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“A paper jam in my printer? Ugh! Not now!”

As if there’s ever an opportune moment to have your daily grind interrupted. With documents in queue and people waiting, there’s no time to waste! The impulsive (as well as annoyed) reaction might be to simply yank that darn piece of paper out of the machine, hopeful no damage is done in the process.

STOP! Don’t do it.

Save yourself potential additional hassle by taking a deep breath and following these steps:

  • First, remove any loose paper from the paper tray.
  • Next, turn off and unplug the printer.
  • Determine how much of the page has been swallowed by the printer.
  • If the majority of the paper is accessible from the front, try using your hands to GENTLY pull and remove the page manually. Never use sharp objects such as tweezers or scissors.  Be careful not to rip the paper.
  • If the page resists budging, open the front cover and remove the toner cartridge.  For ink printers it is usually not necessary to remove the cartridges.
  • Look for any levers you can lift to release the machine’s grip on the page. Now, if enough paper is showing, GENTLY try to pull it out.  Again, don’t use sharp objects, and be careful not to rip the paper.
  • It may be that the majority of the page has been swallowed by the printer, in which case you will need to remove the rear panel. Look for an access tab or a knob on the rear panel. A knob may show locked / unlocked positions.  Turn the knob to the unlocked position and remove the rear panel.
  • If the majority of the paper is accessible from the back, try using your hands to GENTLY tug and remove the page manually—no tweezers, no yanking.
  • If the jammed page is inaccessible or will not budge with a gentle tug, call for professional service. Don’t risk damaging your printer trying to remove the page by force.
  • Once the page is out, check for other things that might have caused the jam, including tiny pieces of paper, sticker labels, staples, and paperclips. Make sure these are removed before replacing the printer panel.
  • Finally, turn on the printer and try printing a successful test page.

“Whew! Glad to have my printer working; I hope it doesn’t jam up again!”
Here are some preventative measures to help keep paper jams from happening:

  1. Make sure the type of paper (label sheets, envelopes, card stock, and so forth) you’re using is supported by your printer. Labels and other specialty paper can cause jams because they make use of adhesives and have rough or raised surfaces. Always use the right type of product for your printer; check the packaging to see whether it is meant for ink jet or laser printers.
  2. Never mix paper types and sizes in the paper tray.
  3. Before printing a document, go to ‘print properties’ to select the type and size of paper being used. Readjust the property settings if you later change the paper type or size.
  4. Never fill the paper tray to capacity. I know it’s tempting, but this often leads to paper jams.
  5. Use paper right out of the package. Put the rest of the ream into a closed box or re-wrap it in its wrapper. Paper that has been out for a while will pick up humidity. Humidity increases the likelihood of paper jams.
  6. Most printers have sliding mechanisms that allow different sizes of paper products to be fed into the printer. Make sure the slider is properly positioned around your pages to keep them from being pulled into the printer at a crooked angle.
  7. Make sure the paper tray is correctly seated in the printer.
  8. Check your printer for any debris before printing. Previously jammed pages, small bits of paper, printing labels, or other foreign objects can cause repeated jams.

The following video demonstrates ways to clear a paper jam.