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Keeping Ink Cartridges from Drying Out

Monday, March 24th, 2014 by | Filed Under: Printing Help

Allan from Auburn, WA writes:

I don’t use my printer all that often, less than a half dozen times a month if that. I was wondering if it’s better to leave it turned off since it sits idle so much and then just turn it on when I need to use it. Or would I be better off printing something, even a test page of some sorts, at least once a week to keep the ink from drying up?

Hello Allan,

Any inkjet printer is not happy being idle for long periods of time. That will cause the cartridge to dry out. It can happen in as short as 3-4 weeks. It is not a bad idea to print out something once a week, but if you have a color printer, you would want to make sure it is also printing something with color. It is not a bad idea to turn the printer off and on occasionally, as most printers will run a cleaning and prep cycle that could keep the ink from drying out. A suggestion on that would be every time you do restart your computer, go ahead and restart your printer.

An alternative if you use your printer infrequently is to look for a laser printer. They are more expensive, but their ink will not dry out. Inkjet cartridges are liquid, and when exposed to air does what any liquid does. A laser printer uses powder, not liquid, so it won’t dry out no matter how long you leave it idle. As stated, though, they are much more expensive.



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9 Responses to “Keeping Ink Cartridges from Drying Out”

  1. maridots says:

    I was under the impression that leaving the printer on caused the ink cartridges to dry out. It seems that I read that on here! I have an office printer, never use it for photos, only rarely print anything and I leave it off unless I’m needing it. So now I’m confused about whether or not it should be left on or kept off.

    • audra says:

      On or off, the ink cartridges are still exposed to oxygen once opened, which is really what causes them to dry out. However, most modern printers will go into a standby mode which will also keep the cartridges as air tight as possible. You can turn it off and it will do the same thing. What you should avoid, though, is unplugging the printer without first powering it off, as that may leave the print cartridges exposed to more air and also damage the printheads themselves. I looked on HP’s website, and their recommendation is as follows:
      “Our recommendation would be that you leave your printer powered on in normal usage conditions, and power it down if you will not use it for an extended period of time, on the order of a month or more.”

  2. Barbara Pickett says:

    Why would you leave any appliance on when not in use…if I haven’t printed in awhile I’ll take my black cartridge out…shake it well…replace it. Sure saves frustration.

    • John K. says:

      You sure are lucky if this work but I’m sceptical.
      Ink is not only on the cartridge but on printing edge also which you can’t remove or maintain that easily. this is why i believe the best way to keep your ink from drying is to regularly make it flow.
      Preparing a CMYK document to be printed regularly is nice.
      I had an Espon printer but the head dried.
      Changed toward HP one. Then HP made cartridge with printing head included on the cartridge. I paid like 40 € for a cartridge claimed to be usable for about 500 pages + about 40/50 for the Color cartridge for the same amount of pages. Which makes 80/90 € for these 500 pages. I could sometime remove the cartridge and clean it carefully if it dried.
      I bought a newer and way better HP printer and the printing head is no more on the cartridge but no more printing heads on the cartridge. Back to the classics the head is into the printer. This way I need to regularly print that mentioned CMYK document.
      I pay about 20 € each separated cartridge but I can print 1500/2000 pages with them…
      I guarantee that one will prefer paying regularly a page that cost less than a dollar (and actually way less) that having troubles with his printer. There are printer that cost 40 €, mine is worth 200/300 € so be sure I don’t want it to fail for that.
      Kind Regards.

      • John K. says:

        I would love to be able to edit my one post. Sorry for the mistakes. I’m used to send my answer and fix the errors then after.

  3. LUCY says:

    i will be leaving for AZ for 5 months and i just purchase new cartridges. I will not be taking this printer with me. any suggestions on what i should do. suggestion was to put them in the refridgerator.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Lucy, that is the question I had! Guess we just have to buy new cartridges when we get back if it doesn’t work when we get back! And I barely bought new ones and put them in!

  5. Sean Kurth says:

    Personally, I just take my printer apart and soak the cartridges, printhead, and ink absorbers in hot water (about 20 degrees below boiling) for 10 minutes or so, then rinse them under hot (but much less hot, more like 150°) water until the water runs dry. Then I dry them off with a paper towel, let it all sit in the sun for an hour or 2, and put everything back together. This is even better in cartridges with integrated printheads like some older HP deskjets have, so you have to wash less stuff.

    Yes, this can ruin your everything if you’re not careful. But I’ve done it hundreds of times to multiple printers and that’s only happened once, which sure beats having to buy new ink, printhead, and pads once a month, which combined are about twice the cost of a new printer, so if it doesn’t work you don’t lose any more money buying a new printer than you would’ve had to spend on parts anyway.

    • Sean Kurth says:

      Another thing you can/should do every once in a while is lubricate the print head assembly’s track. This is the shiny steel rod that the assembly’s mounted on, *not* the plastic ribbon. Avoid even touching any of the ribbons if you can.

      Just smear the rod really thinly on all sides (like, so thin its slippery but you can’t even see it) with petroleum jelly, moving the printhead assembly back and forth a few times afterward to lubricate the inside and catch any excess lube, which you can scrape off with a flathead screwdriver. If your printer is making an annoying grinding sound, this should at least make it quieter. Yes, there’s actual printer grease for this, but its expensive and petroleum jelly works just as well.

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