Printer ink can get old

Can I still use expired printer cartridges?

We know expiration dates from food, medicines and cosmetics. However, technical accessories can sometimes have an expiration date. This is the case, for example, with ink cartridges for your printer. However, since these cost a lot of money, the question quickly arises whether you really have to throw them away or can still use them after their shelf life has expired. In the following tutorial we would like to take a closer look at this question.

That is why there is an expiration date

An expiration date has nothing to do with the printer manufacturer's goal of maximizing profits. The main cause of a printer cartridge expiration date is the chemical composition of the printer ink. Unlike toner, this is not a substance that lasts forever. In order for printer inks to achieve high-quality results, manufacturers sometimes have to add organic components. Printer ink, for example, consists to a not inconsiderable extent of protein. It is precisely such constituents that, due to their own deterioration, also cause the printer ink to deteriorate. Finally, in order to ensure a certain stability, manufacturers have to add preservatives. This avoids the formation of bacteria or even mold. On top of that, printer ink poses a common problem with liquids. There is a risk of the ink drying out over time. As you can see, there are several reasons that make an expiration date useful. So anyone who thinks that this is an invention of the printer industry is simply wrong.

What do the manufacturers say?

Unlike food, a real expiry date is not printed on the packaging of the printer cartridges. Rather, we can read off a production date here. As a rule, the cartridges can be used with maximum freshness and quality one to two years after production. For this reason, you should definitely look at the production date when buying. This is especially true if you don't want to install and use the cartridge in the printer right away. In terms of durability, it is always advisable to pay attention to the manufacturer's guarantee. This provides information about how long you can use the printer cartridge without any problems. How you should handle the use of expired printer cartridges depends not least on the manufacturer.

HP printer cartridges

In the field of inkjet printers, the manufacturer Hewlett Packard (HP) has been the market leader for years. When it comes to the issue of the shelf life of printer cartridges, HP promises that they can still be used six months after the shelf life has expired. In a self-experiment, however, it quickly becomes apparent that this period is a gross understatement. After all, expired printer cartridges from HP can also be used without any problems for one to two years beyond the date of expiry without restrictions.

As soon as the printer cartridges are even older, you should overlook their use. This is especially true if your printer has its own printhead. In this case, there is too high a risk that the ink in the push button will dry out. If, on the other hand, you have print cartridges, you have nothing to lose. Here the print head and ink cartridge form a unit. So before you throw them away in their entirety, you can safely try out whether the print results are satisfactory.

Canon printer cartridges

Many Canon printers use a replaceable print head. If you own such a device, you should proceed similarly to an HP printer. Use the cartridges for a maximum of two years from the expiration date.

Otherwise, the ink may dry out or even damage your printhead. If that happens, you don't necessarily have to buy a new printhead. In our tutorial, we will show you how you can save a dried-up print head from the garbage can and save money.

Epson printer cartridges

For many of its devices, the Epson brand relies on a print head that cannot be replaced. Since these form a unit with the printer, they are designed for the possible service life of the printer. Here it becomes clear why buying a new printhead can be very expensive. Sometimes these are the costs that would arise when buying a new device.

If you have a printer with a non-replaceable printhead, you should strictly adhere to the requirements for the service life of ink cartridges. Otherwise there is a risk of expensive damage to your printhead and thus to your entire printer. The rule here is that you should not use an ink cartridge for more than six months after the expiration date.

What about toner cartridges?

While you should pay close attention to the expiration date with ink cartridges, it hardly matters with toner cartridges. Why? This is simply due to the completely different nature of the ink and toner. A toner cartridge is not filled with any liquid, but with a dry powder. For this reason nothing can evaporate or dry out here. This means that toner cartridges can still be used after many years without any problems if stored correctly. In theory at least. It is important that you store the cartridges in a cool and, above all, dry place.

It's not just age that matters

However, the expiration date is by no means an unlimited guarantee that your printer cartridge will function properly. This is because other factors besides age can also be the cause of poor print results. This is the case, for example, if your ink cartridge gets frosty. As a result, the constituents of the ink separate from one another. If the ink thaws again, it is no longer a homogeneous liquid. There are now individual chunks floating in the ink tank. As a result, the ink no longer fits through the narrow nozzles of the printhead. But the opposite is also poison for the printer's ink. For example, high temperatures can lead to the formation of bacteria or fungal attack. Here, too, normal printing is no longer possible without further ado. It is therefore particularly important that you store your printer cartridge dry, at room temperature and in airtight packaging. You can read here what else you should consider when storing printer cartridges.

Conclusion: the expiry date should not be ignored

You should always keep the expiration date of your printer cartridge in mind. Above all, it is important that you make sure that the production date is as up-to-date as possible when purchasing. In this way, you can avoid in advance that the cartridge cannot be used in the first place because it is too old. If you have a printer with a permanently installed printhead, you should not use cartridges that are more than six months old. The risk of drying out or damage to the printhead is too great. With print cartridges, however, you have nothing to lose. In this case, feel free to try cartridges that are two or even three years past their expiration date. You can always throw them away.