Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Ink. Nozzles. Cartridges.

Razors and razor blades..

Today I want to talk about printers. I have some recent experiences to share, and.. a question to ask.

ink I have said for a long time the tech industry’s business model for printers is the old “razors and razor blades” game. They practically give away the printer, and make their money selling ink (cartridges) refills.

Because ink refills are um.. well, not cheap, a whole industry has developed, and workaround techniques used, to try to undercut the manufacturer’s ink price, and earn your business.

There are ‘kits’ you can buy which contain a syringe and a bottle of ink. There are “generic” cartridges. There are “ink recycling/refill” services offered by retail Doodad & Gizmo stores. There are online “discount ink” websites and “wholesalers”. Etc., etc. (Enter “ink refills” into your favorite search engine, and take a quick look at the millions of results.) I think you know what I am talking about.

My reco for ink refill: (Mind you, I am not talking about laser printers here.)
Unless your printer is old, basic, and you are thinking about replacing it anyway, buy the manufacturer’s recommended replacement cartridge. If money is a real factor, keep an eye out for sales and specials (the manufacturer’s themselves often offer sale prices for online orders) and stock up when you find them. I further suggest, that if your printer accepts both normal and “extended” (larger) cartridges, and you print pretty much everyday, get the larger. If you print only occasionally, don’t. Ink can dry up.

Pretty simple, right? And, also, probably not what you wanted to hear.

But the truth is – and have have witnessed scores of examples of this (3 already this January) – sooner or later, a syringed/generic/recycled ink cartridge will either:
* not print worth a *darn*
* clog your “print head” ‘nozzles’ (aka “jets”)

When it’s the latter, you can try to clean the ‘nozzles’/print head. Which sometimes works (let the print head soak overnight in a bowl of Windex, rinse and let dry thoroughly (overnight is good), and then run the printer’s “deep clean” utility a few times). But more often then not, in my experience, a clog means a new printer.
(Or a new print head.. which often costs as much as a new printer.)

If you spent good money to get a good printer, and you like it and want to keep it around for a while, play it safe — don’t gum it up by trying to save $10 — buy a manufacturer’s replacement cartridge. There are solid, sound, technical [physical] reasons for this, which I won’t bother you with. But think about it.. don’t you think using exactly what the printer’s designer designed it to use would produce the best results?

There is my 2¢.

My question for you, Dear Reader, is: have you ever had to replace a printer because you used cheap ink?

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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January 14, 2011 - Posted by | advice, hardware, printers, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. TechPaul,

    Super article… I am totally with you on this… I have seen people mess up their printers so bad with these kits, recycled cartridges, etc… In the end – not worth it! I did a plug-in on this article at my site. Again – Super Article!



    Comment by Ramblinrick | January 14, 2011 | Reply

    • Rick,
      I saw that, and I thank you!

      … though.. I don’t, personally, despise printer calls. But.. with their notoriously lousy drivers, almost magical ability to vanish from the network (cloaking device?), and truck load of assorted other ‘quirks’.. they do keep a tech’s life.. um.. “interesting”. (And the Bayer aspirin company in business… ahem.)

      In the case of cost-savings via shortcuts with ink.. I think it becomes a question of “penny wise and pound foolish”.

      (Personally.. I am looking at color lasers, now that they’re so affordable..)


      Comment by techpaul | January 14, 2011 | Reply

  2. Hey, you got my interest on the color lasers…

    Any particular model? I am interested in making a change.

    I do not “hate” printer either. I know when I was “actually” doing tech, printer calls were my less favorite calls.



    Comment by Ramblinrick | January 14, 2011 | Reply

    • I have to agree… “less favorite” sums it up well (and extremely politely).

      Have not zeroed in on any makes/models yet… I last had a chance to look at reviews .. oh.. two months ago now? (So what I learned is out of date.)


      Comment by techpaul | January 14, 2011 | Reply

  3. Hey Rick,
    Add me to the list. I tried a recycled HP cartridge once and it never worked… didn’t bother to try to get my money back… Once burned.
    Thanks for the heads up and for the great blog…


    Comment by Rob | January 14, 2011 | Reply

  4. Sorry Paul, I thought I was responding to Rick’s blog. I also subscribe to your’s and just got the post after I sent the response.
    Thanks for the great work you do… a tip of my hat.


    Comment by Rob | January 14, 2011 | Reply

    • Rob,
      It is okay to leave comments here.. I don’t bite.



      Thank you for the kind words.


      Comment by techpaul | January 14, 2011 | Reply

  5. G’day Paul,

    Great article which I wholeheartedly agree with. I am also in the market for a new printer. Looking forward to your review of the one you decide on!


    Comment by Balmy33 | January 14, 2011 | Reply

    • Balmy33,
      Shopping for printers, in my experience, is an interesting endeavor. There are only 12,902,656 models to choose from.. and they seem to do everything but fetch your slippers these days…

      Thank you for the support!


