How Long Does Printer Ink Last

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself if printer ink expires? If so, how long before it dries up? Many people cannot explain why when they suddenly find themselves with non-functional ink cartridges.

They think the printer could be the problem when it is not. Expired ink cartridges get clogged in the printhead and cannot function properly. This article discusses how long does printer ink last. Keep reading to know what to do when your ink cartridge can no longer work properly.

Does Printer Ink Dry Out?

Yes. Printer ink does dry out for various reasons. When dried, the ink clogs the cartridge printhead, making it impossible for you to use it. The following are the reasons why printer ink may dry out:

  • Less Usage: Infrequent printer use may make the ink cartridges dry out with time. Dry ink blocks the printhead, making it impossible to use the cartridges. Frequent use of the printer is the best way to prevent this from happening. If the printer remains idle for long, there should be regular cleanups to remove dried ink.
  • Expired Cartridges: Ink cartridges have expiration dates when they are expected to be no longer in use. After buying an ink cartridge, you should keep tabs on its expiration date to avoid unexpected inconveniences. If possible, request an order at least one week before the old cartridges expire and dry out.
  • Poor Storage Conditions: Did you know that ink cartridges need storage in a cool, dry place. Ideally, it should be in a location with no direct sunlight. If you don’t maintain a suitable temperature for the cartridges, they might dry out or stop performing as they should.
  • Manual Cartridge Refill: When refilled improperly, cartridges let air into the ink and make it dry out. Cartridge manufacturers discourage manual cartridge refill, which could also include clod printheads. You can avoid that by choosing the correct cartridge from the get-go and replacing old ones with products from reliable manufacturers.

How Long Does Printer Ink Last?

ink tank printer

How long does printer ink last? The answer to that question depends on the type of ink you have and how you store it. Since in liquid form, it is likely to dry out or expire after some time. That may happen after you have installed the ink cartridge in the printer and started using it is before that. Whether or not the cartridge is installed in a printer also determines how long it lasts.

1. Opened Ink Cartridges

An ink cartridge can last for at least six months when opened and unpackaged. Some manufacturers recommend that you replace ink cartridges every six months. If you keep a cartridge in the printer longer than that, it may degrade and affect the image quality.

Still, it’s essential to install ink cartridges soon after removing them from their packaging. Once you have removed the ink from the package, you can store it in a plastic container and seal it airtight. You might need to screw on the twist-off orange cap before storing the cartridge. Put a damp rag inside the storage container to maintain humidity at a reasonable level and ensure nothing touches the printhead.

Here are suggestions on how you can prolong an ink cartridge’s life:

Use Printer Frequently:

One of the ways to prevent an ink cartridge from drying is to use your printer frequently. An ink cartridge may dry and clog the printhead when left idle, making them virtually unusable. If you use your printer less frequently, make sure you print a test page every other week to keep the cartridge occupied. However, remember to print sparingly, lest you run out of ink sooner than expected. You can also save ink by printing things in draft mode.

Power Down Printer:

Do you often unplug your printer soon after using it? If yes, you should stop the practice and learn to power it down instead. Unplugging the printer causes unexpected interruptions and can damage the printhead. Also, in the process of unplugging the printer, you might leave the cartridge unnecessarily exposed to air, making it easier to dry out.

Use High-Quality Paper:

The quality of paper used can also affect the longevity of printer ink. Having high-quality paper prevents ink leaks, potential paper jams, and damage to the cartridge and printer. It can prolong the life of the printer and cartridge, making it possible for you to use it for longer. Even as you buy high-quality paper, ensure the printer’s nozzle head is always clean.

If you have already opened a cartridge and aren’t using it in a printer, make sure you store it properly. After removing the cartridge from the printer, put it in an airtight container with a damp sponge or cloth to maintain optimal humidity. After adequately sealing the container, keep it in the dark enclosed place. With that, you can prolong the cartridge’s life for two to three months.

2. Sealed Ink Cartridges

The shelf-life of a sealed ink cartridge depends on the expiry date. After buying an original printer cartridge, it’s necessary to check the expiry date. Typically, printer ink expires in up to two years. After that, the problem may develop problems, the sponge connected to the printhead having dried out. The ink starts separating and could turn into sludge.

Even with proper storage, an ink cartridge can become dicey. Some manufacturers recommend keeping the airtight seals in place to prevent the ink from drying. That way, the ink will still be good after several years of storage.

Here are several steps you can take to prolong an ink cartridge’s shelf life:

Avoid Opening the Cartridge:

You should avoid opening the cartridge package before you’re ready to install it in a printer. A sealed cartridge can deliver a two to three-year shelf life. If the cartridge came with the printer, it is original and can last for 24 months. On the other hand, compatible inks tend to last for up to 36 months.

Check the Expiration Date:

Soon after buying the cartridge, check the expiration date to use it optimally. In that case, you should treat the expiry date like that of dry goods. While you should mind the expiry date, you shouldn’t discard the cartridge two weeks or so afterward. Even though an expired ink cartridge can still work, it can cause clogs and print-quality issues if it’s too old.

