In spite of the popularity of e-books and the fact of millions of digital documents being shared back and forth every minute, it still matters to have things inked out in print.
This is because hard copies (of text documents, infographics, images, and legal files) are easy to locate and hard to accidentally delete, add to the importance of the material at hand, and sometimes it might simply be a necessity (contracts, invoices, material for work or school).
Hence – especially when in an office environment – a large quantity of printing might need to be done, and in a limited amount of time, too. As such, the knowledge of how to make ink cartridges last longer becomes indispensable.
Making ink cartridges last longer is a prime worry for many in this scenario, especially for those who realize just how costly they are in the long run.
How Long Do Ink Cartridges Last?
The primary difference between laser and inkjet printers can be said to be the presence of ink cartridges in inkjets, and toners for lasers. Toners have plastic elements and components; thus, they do not dry out similarly to inkjet ink cartridges.
Contributing to the high running costs of using ink cartridges for inkjet printers is the fact that they’re prone to dry out before they run out. Making ink cartridges last longer ironically involves using them more often. Otherwise, they can dry out in just as little as three weeks since the last use!
You’ll notice that ink cartridges also come with an expiration date. This raises the question – how long do ink cartridges last if not used?
According to HP, the answer can be either 12 months after the warranty date or a year and a half after the cartridge is first installed.
However, experience and experts both elaborate that this is only applicable if the cartridge remains sealed. Once opened, the ink is exposed to oxygen and starts to dry out, at whatever rate.
Ironically, even sealed cartridges can dry out on the shelf.
Consider this. Let’s say you buy a fancy photo printer and stock up on cartridges right away. In a few years, the ones you didn’t use might end up being completely useless even while they were packed away.
This means that there are both precautions that must be taken and caution that must be exercised.
How to Make Ink Cartridges Last Longer by Simple Maintenance
The first note of caution: print only what you need.
Overprinting can be tempting; however, you might regret it at some point when you have an emergency.
This is even more important when your printer resolution is high – utilizing more resources on each go – or if your particular choice of the model of printer does not have separate facilities for black-and-white and color printing, meaning the same cartridge is utilized for all needs.
Additionally, remember to store your out-of-use or back-up cartridges somewhere dark and dry, and at room temperature.
Extremely negative temperatures can make the cartridges unusable, and extremely high ones can make ink bubble and ooze out of the cartridge, making a huge mess.
The first proper solution, incidentally, is also a precaution: always power off the printer before unplugging it.
Not doing so damages the printheads themselves and leaves the ink cartridges improperly and unwantedly exposed to more air than they should be, meaning they’ll be drying out while you sleep.
Printhead cleaning can also be “automated”, so to speak, meaning that all you have to do is pick up your printer’s user guide to find the instructions for the cleaning process. These manuals can also be found online).
The process is usually built-in and depends on only a few clicks from the user, but we only recommend it if you feel your cartridge has visibly deteriorated in print quality.
The second solution is similarly maintenance-related: clean nozzle heads.
Keep your nozzle heads from clogging by removing the cartridge and unclogging the nozzle at the bottom (where the ink comes out) firmly with either a lint-free cloth or a damp paper towel.
Thirdly, but most importantly, make sure you never leave your printer idle for too long.
For some reason, they just don’t take too well to being ignored, and the ink cartridge dries up without regular use. This is in fact why many printers have a default test page that can be printed as a sort of proxy between actual prints just to keep the machine up and running.
Hacks on How to Make Ink Cartridges Last Longer
While some maintenance tips can also be covered under this heading – don’t leave your cartridges uncapped by turning off the printer from the switch instead of having it power itself down first – there are also other ways to squeeze the most ink out of your cartridges.
A financial ‘life hack’ is this simple fact: compatible cartridges, which might not be original or brand name, can last up to a year longer than their ‘original’ counterparts.
What’s more, you can set your prints to something called the ‘draft mode’ that preps print quality to be like any other regular document but uses around half the amount of ink as an optimal print job.
Finally, a run of prints requires an ink overhead at the starting and finishing points of each print job. This means a single run of multiple documents is better than multiple runs of the single documents – again, simple mindfulness that can go a long way!
Making ink cartridges last longer is a maintenance game, first and foremost. Make sure your use is regular but not wasteful, and that you’re well aware of the expiry dates. Ink cartridges are a nuisance to many, but by controlling your printing with intention-based action, you can stay ahead of the curve and get the most for the least.