      Comment by techpaul | January 14, 2011 | Reply

  6. I have not had to replace an inkjet printer for using alternate sources of ink. In fact, several years later, I’m still using said printer, but have invested in a black and white laser printer for big printing jobs in my volunteer work.

    However, a distinctly disconcerting result of trying to print more inexpensively was that after I refilled a cartridge with ink form another source, the print quality was unaffected, but the printer stopped notifying me when the ink was low. Yep, I eventually printed 30 copies of a one-page document, of which two were readable, and the other bore no ink to speak of. No warning at all. So now, when using that printer, I never print more then 3 copies at a time. Very tedious. Lesson learned.


    Comment by Hermit2003 | January 15, 2011 | Reply

    • Hermit2003,
      Thank you for that feedback.

      For printers that use heat to expel ink.. printing 27 pages on an empty cartridge can be (usually is) ruinous


      Comment by techpaul | January 15, 2011 | Reply

  7. Hi Paul,
    I have made the mistake once (many years ago) in using the refill kit on cartridges for a great Epson printer I had. Clogged that sucker faster than a hairball in a cat. I have and never will do that again. I always buy the original manufacturers cartridges and if there are higher capacity cartridges available, I use them. I stress that my office but it falls on deaf ears.
    Paul, I have a question also for others about printer cartridges, what do you do with your empty cartridges? I myself, get free mailing bags at a local pet store and send them postage free for helping animal shelters.


    Comment by Cappydog | January 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Cappydawg,
      I cannot speak for others, naturally, but in my line of work, I often have people handing me their empties. I use them for starting fires in my fireplace. Sure.. they’re a little bit smoky, and it doesn’t smell very nice for a while.. but one or two will quickly and easily get my logs going.


      Comment by techpaul | January 16, 2011 | Reply

      • Seriously now. I hope my attempt at humor served its intent: proper disposal/recycling of ink cartridges is important. I make use of free mailers, or “drop off” points (some of the Gizmo retailers have these) in an attempt to return the empties to the manufacturer.

        As a supporter (and big fan) of Humane societies and animal shelters, I think it is just super cool that you have found a way be responsible and also help out our furry friends. Feel free to give the program a plug.


        Comment by techpaul | January 16, 2011 | Reply

  8. I only buy HP original manufactured ink cartridges for my HP printer because I don’t want to have the problems others have mentioned. I buy the extended (XL) cartridges when I find them on sale but avoid printing as much as possible and use fast draft settings. I wonder about the accuracy of expiration dates when it is still sealed and how long can a cartridge last once it has been opened and is in a printer? Because I try not to print much and I use fast draft, I have a lot of ink packages left and wonder about how long they will work.


    Comment by Naomi | January 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Naomi,
      My understanding and practice is as follows —
      * There is no hard and fast rules, so I am being a bit “generic”..
      * Cartridges still inside the ‘factory seal’ have “shelf lives” measured in years, not months or weeks. Keeping them in a cool, dry place – that doesn’t undergo extreme temperature ranges – such as direct sun, is best.
      * Once installed in the printer, cartridges need to be used fairly frequently (at least run a ‘quick clean’) or they can dry out. My rule of thumb is print something (a single page will do) at least once a week.
      * Some printers need to be left powered on, so they can wake themselves up and self-run “maintenance routines” (some do it daily). Consult your User Manual (under “care and maintenance” usually) to find out if yours is one of them.
      * Many people remove the cartridges if they know the printer will not be used for several weeks (say.. if they go on a long vacation) but I do not know if that is still a valid practice.
      * Manufacturers often post answers to these questions – specific to your model/type – in their FAQ’s. (HP’s portal is here)


      Comment by techpaul | January 16, 2011 | Reply

  9. I’m a professional photographer and I do a lot of printing. Daily, I use a Canon ip4200 & recently a ip4700 & I stopped buying Canon OEM ink 3? years ago due to the high cost. I gave up on Epson 4 years ago due to high ink costs & too many clogs & wasted ink in cleaning cycles. Canon doesn’t clog much but also wastes ink for cleaning cycles. What a RIP OFF!!!!!

    Early one, I did try one refill kit from Costco that was not great. But that was my intro & after some research, I found some great inks, good methods & tips & have never looked back. Refilling with good inks (not expensive) is VERY WORTHWHILE & CAN BE EXCELLENT QUALITY.

    I get my inks from a German source in 1 Litre bottles, but I’ve since found that there are some good inks now in the US & Canada too (see the link below). These German Inks & an Ink cartridge code Resetter, provide me with excellent prints up to 8.5×11 from my ip4200/4700 that I can’t tell from the Canon inks. The quality & tonal range is excellent. The inks have shown zero fading in several years of exposure. I save sooooo much money by refilling myself that it is just crazy to buy OEM inks. Sadly, there just don’t seem to be refill inks for the large format pro printers, otherwise I’d be trying them.

    Try this forum for lots of tips & sources to supplies & STOP BUYING OEM RIP OFF INKS!!!!


    Comment by Ed | January 19, 2011 | Reply

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