Why Are My Incoming Faxes Blotchy?

My fax machine is printing faxes with big black streaks across the page. Do I need to replace something, or is it a problem with the toner?

There are a few problems that cause smudgy black lines to appear on faxes, but before you take apart your fax machine trying to fix it, the first step is to make sure that the problem is on your end. If the sender has a damaged or dirty paper feed, or a scanner with a smudged glass, then you will get a messy fax. Ask the sender to print out a copy of the fax to test their machine, or ask someone else to fax you. If you get two streaky faxes from two different senders, the problem is probably on your end.

The most likely issue in this case is spilled or leaking toner. If you have an inkjet fax machine then you will be dealing with liquid toner. Open up the printing cover and look on and around the toner cartridge. If you see leaking or dripping toner, you will need to replace the cartridge and wipe down the area thoroughly. If you are not using an inkjet fax machine, then you probably have powdered toner. This stuff is hazardous, so try not to breathe it in or handle it at all. If it gets on your hands, wash them immediately. If you look in the printing area and see the powder scattered around, or if you shake the toner cartridge and powder comes out, dispose of the cartridge and clean the area.

A final issue could be the fax drum itself, which is the photoreceptor unit that distributes the ink correctly across the page. If the drum is worn out (which is likely if your machine is 5-plus years old or has printed more than, say, 12,000 faxes,) then it will need to be replaced. That can be tricky, and you are best advised to send it in to the company. However, the drum unit might just be dirty. If so, follow the instruction manual on how to clean a drum cartridge. Just be warned that photoreceptors are extremely sensitive, so avoid touching it with your fingers, using any liquids or cleaning agents on it, scrubbing the surface or using any sharp objects.

Good luck!

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