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Does Printer Ink Expire After A Certain Amount Of Time

2010-02-02

Not all printer ink is the same - its properties can vary depending on the type of ink, the brand, and even the age of the ink. In the last few years, various printer ink cartridges have even begun to sport expiration dates, prompting some to wonder if printer ink expires after a certain amount of time. While not necessarily popular, the most accurate answer to that question is that it depends.

While it's true that some cartridges will stop working on the expiration date, many either have override features or other ways that the cartridge can continue to be used. A printer ink cartridge is subject to many environmental variables such as water evaporation and air ingestion that can cause wet ink to dry out over time and lead to printing problems. In extreme cases, dry ink may cause a printer to stop working altogether. Lately, in order to minimize potential damage to users' printers, some manufacturers include a built-in expiration mechanism. The mechanism consists of a microchip, which either tracks ink usage to let the consumer know how much is left in the cartridge, or sets an expiration date so that the cartridge ceases to function after a certain date. So although printer ink may not "expire" in the traditional sense, it is certainly possible for it to lose function and potentially damage a printer.

However, there are a few tips that can help lengthen the life of a printer ink cartridge. Properly stored printer ink cartridges - those kept upright in a dry, room temperature place - can last up to two years unopened. Most ink cartridges are vacuum sealed, and once exposed to air, the shelf life of the ink drops dramatically. Also, using an ink cartridge frequently can extend the life of the ink. Printing a page or two at least every other week prevents ink from drying out and clogging the nozzles in the cartridge, which is crucial since clogged nozzles will not print. Lastly, there are several workarounds that may work if an ink cartridge has reached its listed expiration date. One workaround is to temporarily change the date on the printer and/or computer, then change it back to the correct date after printing. This "tricks" the printer into thinking the current date is earlier than it actually is, and that the expiration date has not yet been reached.

Printer ink costs money, so it makes sense to prolong the life of ink cartridges. Though they may not expire in the traditional sense of the word, steps can be taken to lengthen the life of ink cartridge, regardless of expiration dates.