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Is There An Expiration Date On Printer Ink Cartridges And Why

2010-03-03

Most computer components don't expire, although they can grow old and break down, but as many have noticed, some of these components are different. Printer ink does have an expiration date, and it varies due to different ink types. Modern printer ink is capable of lasting for many months, and the printer ink expiration printed on the packaging of newer cartridges is usually a safe estimate, not a definite date. After all, nothing magical happens when the expiry date comes up--it's still the same ink in the cartridge as before. However, ink does change over time, as an expiration date would be useless otherwise.

Many computer users wonder whether it's safe to use expired cartridges. It seems like a waste to throw them away, but it seems somewhat dangerous to plug them in to a fully functioning printer. Don't worry, nothing's going to explode. However, there's a decent chance that the ink cartridge will stall quickly or print sporadically, as expired ink loses some of the properties that makes it so effective. Ink pools and dries up, and print heads can be damaged. If your printer uses cartridges with built in print heads, you aren't risking much other than the occasional ink spill (and spills are, frankly, unlikely). However, if your printer has built in print heads, you could potentially ruin it. You're taking on a risk when using expired cartridges, and it may not be worth it, especially on high capacity printers. Complicating the issue is the fact that most printer warranties exclude damage due to expired cartridges. Consider this before plugging an older cartridge into your device.

You don't have to simply throw away old cartridges. Most printer stores allow old and used printer ink to be recycled, and provide convenient bins where you can drop off cartridges that you've found. Be sure to ask whether they provide separate drop off points for expired and used cartridges, however.

It's also wise to take steps to avoid the problem in the future. The best course of action is to only buy as much ink as you're going to use. Consider printer refill kits, which are an inexpensive, high-functioning alternative to printer ink cartridges. Inspect printer ink expiration dates on any new cartridge that you buy. When buying online, ask vendors for expiration dates, especially when buying ink that seems absurdly inexpensive. This becomes especially important when you're buying a printer ink cartridge for an older printer. A bit of responsible research will help you save money and avoid the frustration of an expired printer ink cartridge.