How to Keep Ink Cartridges from Drying Out – Avoiding Dried Ink Cartridge

If you purchase a printer for commercial use, it might be common for you to print every day. However, most people don’t print as much. Some people bought a printer just to print once in a while. It can be very frustrating to find out that the new ink cartridges you used once a few months ago have already dried out when you try to use it again. 


How Much Time Does It Take for a Cartridge to Dry Out? 

Ink cartridges can last approximately two years if it is properly packaged and stored. After 2 years, you might still be able to use the ink cartridges. However, they can start to dry out and lead to some potential problems if you use them on your printer, such as getting a dry print head. 

An opened ink cartridge can only last for approximately 6 months. You should always let your printer ink remain in its package until you need to install it into your printer. 

However, the expiration date is not the only factor that contributes to the degradation of the ink quality. The way you treat the ink cartridges greatly influences their lifespan as well. 

Why does an Ink Cartridge Dry Out? 

Printer cartridges don’t last forever. Different factors can influence the lifetime of your ink cartridges. By understanding these factors, we can effectively prevent our ink from drying up:

1. Infrequent Use 

Inkjet printers use liquid-based ink cartridges, which are not designed for rare use. This is the reason why your ink cartridges will dry out quickly if they sit in the printer untouched for an extended period. 

The laser printers, on the other hand, use the toner cartridges, which are made by toner or powder. Thus, they can stay in the printer for weeks untouched and still be able to print when we want to. 

2. Cartridges have Expired 

Keep in mind that ink cartridges do expire! One common question is that “Can I still use the cartridges after the expiration date?” The answer is that — it depends. It is not a huge problem to use an expired ink cartridge as long as it is not long past the expiration date, and the ink is still wet and usable. However, an expired ink cartridge can potentially clog your printer head, which is expensive to fix. 

3. Incorrectly Refill your Cartridges 

Refilling ink cartridges is indeed a lot cheaper than buying new ink cartridges. Yet, potential problems might occur if refilling cartridges is done incorrectly. If air gets into the cartridges, it can dry out the ink and clog the printer head. Keep in mind that there are ways to get cheaper ink such as buying remanufactured ink cartridges or checking out places that sell high-quality cheap ink cartridges

4. Store too close to a Heat Source 

Your printer ink can dry out easily if you keep it near a heat source or in direct sunlight. Room temperature can easily influence the performance of your ink cartridges. 

How to Keep Cartridges from Drying Out?


Use Your Printer Often

Use your printer more frequently! You should print a few pages every week to make sure that your ink will not dry out. You can consider performing a printer test page to print all the colors in your cartridges to make sure that none of them dry out. 


Dampen Your Cartridges

If you think that doing test prints is a waste of ink, you can regularly moisten your ink cartridges to prevent them from drying out. There are just a few simple steps to follow: 

  1. Put on a pair of protective gloves. 
  2. Remove the ink cartridges from the printer. 
  3. Wipe the top of the cartridges using a damp paper towel or cloth to prevent them from getting clogged. 
  4. Dry your cartridges by wiping the excess moisture off the surface of the cartridges. 
  5. Reinstall the cartridges into your printer. 


Adjust Your Room Temperature

It is important to keep your printer in a room with a moderate temperature— the ink cartridges can dry out easily when they are exposed to low or high temperatures. By maintaining your room temperature at around 68 degrees, you will be able to extend the lifespan of your cartridges.


Turn Your Printer Off When Not in Use 

It is good practice to turn your printer off when it is not in use to keep your cartridges from drying out. Turn it off in the proper way by pressing the Power button until the light goes off before switching off the power strip. 

Ways to Fix Dried Ink 

Sometimes, it is too late for you to start preserving your printer ink because it has already dried up. Well, don’t be too frustrated as there are ways to rejuvenate your dried ink cartridges! The steps don’t necessarily work all the time, but it is worth a try! 

1. Cleaning your Print Head

Run the print head cleaning can soften and remove the clogs on the printer head. Not only you can prevent your ink cartridges from drying out, you can also save your dry ink cartridges. It is a good practice to clean your print heads from time to time, especially if you have not used your printer for a while. There are different ways to clean your print head for both removable and non-removable type print heads. You might need to run the print head cleaning 4 – 5 times to get the best results. 

2. Soak Your Cartridges 

Put your dry cartridges into a bowl of warm water a few minutes. Make sure that only the print head is immersed. Then, take out the cartridge and rub the nozzle gently using a cotton swab immersed in warm water. Repeat from steps a few times. 

If you need to repeat the steps more than twice, you should consider buying a new ink cartridge as it is not fixable anymore. 

How to Store Printer Ink when Not In Use? 

If the Cartridges is Opened:

  1. Place the ink cartridges in a plastic airtight container with the nozzle facing up. 
  2. If your ink cartridges have an orange cap, do not twist it. If you do, replace the orange cap before you store it into the container. 
  3. Include a piece of wet paper towel or cloth in the container 
  4. Make sure that nothing touches the cartridge nozzles throughout the entire process and seal the container.

If the Cartridges Remain Sealed: 

  1. Keep the cartridges sealed in their original packaging!
    • It is best to keep the ink cartridges in their original state when they are free from the elements that can damage them, such as air that can escape or get caught in the cartridges. 
  2. Store your cartridges upright, especially if your cartridges contain more than one color
    • This a recommendation by ink manufacturers like Epson and HP. By storing ink cartridges upright, we can prevent the printer ink from leaking, which can cause a mess by mixing the different colors in the packaging
  3. Store your cartridges in a cool and dark place
    • New and sealed ink cartridges can be stored up to 2 years, depending on the brand. However, if they are exposed to heat, they can be degraded. 


Prevention is better than cure! It is never too late to prevent your ink cartridges from drying out. By having a better understanding of the reason why your ink cartridges dry out, you can follow the steps above to extend the lifespan of your printer ink. 

Even if your printer ink dries out eventually, you can still try tips above to rejuvenate your printer ink before throwing it away. You might realize that your frequency of getting new ink cartridges decreases drastically!

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