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What Is The Average Shelf Life Of An Ink Cartridge

2010-01-24

In order to be sure that a document or picture is going to print property, it is essential to have some knowledge of the shelf life of ink cartridges. There are few things more frustrating than going to print out a last-minute college paper or business document and seeing a blurred mess of half-lines and deformed images instead of the crisp and clear production that was expected. A good way to avoid this frustration is to learn about the types of ink typically used in printers and their expected shelf life.

The general rule of thumb for printer ink is that it has a total life of 24 months. This includes 18 months of "shelf life" and 6 months actually performing in the printer. There are currently two major types of ink being used in printers - dye and pigment. Dye based inks will result in more vibrant colors but take far longer to dry. Pigment based inks, meanwhile, dry almost instantly and are excellent for making large amounts of copies extremely quickly. Because of their more liquid nature, dye based inks are more likely to dry out than pigment based inks, and are cheaper as a result.

Printer ink cartridges will now come stamped with either their date of manufacture or the potential "use-by" date, much like a carton of milk. This date can be extended by leaving the cartridge in its packaging, as they are vacuum sealed and will prevent much of the ink from drying. This can be of benefit if buying ink in bulk - leave all cartridges unopened until they are needed. Even an open printer ink cartridge will not begin to decay immediately, but once the protective tape is removed from the print head and the cartridge is installed, a clock begins ticking. It is from this point that most manufacturers give the cartridge six months. The cartridge can fail even sooner if the user does not print many documents. If the ink cartridge is seldom used, but kept in the printer waiting and ready to go, its contents will begin to dry much faster than if it were being used on a regular basis.

When purchasing any printer cartridge, be sure to know what type of ink is being bought, as well as the date it was either manufactured or should potentially expire. Any printer cartridge installed a year or more after its manufacture date is one which will likely not perform optimally. And while improvements to these cartridges are being made at a steady rate, the simple fact is that ink, no matter how advanced, will eventually dry out.