Does printer ink have an expiry date?

Ensuring your ink and toner are in good condition is essential to keeping your printer healthy. Whether it’s liquid ink for your inkjet printer or a powdered toner for your laser printer, understanding the expiration date and storing your cartridges properly is important. This is true for both busy offices with high print demands and sporadic home use.



Why printer ink expiration is important

Understanding the printer ink expiration date will ensure your printer continues to produce high-quality prints. Over time the composition of the ink will change, the speed of which can be effected by storage conditions and printer use. Expired ink, particularly for inkjet printers, can cause damage to your printer as well as effecting the quality of the print.

For busy offices and business printing, understanding ink expiration is important when ordering in advance. High print demands might require bulk buying, and understanding how long cartridges can be stored for will dictate purchase frequency. Equally, those printing at home or infrequently will also need to be careful about storing and caring for their ink. If a printer goes unused for extended periods of time, the ink may dry out and expire.



When does your ink expire?

As a rule, ink and toner will keep for a year and a half to two years, although this can also depend on storage conditions. Manufacturers will list a sell by date on all cartridges as a guideline. Ink and toner may be fine to use after this date, but try to keep to this date if possible. You’ll also find a warranty date for most manufacturers. This shouldn’t be confused with the sell by date; the warranty date simply tells you the last date the manufacturer will guarantee their ink.

Many manufacturers also provide built-in expiration for the ink or toner. This built-in expiration date is encoded into the cartridge chip and allows the printer to read the expiration date. Your printer will shut down or reject the cartridge after the built-in date, preventing any potential damage from the expired ink. You should also look out for signs that your printer is having problems initialising the ink if you know you are using an old ink cartridge. While most printers allow you to override the built-in expiration date, we don’t recommend doing so unless you can be sure the ink or toner is okay.



Storing your ink

Your ink and toner can only be guaranteed within the expiration date if it is stored and used properly. As soon as you purchase your ink or toner keep it in a cool, dark place. The ideal temperature is between 15 and 24 degrees Celsius, never below 10 or above 35. Avoid leaving cartridges in hot cars for more than a few minutes or in warehouse spaces that might get cold in the winter.

Direct and bright sunlight or heat can damage the ink or toner. For inkjet ink cartridges, this can dry out the ink or turn it to a sludge-like consistency. For laser toners, this can cause the toner to fuse within the cartridge or damage its photosensitive properties. As it is a powder, moisture should also be avoided with laser toners.

If you typically store your cartridges in storage cabinets or closets, ensure space is free of gaseous cleaning supplies such as ammonia or bleach. These chemicals can degrade the composition of the ink or toner and reduce the shelf life.

Finally, if you have an inkjet printer that is used infrequently, make sure your ink doesn’t dry out. Inkjet ink can dry out in as little as three or four weeks. For infrequent printers, simply remember to turn your printer on regularly to allow a cleaning and prep cycle to run. Otherwise, you may simply wish to print out a sheet at least one weekly.

If you use your printer frequently but have plans to leave it unused for a few weeks, you may want to store your cartridge in the meantime to prevent it drying out. To do this you can store the used cartridge in a zip lock bag along with a damp sponge. Simply wet a sponge and wring out until it no longer drips, then place in a ziplock bag with your cartridge and store in a cool dry place.

If you have any more questions about your ink or toner, contact one of our team today and we’ll be happy to help.

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