Extend the life of your ink cartridges

Filed in Blog by on September 21, 2009 2 Comments
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How much ink ends up wasted with printer cartridges?

How much ink ends up wasted with printer cartridges?

The other week I had to buy new ink cartridges for our printer. As well as the clam shell packaging to be disposed of I was feeling a bit cheated on how much ink might be left in the cartridge.

Unless you have a printer with separate colours, most inkjet printers come with one colour cartridge; comprising the three basic colours and one black cartridge.

The problem with my colour cartridge was that there was no yellow left. The red and blue were still going strong. Very strong in fact.

But as a ‘green’ family, not being about to mix blue and yellow was a bit of a problem to us …

I know I can recycle the cartridges and help charities along the way but what about me as a consumer? Am I being ripped off every time I buy a new cartridge?
It would appear I am as this video “How ink cartridges go to waste” from BBC’s Working Lunch points out shows.

At the end of the video we’re told to ‘use our printer wisely’ but not told what that actually means!

One tip I will share from experience is that inkjet cartridges have a kind of ‘use it or lose it‘ inbuilt system. In other words, if you don’t use the ink regularly it dries out.

I learned this to my detriment when printing some photographs. I printed 6 and left the printer untouched for a few months; congratulating myself on how much ink I was saving. When I came back to the printer there was no ink in the pot – presumably it had evaporated or dried out. So print something once a week at least to keep the ink flowing.

Mrs Green’s tips for getting more print for your money:

  • Print on draft mode unless you’re doing a business letter or photograph
  • Take out the cartridge and shake it; sometimes you’ll get a few more pages for your money
  • Turn off your printer when not in use; the heat produced by the printer can dry the ink more quickly
  • Clean the ink cartridge head with the function on your printer
  • Store new cartridges properly at room temperature. DON’T open the pack until you plan to use it and don’t buy more than a years supply at once. Unlike a tin of beans, a printer cartridge will deteriorate over time
  • And of course the number one rule – only print if essential!

What about you – I’d love to hear your experiences with ink cartridges and your tips for making them last longer. We now have a laser printer for black and white printing and we’re thrilled with it. Now I’m saving up for a colour version 😉

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (2)

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  1. Layla says:

    WOW! Thanks for the tips!!

    We do print in draft mode pretty much everything, except the really ‘gotta look immaculate’ stuff!
    I do turn off the priner whenever I remember to do it, as to save energy! I didn’t know it also has conserve ink! Great tip! (It may help others to do it too!)

    The ink cartridges are one of my personal ‘sigh’ elements too.
    We were told it’s cheaper to refill, and you can order kits for refill online (including gloves and a syringe of sorts) according to the type you need, or you can order recycled/refilled cartridges.
    I looked at that site and apparently they don’t carry the type for our printer in any other way but new, no refilly kits or recycled ones.
    I was still wondering how the little bottles with ink would be processed though, presumably they could extend the life of a cartridge for quite a while, and someone we know swears the results are just as good as with a new ‘original’ cartridge and that there are no problems with the printer (that we were a bit afraid of and scared with in shops selling ‘original’ cartridges that cost a fortune).

    So, not sure what our options are (as long as we still have this printer. Maybe call the firm or look up online on international websites if refills are possible?)
    We have a black + colored cartridges, alas not colors separately.
    I think if we found ink for refills, we could fill the colors separately.. (not sure on that one, and have never done it)

    We’ve filled pen cartridges when I was a kiddie with a usual syringe (from the doctor’s!) and I used a pen that needed just ink for a while (still haven’t got a good one again!) I really don’t know what to write with lol! Maybe I need to go make my own ink like Goethe? 🙂

  2. Mrs Green says:

    @Layla: Hi Layla, I enjoyed your thoughts on this topic over on your site too. We’ve used refills very successfully in the past.

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