Article Updated May 29, 2024

If you buy a printer for business use you may often print every day. Most people however do not print as much. Some printers were purchased only to be used once in a while. When trying to use an old cartridge again, it can be really frustrating to discover that the new ink cartridges have already dried out.

How long does it take for ink cartridges to dry out?

ink cartridges

Ink cartridges can last about two years if they're properly packed and stored. After two years, you may still be able to use them. But, they can begin drying out and cause some potential issues if you use them on printers, such as getting a dried printhead.

An opened ink cartridge can only live for about six months. Always let your printer ink remain inside its packaging until you need to install them into your printer.

However, the expiration date is just one factor that affects the life span of an ink cartridge. How you treat them also plays a big role.

Why do ink cartridges dry out in the first place?

Printer cartridges do not last a very long time, unfortunately. Various factors can affect the lifetime of your printer's ink cartridges. By learning about these factors, we can definitely prevent our printer ink from drying up:

Infrequently Used

Inkjet printers utilize liquid based ink cartridges, which aren't intended for infrequent use. This is the main reason why your ink cartridges may dry out quickly if they're left unused for an extended period of time.

Cartridges have Expiration Dates

Keep in mind that ink cartridges have expiration dates. One common question is whether one can still use the cartridges after they have expired. The answer is yes, as long as the ink is still wet. An expired ink cartridge can potentially cause problems if it gets stuck in the printhead. You should check the expiration date before buying new cartridges.

Incorrectly refilled the cartridges

Refilling ink cartridges is indeed much cheaper than buying new ones. However, potential problems may arise if refilling them is done incorrectly. If too much air gets inside the cartridge, it could dry out the ink and block the printhead. Remember that there are ways to buy cheaper ink such as buying recycled ink cartridges or shopping around for high quality cheap ink cartridges.

Stored at high temperatures

A printer ink cartridge can dry out easily if it is kept near a heat source or in direct sunlight. Room temperature can quickly influence the quality of printer ink cartridges.

How can you keep printer ink cartridges from drying out?

keep printer ink from drying out
Use Your Printer Frequently

Print a few pages each week to ensure that your ink won't dry out. Consider printing a test page to check if any of your colors run out.

Dampen Your Ink Cartridges

If you think that doing test printings is a waste of ink then you can regularly moisten the ink cartridges so they won’t dry out. Here are a few simple steps to help you do that:

1. Wear a pair of protective gloves

2. Take the ink cartridges out of the printer

3. Wipe the top of each cartridge using a damp paper towel

4. Dry the cartridges by wiping any remaining moisture off the surface

5. Replace the cartridges back into the printer

Set ideal room temperature

In order to maintain a constant temperature inside the printing machine, it is important to make sure that the room where the printer is located does not get too hot or cold. When the room gets too warm, the ink inside the cartridge may evaporate, causing the print quality to deteriorate.

On the other hand, if the room becomes too cool, the ink inside the cartridges might freeze, rendering them useless. Therefore, it is recommended to set the room temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turn off the printer when you are not using it

It is a nice habit to turn your printer off when you are not using it to keep your ink cartridges from drying out. Turn the printer off properly by pressing the “Power” button until the light goes off before you then switch off the power strip.

TL:DR, Here's a quick recap for your easy reference

Aspect Details
Ink Cartridge Lifespan Unopened: ~2 years; Opened: ~6 months
Causes of Drying Out Infrequent use, expiration, incorrect refilling, high temps
Prevention Tips
  • Regular Use: Print a few pages weekly
  • Moistening Cartridges: Wipe cartridge top with a damp towel occasionally
  • Ideal Room Temperature: Keep room between 65-70°F
  • Turning Off Printer: Proper shutdown prevents ink drying
Overall Advice Use proactive measures; try tips before discarding cartridges



Some Additional Tips


Controlling Environmental Factors 


Maintain Optimal Humidity Levels:

Ink cartridges can dry out more quickly in very dry environments. Maintain a relative humidity level between 40% and 60% in the room where your printer is located. Using a humidifier can help keep the air moist, especially during winter months when indoor air tends to be drier.


Avoid Excessive Heat:

Heat can accelerate the drying process of ink. Keep your printer and ink cartridges away from direct sunlight, heating vents, and other heat sources. Store them in a cool, dry place to prolong their lifespan.


Proper Storage Solutions


Seal Unused Cartridges:

If you have spare ink cartridges that are not currently in use, store them in an airtight container or a ziplock bag. Adding a small packet of silica gel can help absorb excess moisture and keep the cartridges dry without drying them out too much.


Use the Original Packaging:

Store unused cartridges in their original packaging, which is designed to protect them from air and light exposure. If the original packaging is not available, wrap the cartridges in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to provide an additional barrier against air.



Regular Printer Maintenance


Run Printer Maintenance Cycles:

Most printers have built-in maintenance functions, such as head cleaning and nozzle checks. Running these cycles regularly can help keep the ink flowing smoothly and prevent the cartridges from drying out.


Print a Test Page Regularly:

Even if you don’t have any immediate printing needs, printing a test page every week can help keep the ink cartridges from drying out. This ensures that the ink is flowing through the nozzles and prevents clogs.


And to sum it all up

Prevention is better than treatment! It is never too early to prevent your ink cartridges' life expectancy from decreasing. By taking a closer look into the reasons why your ink cartridges dry up, you can take the appropriate measures to prolong the life of your printer ink.

Even if your printer ink does run out eventually, you can try tips above to revitalize your printer ink before discarding it. You may find that your frequency of buying new ink cartridges decreases significantly!