Can expired printer cartridges still be used?

We know expiration dates from food, medicines and cosmetics. But technical accessories can also sometimes have an expiration date. This is the case with ink cartridges for your printer, for example. However, since these cost a lot of money, the question quickly arises as to whether you really have to throw them away after the expiration date or whether you can still use them. 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 whatsoever to do with a printer manufacturer’s desire to maximize profits. The main cause of an expiration date on printer cartridges is the chemical composition of printer ink. Unlike toner, this is not a substance that lasts forever. In order for printer ink to achieve high-quality results, manufacturers sometimes have to add organic components. For example, a not inconsiderable proportion of printer ink consists of protein. It is precisely such components that, due to their own decay, also cause the printer ink to deteriorate. Finally, in order to ensure a certain stability, manufacturers have to add preservatives. This prevents the formation of bacteria or even mold. But on top of that, printer ink brings with it a general problem of liquids. There is a risk of the ink drying out over time. As you can see, there are several reasons why an expiration date makes sense. So anyone who thinks this is an invention of the printer industry is simply wrong.

What do the manufacturers say?

A real expiration date, unlike food, is not printed on the packaging of printer cartridges. Here, rather, we can read a production date. As a rule, you can use the cartridges one to two years after production with maximum freshness and quality. For this reason, you should definitely look at the production date when buying. This is especially true if you do not want to install and use the cartridge in the printer immediately. In terms of durability, it is always advisable to pay attention to the manufacturer’s warranty. This tells you how long you can use the printer cartridge without any problems. How you should handle it with the use of expired printer cartridges depends not least on the manufacturer.

Printer cartridges from HP

In the field of inkjet printers, manufacturer Hewlett Packard (HP) has been considered the market leader for years. When it comes to the issue of printer cartridge durability, HP promises that use is possible even six months after the expiration date. However, a self-experiment quickly shows that this period is greatly understated. After all, expired printer cartridges from HP can be used without any problems even one to two years beyond the expiration date without any restrictions.

Print head cartridges can still be used up to two years after their expiration date


However, once the printer cartridges are even older, you should overlook using them. This is especially true if your printer has a standalone print head. In this case, there is too high a risk of the ink drying out in the print button. If, on the other hand, you have print head cartridges, you have nothing to lose. In this case, the print head and ink cartridge form a single unit. So before you throw them away in their entirety, you can try them out without risk to see if the print results are satisfactory.

Printer cartridges from Canon

Many Canon printers rely on 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 after the expiration date.

Printers like the Canon PIXMA TS3150 rely on replaceable print heads.

Failure to do so can result in ink drying up or even damage to your print head. Should it get to that point, you don’t necessarily have to buy a new printhead. In our tutorial, we’ll show you how to save a dried-up printhead from the trash can and save money.

Printer cartridges from Epson

The Epson brand relies on a print head in many of its devices that cannot be replaced. Since these form a unit with the printer, they are designed for the eventual life of the printer. Here it becomes clear why the new purchase of a corresponding print head can become very expensive. Sometimes this is the cost that would be incurred if a new device were purchased.

High-priced printers like the Epson EcoTank ET-2720 rely on a permanently installed print head. Here, you should only use ink whose expiration date is not too far past.

If you have a printer with a non-replaceable print head, you should strictly adhere to the specifications for the useful life of ink cartridges. Otherwise, you risk expensive damage to your print head and thus to your entire printer. So, 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 meticulous attention to the expiration date for ink cartridges, it plays almost no role for toner cartridges. Why? This is simply due to the completely different nature of ink and toner. A toner cartridge is not filled with a liquid, but with a dry powder. For this reason, nothing can evaporate or even dry out here. This means that toner cartridges can still be used after many years without any problems if they are stored correctly. Theoretically at least. The important thing is that you store the cartridges in a cool and, above all, dry place.

Not only the age plays a role

However, the expiration date is by no means an unlimited guarantee that your printer cartridge will work properly. Other factors besides age can also be the cause of poor printing results. This is the case, for example, when your ink cartridge gets frost. As a result, the components of the ink separate from each other. When the ink thaws out again, it is no longer a homogeneous liquid. Individual chunks now float in the ink tank. As a result, the ink no longer fits through the narrow nozzles of the print head. But the opposite is also poison for printer ink. High temperatures, for example, can lead to the formation of bacteria or the infestation of fungi. Here, too, normal printing is no longer possible without further ado. It is therefore particularly important that you store your printer cartridge in a dry, airtight container at room temperature. What else you should consider when storing printer cartridges, you can read here.

Summary: Expiration date should not be disregarded

You should always keep the expiration date of your printer cartridge in mind. Above all, it is important that you pay attention to the latest possible production date when you buy the cartridge. In this way, you can avoid in advance that the cartridge cannot be used because it is too old. If you have a printer with a fixed print head, you should not use cartridges that are more than six months old. The risk of the print head drying out or being damaged is too great. With print head cartridges, on the other hand, you have nothing to lose. In this case, try out cartridges that are two or even three years past their expiration date. You can still throw them away.

What do you think of the topic? Click here for the comments!

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Berlin.

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