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Frequently Asked Questions on Printer Ink

By: Editors

What is the difference between printer ink and toner?

First, printer ink is a liquid. It is processed inside the ink cartridge and then applied on the paper. There are several ways of printing with ink. The most commonly used method in consumer ink jet printers is the thermal ink jet technology. This technology uses a cartridge with a series of tiny electrically-heated chambers. To produce an image, the printer runs a pulse of current through the heating elements. A steam explosion in the chamber forms a bubble, which propels a droplet of ink onto the paper. When the bubble condenses, surplus ink is sucked back up from the printing surface.

Toner is a fine powder that is burned onto the paper through heat and laser guidance. An electric charge is first projected onto a primary charge roller. The drum has a surface of a special plastic or garnet. Electronics drive a system that writes light onto the drum. The light causes the electrostatic charge to leak from the exposed parts of the drum. The surface of the drum passes through a bath of very fine particles of dry plastic powder, or toner. The charged parts of the drum electrostatically attract the particles of powder. The drum then deposits the powder on a piece of paper. The paper passes through a fuser, which, with heat and pressure, bonds the plastic powder to the paper. The temperature of the fuser can rise up to 200 degrees Celsius during printing.

 Do printer ink refill kits really work?

To keep it short, yes, printer ink refills are a viable alternative to manufacturer ink cartridges. They do save you a lot of money in the long run and they provide an almost equivalent print quality. However, they do require more time than simply replacing your empty ink cartridge and are at a higher risk for faster loss of print quality.

 How many prints can I get from a printer ink cartridge?

There is no fix number of prints you can get from a printer ink cartridge. There are too many variables to consider when talking about such an amount. It mainly depends on the manufacturer and the size of the cartridge itself. In other words, it depends on the type of printer you have.

However, roughly speaking, the average printer ink cartridge will provide you with around 800 pages for color and 600 pages for black.

 When Do You Need a Cleaning?

Even if printers today have reached a high quality level, printer cartridges can get ‘tired’ after a while. The first clear sign that you need a cartridge cleaning is when your printer suddenly begins smearing and misprinting. Most printers come with a built-in cleaning system or the ability to clean the printer ink through your computer.

If you are running Windows, go to your control panel and select Printers. Choose the printer that you have installed and view the Properties or Settings. There should be a tab for ‘maintenance’. There are a few options there, but you are looking for ‘clean printer ink cartridges’. This will print out a test page and ask you to confirm that it was correctly printed. If not, repeat the process. If it fails to work again, you may need to replace your printer ink cartridge. Manual cleaning of your cartridge is not recommendable as you would most probably damage the writing head.


How to Get Rid of Printer Ink Stains

This is the main problem when refilling your printer ink cartridge: it’s very messy. You will often spill ink on your clothes. Most people panic when they see a big black stain on their clothes. However, the problem is not that bad as printer ink is a water-based ink and that means it dissolves in water. Furthermore, printer ink takes a while to completely dry in clothes so you should have no problems if you act quickly.

  • First, start running warm water. Also, get a gentle hand soap or detergent ready.
  • Start by gently rubbing the soap into the garment with a clean towel.
  • Do not let the garment bunch up or the ink may bleed right through to another part.
  • Run the warm water through the soapy area and repeat scrubbing with a clean part of the towel.
  • Once you have gotten as much as possible, put the stained clothes immediately into the washing machine.


 How can I get more life from color printer ink cartridges?

There are two types of color ink cartridges: the ones that keep all colors in one single cartridge and the ones that have separate color printer ink cartridges. Naturally, the second option is better. In spite the fact that they are more expensive than the traditional ones, these cartridges will really help you out in the long run.

The advantage of having separate printer ink cartridges is clear. When you have several prints that will require less use of one color, that color of toner or ink can be saved for when it will be needed. If you tend to print the same colors often, such as when printing letterhead, you may only have to replace or refill one printer ink cartridge at a time. These printers can be slightly more expensive to purchase. You will save that money in no time by not having to replace your color printer ink cartridge when only one color runs empty.

 How do I replace my color printer cartridge?

