How to make your printer cartridges last longer

Save on Printer Ink

by Joel Arnold

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One recurring cost you probably wish would go away is keeping your printer running. The companies that make printers have devised a pretty good strategy for generating ongoing returns on their products, even if that strategy is a little frustrating for us. They can afford to sell the printers at little more than cost, knowing that this obligates you to buy cartridges from them. Since the cartridges have a healthy margin, during the life of the printer, the makers have plenty of time to reap a profit. So is there anything you can do to stretch your printer cartridges, making them last a little longer and saving yourself a lot of money? Though discount sources like help significantly, you should still look for ways to save yourself money. Here are five strategies to get you started.

1. Print on Draft Mode

Most printers have special settings for managing ink usage. Take the time to learn what settings you should use on documents that don't need to look professional. Draft mode will look much lighter than normal printing, but for your own personal use or for printing coupons, you should always choose this setting first.

2. Use Whichever Colors Are Left

Color cartridges are some of the biggest ink wasters, since all of the colors must be full to give a good result. If the yellow ink runs out, for instance, the entire cartridge is useless for color graphics, even though you may still have a lot of ink in the other colors. But just like with draft mode, you can still use these partial cartridges for your own documents or coupons. After one color runs out, try printing black text on full color mode, and depending on your printer, it may let you squeeze some life out of partial cartridges.

3. Don't Believe Your Printer

Some cartridge manufacturers build in special sensors to tell you when the ink in your cartridge is running out. That might be a helpful feature, except they sometimes stop the cartridge from working prematurely. In one case, cartridges stopped working even though they had as much as 20% of their ink still remaining. As you might expect, enterprising users have found ways to get around the limitation. This ranges from finding the right menu setting all the way to disabling sensors. If you suspect your printer has this problem, try searching for a hack on your particular printer cartridge, but you will have to proceed at your own risk.

4. Try Shaking Your Cartridge

It might be the oldest office debate, but yes, shaking an ink cartridge (more specifically, a laser toner) really can breathe new life into it. That's because the powdered ink inside might not have settled correctly and shaking makes this additional toner available to the print heads. Of course, by the time you're shaking a cartridge to get it to work, it's probably time to order a new one anyway.

5. Clean Inkjet Cartridges

The most common problem for printer cartridges is clogging. If an ink cartridge stops working prematurely and you're confident that there is more ink, it has probably become clogged. This usually happens when you haven't been using the printer regularly and ink dries across the head. To clean an inkjet cartridge, you can use water or isopropyl alcohol. Simply wet a rag and carefully draw it across the heads (not horizontally across all the colors or you might transfer ink from one to another).

Joel Arnold of, a leading supplier of quality remanufactured laser toners and ink cartridges. Inkpal only uses remanufactured parts from US companies and pride themselves in helping inform readers of creative ways to save money and help the environment.

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