Proper Cartridge Storage:

The best way to store an ink cartridge is in a cool, dry place. Where possible, you should maintain the room temperature at 60° F and 75° F and avoid storing them in a room with a temperature below 50° F or above 95° F. Besides, do not expose sealed cartridges to light or a room full of gaseous cleaning materials like bleach or ammonia, which can degrade ink or toner’s composition.

What Causes Printer Ink to Expire?

check printer ink level

Several factors determine how long printer ink can last. One of the significant factors is prolonged exposure to air, which makes the ink degrade while still inside the cartridge. Printer ink has a formulation that ensures it can evaporate rapidly to remain on the page after printing and remain smudge-free.

When expired, the ink develops clogs and has compromised print quality. That’s why manufacturers affix an expiration date so that you can use it long before it becomes unusable. Like everything else, printer ink doesn’t have a perpetual shelf-life. No matter how well you store it, the ink will still expire when exposed to air. It interacts with air, undergoing oxidation, which ruins the ink with time.

The environment where ink is stored also determines how quickly it can evaporate and dry up. Direct sunlight heats it, expediting the oxidation process, leaving you with a dried and clogged cartridge.

How Do you Know your Ink has Expired?

You can know that your ink has expired when your printer can’t print. No matter how hard you try, the pages come out faded, completely black, or smudged. Modern printers have a screen to display the message, “replace ink.” When you see that, realize it’s time to get a new ink cartridge for your printer.

Every ink cartridge has an expiration date, which you can check to know whether or not it is expired. Commonly, the date is on the printer cartridge or the cartridge box. However, the expiration date is not all you need to know if a cartridge is expired. An unopened ink cartridge can last beyond its expiration date if stored properly. Another critical factor is the temperature inside the storage room.

You can know that your ink is expired when it dries up and is no longer helpful in printing documents. The deterioration occurs slowly, starting with wet ink before it becomes partly dry and finally drying up in its entirety. It is still valid if the ink is still wet after the expiry date. You can use it to print documents unless the printer rejects it or can no longer work in your printer.

How to Extend the Life of an Ink Printer Cartridge?

check printer ink cartridge

Did you know that you can extend the shelf-life of an ink cartridge beyond the expiry date? It all depends on whether or not you need to start using the ink immediately. The following are some measures you can take to make an ink cartridge last longer:

1. Keeping in Original Containers

One of the best ways to protect ink cartridges is to keep them in their original packaging. These packages are airtight and prevent air from entering the cartridge and making it dry up. That means that if you have no intention of using the ink right away, avoid unpacking it.

2. Storing in a Cool, Dry Place

However, it’s not enough to keep ink in its original package. Also critical are the environments in which you store it. Remember to prolong your cartridge’s shelf life by keeping it away from direct sunlight. In a hot and humid room, there are high chances of the dye in the ink separating, leaving you with poor-quality and unusable ink.

3. Keep Away from Dust

As much as you might want to store an ink cartridge in a cool, dry place, keeping it in the basement might not be advisable. There will likely be lots of dust and debris in the basement, affecting the cartridge’s functionality. A dusty cartridge can cause clogged printheads and paper jams when installed into a printer.

4. Regulate the Room Temperature

Ideally, you should keep your printer cartridges in a room with temperatures ranging from 60° F and 75° F. In most cases; you don’t have to look far and wide to find the ideal space. Since the room where you have your printer is likely to have a regulated temperature, keep it there. Any of your drawers would do just fine.

5. Shake Ink Cartridges Often

Ink manufacturers recommend shaking cartridges often to keep them from drying. Remember, printer ink comes in the form of a gel. The ink could thicken or even solidify when left to sit still. Shaking it loosens the gel, preventing it from getting stuck on the cartridge’s walls.


Can I Use an Expired Ink Cartridge?

Yes and no. Yes, because some cartridges that have gone past the expiry date could still contain good ink and still be helpful. But that’s only if you had stored the ink cartridge properly. No, because expired ink could have dried up and would likely clog or corrode the printhead.

How Do I Know When a Refilled Ink Cartridge is Expired?

It is difficult to know when a refilled ink cartridge is expired. That’s because refilled cartridges do not have a vacuum seal, exposing them to air. Therefore, the ink will likely expire sooner than you expect it. That also applies to refilled toner cartridges.


How long does printer ink last? When opened and installed in a printer, an ink cartridge may last for six months. However, a cartridge can last way beyond its expiry date for an estimated two to three years when sealed. The most critical factors in determining the longevity of a cartridge are the storage conditions.

When exposed to air, the ink could dry and block the printhead and other parts of the printer. You can prolong the shelf-life of a sealed cartridge by keeping it in a cool, dry place. After installing an ink cartridge, use it often. With that, your ink cartridges can last longer and provide value for money.

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