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Can Printer Ink Expire?

Mar 31st 2021

Printer ink can come at a real premium, that’s why it’s best to learn about what you’re buying so you don’t waste money. Recent estimates place the cost-per-gallon of printer ink and toner at around $4,700. Whatever you are paying, it may be possible to downsize the expense and avoid unnecessary waste. The following questions and answers can help you develop a strategy for avoiding the losses commonly associated with dried-up and expired printer ink.

What costs more the Printer or the Ink? 

Printers are more affordable than ever but it's because the value to sellers has shifted to the printer ink. It would not be unusual if your cost for printer ink in one year is three times the amount you paid for the printer itself. Retailers tend to make their money on the ink rather than the equipment.

Why Worry About Expired Printer Ink? 

The short answer is, yes, ink can expire. Knowledge is power, including the power to avoid the expiration of your printer ink before you’ve used it up. There are three primary reasons to understand printer ink expiration timelines, processing of ink, and strategies for preventing dried-up printer cartridges. Those reasons are that unless you take appropriate actions: 

  1. Good money will be wasted. 
  2. Copier machines can be damaged when expired printer ink is used. 
  3. It’s possible to diminish the quality of your prints because of expired ink. 

When Does the Printer Affect the Ink’s Lifespan? 

The type of printer does matter in terms of ink expiration, there is one type of inkjet printer in which the ink can never simply go dry. Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers are commercial machines used to mark and code packages. CIJ printers employ the oldest kind of inkjet printer technology. A high-pressure pump is used to direct liquid printer ink from a reservoir through a gun body and a microscopic nozzle. A continuous flow of ink is created that ensures the ink stays fresh. 

What Do the Dates on Ink Cartridges Mean? 

Unless the manufacturer is like Canon, saying their ink does not expire, ink cartridge expiration dates may be stamped onto the cartridge or the packaging. Some ink cartridges include an install date. In general, if printer ink cartridges are packaged with an airtight seal, they can be expected to last for about 2 to 3 years. The variables affecting the longevity of printer ink include quality and storage conditions. The following information is a typical explanation of the dates and the order you may find them on your printer ink cartridges: 

  • Date of Manufacture -- The day the cartridge was made.
  • Install-By Date -- This is usually 18 months after the date of manufacture and 6 months before the warranty expires.
  • Warranty Expiration Date -- This is the date when the manufacturer will no longer cover defects or damage. The time frame is generally one year, but it depends on the manufacturer. 
  • Expiration Date -- The date when using the cartridge is no longer recommended. Some cartridges are equipped with a chip that signals the printer and stops the cartridge from being used. 

Why is Printer Ink Expiration Important? 

A great deal of science and technology, as well as research and design (R&D), goes into the creation of printer ink, copiers, and ink cartridges. Although it is a good thing that printers are now remarkably affordable, intricacies exist that can damage them. Ink, in particular, is a matter of precision. Print quality can be affected and the printer can be damaged because of small changes in the ink composition, dryness, and consistency. Therefore, paying attention to the expiration of the printer cartridge can help prevent costly mistakes. 

What is the Best Way to Store Ink Cartridges?

To extend the lifespan of your ink cartridges, it is crucial to properly store them. You can accelerate the expiration of ink cartridges with improper storage, and that also means you could inadvertently damage your printer as well as cause printer ink to dry. Tips for optimal ink cartridge storage follows: 

  • Keep the airtight packaging in place on the ink cartridges until they are being installed in the printer. 
  • Store printer ink in a cool, dry place. The ideal temperature range is between 59º F and 75º F. 
  • Avoid leaving printer ink cartridges in hot cars and cold warehouses. 
  • Avoid exposing printer ink cartridges to heat or direct sunlight, which can dry them out. 
  • Do not store cleaning supplies or chemicals with ink cartridges because gases could be released from these products that change the composition of the ink. 
  • Avoid storing ink cartridges in dusty conditions. 
  • Store cartridges where they are standing up in a vertical position. 
  • Keep the cartridges in their individually sealed packaging until it is time for them to be used. 

How Long Do Ink Cartridges Last in a Printer?

Another consideration is how long ink lasts in a printer. It can take as few as three weeks for printer ink that has already been funneled into the printer to dry out. The result can be messy prints, hardware damage, premature expiration of the ink, and wasting a valuable resource. The following are a few tips to prevent problems with the ink cartridges that have already been installed: 

  • Simply turn the printer on to initiate a maintenance cycle. 
  • To keep the ink flowing, make it a practice to print a page at least once weekly. 
  • If there is no printing needed in the near future, you can extend the life of your ink cartridge that is already being used by placing it in a Ziploc storage bag with a wet sponge that has been wrung out. 

Are There Other Ways to Avoid Having Expired Printer Ink? 

Buying inkjet cartridges in bulk often seems to be a significant cost saving. That may not be the case, however. Pay attention to the expiry dates and carefully consider whether the amount of ink you are buying exceeds the amount of printing that will likely be used in that time frame. Keep in mind that, while it’s a bit of a risk, it can generally be expected that properly stored ink cartridges will last for a few months after the expiration date. In that circumstance, however, watch the print quality carefully to ensure that the ink is in good shape. 

Note the following, as well:  Because they have encoded expiration dates, some ink cartridges will automatically stop working after the stated expiration date. You can usually manually override expired ink cartridges like these by checking the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) website and following the instructions. 

Problem With a New Ink Cartridge? 

If and new ink cartridge was stored upside down or on its side for an extended time, it may not work initially. Before concluding that a new ink cartridge is defective or dried up and expired, let it stand upright for a few hours or so and try again. 

Is There a Cheaper Alternative to OEM Cartridges? 

Remanufactured and compatible printer cartridges are very cost-effective alternatives to the sometimes exorbitant prices charged by many OEMs. Some reputable retailers offer high-quality cartridges from OEMs as well as compatible ink cartridges that are available at significantly lower prices. 

The benefits to using ink cartridges made and provided by the OEM include that they are specifically fashioned to work seamlessly with their respective printers. They are sealed, quality-controlled, guaranteed, and completely new. Also, refurbished and refilled cartridges do not usually have the convenient expiry dates that OEM cartridges have. 

Do you have more questions about printer ink expiration or other ink-related inquiries? Contact the friendly experts at Supplies Outlet for help finding the solution you need.