective way to clear away debris. These filaments are often made of nylon and specifically designed for cleaning, not for 3D printing. To use a cleaning filament, heat your printer to a slightly higher temperature than your most recent print job, but be cautious not to set the temperature too high, as this can cause the clogged filament inside the nozzle to burn.

Once the nozzle has reached the appropriate temperature, feed the cleaning filament through it. As you extrude the cleaning filament, you should see remnants of the previous filament being pushed out, indicating that the cleaning process is underway. Continue extruding the cleaning filament until it runs clean, and your 3D printer should be ready to use.

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Wire Brush: To address a dirty or filament-coated nozzle on your 3D printer, the first step is to remove the residue. A brass wire brush is an effective tool for scrubbing away any debris or dirt from the nozzle, although it's important to avoid using steel brushes, which can be too abrasive. Heat up the nozzle before using the brush to make it easier to remove the filament. Additionally, you can use an alcohol wipe to clean up any remaining residue.

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Full Clog

Needle: To remove debris from inside your 3D printer nozzle, the needle method can be an effective solution. Start by heating the hot end to the temperature of your last print job, then use a fine needle or wire (such as an acupuncture needle or a fine steel guitar string) to gently poke upwards through the nozzle hole. This should break up any filament debris causing clogs. When using the needle method, it's important to choose a needle with a diameter smaller than the nozzle and to avoid using drill bits, which can break inside the nozzle.

How to Clean 3D Printer Nozzles (10)

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Cold Pull: When using the cold pull method to clean a 3D printer nozzle, begin by heating the extruder to approximately 250°C (or a lower temperature if using PLA). Once the nozzle is hot, feed the filament through the print head, then let the nozzle cool and the filament solidify. Reheat the extruder to a lower temperature, such as 115°C, and when it reaches 90°C, swiftly pull the filament up and out of the nozzle. Soft filaments like nylon tend to work best for cold pulls. You can confirm that the cold pull method has succeeded if the end of the filament is shaped like the inside of the nozzle. However, it may take several attempts to fully clean the nozzle.

Changing the Nozzle: When all other attempts to clean a 3D printer nozzle have failed, it's likely time to replace the nozzle. It's a good practice to replace your nozzle every three to six months, especially if you're using cheaper brass nozzles. To replace the nozzle, begin by heating up the hot end and removing any filament from the printer. The heat will make it easier to unscrew the nozzle using a wrench or pliers. Once the old nozzle is removed, attach the new nozzle to the printer head and you're done.

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How to prevent a clogged nozzle

In addition to cleaning the nozzle regularly, it's crucial to take steps to prevent clogs from happening in the first place. Begin by keeping your 3D printing environment clean and dust-free, wiping down surfaces near your printer and storing filaments in airtight containers. Additionally, use high-quality filament from reputable brands to ensure consistent extrusion and avoid foreign particles that can clog your hot end. Finally, develop good habits like cleaning the nozzle when switching filament types and ensuring the correct printing temperature and settings for a given material.


While a clogged 3D printer nozzle is a common issue for FDM 3D printer users, it's not inevitable. With the right preventative measures, such as keeping your 3D printing area clean and using high-quality filaments, you can minimize the risk of nozzle clogs. However, if you do encounter a blocked nozzle, there are solutions available. We've explored methods for cleaning a partially or fully clogged nozzle, including using cleaning filament, cold pulling, and acetone solvents.

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How to Clean 3D Printer Nozzles (14)

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How do you clean PLA 3d printer nozzles? ›

Using acetone is most effective with ABS filament. PLA, for its part, can be dissolved using ethyl acetate. [2] With this method, simply submerge the nozzle in the acetone or solvent for a few hours. From there it should be easy to remove what is left of the filament particles that caused the clog.

How do you clean a 3d printer nozzle without a needle? ›

Using a nozzle cleaning kit and a cleaning filament is the most effective way to clean your 3D printer nozzle. You can remove the nozzle and soak it in acetone to remove any traces of filament impurities. A brass wire brush with soft bristles will help eliminate any leftover filament residue.

What solution is used for nozzle cleaning? ›

Warm water can often loosen ink that has dried on the nozzles. Other times you'll need Windex, or some other ammonia-based solvent, for a deeper cleaning.

How do I stop my 3D printer nozzle from clogging? ›

Preventative Maintenance

By using high-quality filament, keeping the nozzle and extruder clean, using the right temperature settings, avoiding flexible or abrasive filaments, and using a filter on the filament, you can prevent nozzle clogs and keep your 3D Printer in great shape.

Can you smooth PLA with isopropyl alcohol? ›

Previously, the most common 3D printed material was ABS which can be easily smoothed using isopropyl alcohol. Now, the most common material is PLA which cannot be effectively smoothed using isopropyl alcohol, except PolySmooth™. PolySmooth™ is a brand of PLA that becomes soluble when exposed to isopropyl alcohol.

Do you have to clean 3D printer nozzle? ›

However, a clogged or dirty 3D printer nozzle can introduce various problems and lead to more trouble further down the road. As the nozzle is the last part the filament travels through before it gets added to a printed piece, it's crucial to keep it clean to ensure good results.

Can I use rubbing alcohol to clean printer nozzle? ›

The sponge end of a blocked printer head can be cleaned with only one liquid other than water. This liquid is isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol isn't strong enough to melt the sponge but is still strong enough to dissolve the ink inside the blocked printer head. Even isopropyl alcohol can't be used freely.

How do you clean a 3D printer nozzle with alcohol? ›

If parts of the melted filament are stuck on the nozzle, you need to clean the piece with an alcohol wipe, a damp paper towel, or a cloth. Ensure the nozzle is hot while cleaning it, and protect your hands with heat-resistant gloves to avoid burns while 3D Printing online.

How do you clean the plastic off a 3D printer nozzle? ›

We recommend cleaning the Vanadium™ Nozzles and Mosquito™ or Copperhead™ Hot Blocks by either heating them up on your 3D printer or with a heat gun, then wiping off the plastic residue with a cotton swab. You can also bake off the residue in an oven or kiln (not one used for food consumption) at 400°C for an hour.

Can you touch a 3D printer nozzle? ›

Don't touch the nozzle with your bare hands or else you will get burned.

What solvent will dissolve PLA? ›

As a solvent, ethyl acetate is highly effective at breaking down and dissolving PLA. By applying a small amount of the chemical to the surface of your print or using ethyl acetate vapor, you can smooth imperfections. While ethyl acetate is not particularly toxic, it is flammable.

Should I clean the nozzle after every print? ›

It's not necessary to clean the nozzle after every print, but it's a good idea to do so on a regular basis. This will help prevent clogs and other issues that can affect the performance of your 3D printer.


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