Ross Ipsa Loquitur Blog – Blast from the Typewriter-Driven Past: Fixing Paper-Feeding Issues

Periodically I have clients who ask about paper feeding issues with their printers or scanners. I’m sure you’ve experienced this from time to time. Your scanner likes to grab several sheets of paper at a time or the paper skews when being pulled into your printer. The cause, often, is dirty feed rollers. The silicone or rubber rollers, being somewhat sticky by their nature, pick up paper dust. This build-up lowers the friction against the paper and causes slippage. There you go – a royal pain.

The answer is cleaning the rollers, but not the way you might think of doing it. What I hear usually is a DIY approach involving Q-Tips and rubbing alcohol. And then a note of pleased self-satisfaction at a small personal victory over recalcitrant technology. Good! Oh wait . . . NOT so good (the alcohol part, that is).

I don’t know if anyone really remembers the typewriter days but there was something called “typewriter platen fluid.” This was used to clean the roller inside of the carriage. Over time, paper dust would build up and it  would lose its grippiness. Platen fluid would clean it without damaging the rubber.

 Alcohol will break down the surface of the rubber rollers (and possibly also degrade silicone rollers too) and should NOT be used. Use this instead: http://www.fixyourownprinter.com/specials/misc/chemicals/S03. Or use a pre-moistened cloth intended to clean LCD displays (like this: http://www.amazon.com/Belkin-F5L034-Screen-Cleaning-Kit/dp/B001NIEK3Q).  Or even just a mild solution of soap and water will do the trick. Save the alcohol for the glass of wine or the margarita you buy yourself afterwards to celebrate your sense of technology mastery over machines :-)
Again, avoid alcohol on the rubber rollers – it can actually remove the stickiness that makes them work.