You (hopefully) wouldn’t drink out of an expired carton of milk or cook up an expired side of beef, because that’s just common sense. Eating food that’s past its expiration date is dangerous, not to mention gross. Yet, we don’t treat other products with the same caution, even when the expiration date is printed in large text on the side of the package. This includes ink and toner cartridges.
Did you know that these cartridges expire? Just like food, these products go bad if not used within a certain amount of time. And much like eating expired food, using expired cartridges can be unhealthy for your printer. If you try to print with bad toner (or ink), it can severely damage the device. Worse, breaking your printer in this way usually voids the warranty. Some companies have begun adding microchips so that the printer will not use an expired cartridge at all, but it’s not a universal practice.
Ink cartridges generally expire sooner than toner cartridges—usually within a few months—and once the expiration date passes they go bad much more quickly. When an ink cartridge goes bad, the liquid inside becomes thick and sluggish. When the liquid is in this state, using it can clog the print head, and do some serious damage to your printer. Because the quality of expired ink drops so quickly, using a cartridge that’s past its expiration date is a gamble with poor odds.
Toner cartridges, on the other hand, are filled with powder, so their expiration dates tend to be measured in years rather than months. After that date passes, there is an increasing risk that moisture will enter the cartridge and cause the powder inside to clump up, rendering it useless. This process can take a while depending on how the cartridges are stored, so an expired toner cartridge has a better chance of functioning than ink.
Keep in mind that a package of cartridges will have two dates on it. One of these is the expiration date; the other is when the warranty ends. If you are buying refurbished cartridges, the expiration date may already have passed.
So, should you throw your cartridges out the moment they expire? Not necessarily. Cartridges are extremely expensive after all, often costing more than the printer that uses them. There are steps you can take to extend your ink and toner’s shelf life, so you don’t have to lose a small fortune in cartridges. Be sure to store your cartridges in a clean, room temperature environment and keep them in the original packaging. For toner, keep the packages lying flat, in an area free of dust or gases that could corrode the cartridge. Ink should be stored standing upright and in the dark so that the liquid stays fluid. Toner, in particular, can last up to years after the expiration date if stored this way.
If you’re careful, you will be able to use your ink and toner before the expiration date passes. Doing so will save your business money, and prevent a great deal of unnecessary hassle. Keep the expiration dates in mind, and don’t forget to check the date before loading your printer.
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