Color ink in printer cartridges will typically need replacing fewer times than black ink cartridges. The reason is that you usually use black on every print whereas the colors are only used in color prints. Furthermore, you have three cartridges of color and only one of black. When the time does come to replace your color printer cartridge, and it will, the steps are universally easy and will only take a few minutes.

  • First, get your replacement color printer cartridge. Make sure you buy the right model for your printer as there are many variations on the market. Open your printer lid and remove the empty printer cartridge by releasing the latch that is holding it in place.
  • Now, remove the protective tape on the head of the new color printer cartridge. This is there to keep ink from bleeding out in the package. With the tape removed, insert the new color printer cartridge in the empty slot left by the old one. It should easily snap into place and be locked in by a latch of some sort.
  • Once you have re-inserted the printer cartridge, go to your printer maintenance program and align the printer cartridges and clean them. You will be making perfect color prints in no time.

How to Buy the Right Printer Ink Cartridge

With so many makes and models of personal and business solution printers and each of them having their own cartridges it is only normal that there are a lot of types of printer ink cartridges. Another reason for this is that there is no standard size for a cartridge, so every print manufacturer can produce any cartridge that fits their printer. That’s why you will never find a HP cartridge, for example, to fit an Epson so you really should be careful about what you buy. You have to make sure your cartridges match your printer.

The best way to determine your type of printer ink cartridge is to consult the printer manual as the exact type of cartridge should be written there. Another way is to access the manufacturer’s website to look for the cartridge that fits your printer model. And, the final way is to physically remove the empty printer ink cartridge from your printer and read the markings that tell you its type. If you take the empty cartridge with you to the store when you buy the new one there’s no way you’re going to miss.

 Conserving Your Printer Ink

Printer ink will always eventually run dry but there are a few ways to conserve your ink cartridge over time and stretch the life of your printer ink. Here are a few ways you can help yourself conserve.

  • Quality – Always print in the necessary quality. Don’t overdo it as you will waste printer ink. For draft work set your printer to print at low quality. These settings directly relates to the amount of printer ink used in a printing job: the lower the quality the less printing ink.
  • Quantity – Most people are in a rush when it comes to printing their documents only to find themselves printing tens of copies of the same text just because they didn’t spend the necessary time to make all the corrections. So, always check your print before actually printing it. You should never print more copies than the ones you need.

Again, printer ink cartridges all run out at some point so if you never want to run out of ink you can keep an extra printer ink cartridge around in case it runs out.

 Refilling Color Printer Ink

Although color printer ink cartridges will not be to be refilled as often as the black ink cartridge, the job will be a little more complicated. When refilling a black cartridge things are clear and easy. You have one color to put into one cartridge and that’s not very complicated.

However, when it comes to color printer ink cartridges you have three colors to worry about, three separate pigments of ink. The actual process of refilling a color cartridge is the same as in the case of black ink, using a syringe to inject the ink. The only problem is to keep the colors completely separated. The colors you put into the cartridges need to be perfect so you’re really going to have to keep it clean. You have to options: you can either thoroughly clean your injecting device after each refill, or you can simply use three injectors. Needless to say, the second option is the one recommended.

Again, the most important thing is not to mix the colors. If you let the colors mix inside the cartridge, you will get prints that are low quality and ill-colored. If you can be careful and keep the colors separate, you will have no problem getting the job done and having great prints in the end.  

Buying Printer Ink Cartridges in Bulk

The most efficient way to save money when buying printer ink cartridges is to buy them in large quantities. If you’re worried about damaging cartridges if you keep them stored for a long time you should know that there is no such risk involved. If properly stored, printer ink cartridges will not go bad. So why shouldn’t you buy as much cartridges as you need in a year, for example, and save a lot of money?

Most people get scared when they see the amount of money involved. The secret is to look at the big picture. You will first need to estimate how much ink you consume every year. Take the resulting number of cartridges and multiply it with the two prices and get the two results: the amount of money you would spend if you were to buy each cartridge when you’re out of ink and the amount you would spend if you were to buy all cartridges at once. The difference will definitely convince you that buying in bulk is the best option.  


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