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Best way to preserve your ink cartridge from drying out?

Inkjet cartridges don't come cheap and I have an inkjet printer by Canon I use on occasions. Sometimes it goes unused for months at a time and when I need it most, I only find that the ink cartridge has dried out or is completely clogged. If I'm lucky, cleaning the inkjet cartridge head works but most of the time I end up having to go buy another one. This is quite frustrating and a big waste of money. I'm sure I'm not the only one who experiences this and my question is, what can I do to preserve the ink cartridge when it's not in use for a long period of time? Will removing the ink cartridge when not in use help? Or something else? Please help me out. Much appreciated.

--Submitted by: Gary H.

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Use it at least once a week and never turn it off

I use a laser printer for almost all my printing but when I want color I use my inkjet. The main problem I found was clogged nozzles and one way to prevent that is to use the printer at least once a week to print something out, that keeps everything open and flowing.

The second way to make the ink last longer is to never turn the printer off, most people just kill the power to the printer and that means the printer has to go through a complete cleaning cycle when it's turned back on and that wastes ink. Modern inkjets consume very tiny amounts of power when they are not printing and any electricity they consume is magnitudes of order cheaper than replacing the ink tank.

Doing these two things makes my ink last about 4X what it used to before I changed my habits.

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Good points.

I use my printer once a week on "draft" setting to keep things clear.

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I've noticed..

that the manuals to the new printers actually tell you that right up front! The only reason I know is because my clients have printing problems all the time, and I have to read their manuals for troubleshooting guidance. My laser printer never lets me down, so I never have to mess with that thing - EVER!

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very usefull suggestions

But what to do when my canon iP7200 inkjet printer shuts itself automatically down after two hours? Is there a way to change this? Suggestions greatly appreciated!

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if it does that as per default ...

... then it should be okay. Manufacturers would lose crdibility fast if they installed an ink-destroying mode on all factory shipped printers. Some models state in the instructions that before they go offline for "a sleep period" they move the cartridges onto a "moisture pad" (which then may need replacing every few years ...) - If you just cut power you miss out on such a feature, since the printer doesn't have a chance then to "go home" for the winter.

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Go Laser

I bought a laser printer because of exactly this problem. I only print occasionally, about once a week. Lasers are a little more expensive than inkjets, but I've easily made up the price difference by not paying to replace dried-out ink cartridges.

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That is exactly what I did -

I only need occasional black and white printing, and the factory short cartridge they sent me has lasted 7 years!!!! If you just have to have color printing. I suggest a Brother ink jet. but if you are a photo nut, you better just take your lumps and go for an Epsom printer with all the ink clogging problems - if you are smart, you will simply go to a store that has cheap photo printing in house. My family has had GREAT luck with that!!

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Switched back to laser years ago

And don't regret it.
Yes, we have sacrificed color.

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Much depends upon what you want

I have a color laser printer that I use for about 95% of my printing but there are two things that it lacks that my Epson All In One does have. In my household there are 3 desktops and 3 laptops and the the desktops do not have WiFi but the laptops do so any of the laptops can connect to the Epson Printer, whereas the desktops are wired to the laser printer. Also, the laser printer does not have scanning ability and the Epson does. I scan everything. Every receipt and any other document that I want to keep. I even have scanned almost every photo I have ever taken and I have scanned every Income Tax form that I have ever filed, which begins with 1957. So, as I said much depends upon how you want to use your printer.

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Well at least for wi-fi printing...

I have my laser printer installed on a print server port on my wi-fi router - so no worries there. I can print wi-fi and/or Ethernet anytime; even though the printer doesn't have a wi-fi card. I don't think it has an Ethernet port either, but fortunately the driver allows network printing.

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Inkjet poor way to go unless you print photos

Just like u52983, I ditched inkjet printers several years ago for laser, after TWO inkjet printers dried out and became junk on me. Laser printers used to be more expensive to buy than inkjets, but their prices have gone way down in recent years. Now some mono laser printers cost the same as inkjets. Also laser replacement toner cartridges are generally cheaper to buy (on a cost per page basis) than inkjet cartridges. Also as long as you store them in dry environment, laser toner cartridges can be kept for a long time unlike inkjet cartridges which have an expiry date. The only advantage an inkjet printer has over a laser is in printring photos. For the odd photos I need to print, I can always go to Wal-Mart.

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You must live in a monochrome world!

Never mind printing photos (do people still do that?), what about maps and many other documents for which colour is essential or hugely enhancing? That said, I print very little now, as it can all be taken with me on mobile devices. Only items for other people, or items that I want to laminate or write on.

Laser is still much more expensive unless you are regularly doing both volume printing of black and white. Non-OEM replacement inkjet cartridges are ridiculously cheap (they can be under a dollar each of you buy a pack online) and perform well for me. If one does dry out, the only real impact is on the environment, but some can be recycled, depending on make of printer and facilities in your country.

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I only print in colour when necessary

Yes I mostly live in a monochrome world, and try to print in B&W whenever I can. I do want/need occasionally to print in colour (as you said maps and documents for which colour is essential or hugely enhancing), so I also own colour laser printers. Yes I said "printers" because I am a computer nut. I own several computers and printers - both mono and colour (I know about print servers but am too lazy to set it up).

I own both new and used colour laser printers. A new basic laser printer can be bought for a bit over $100 these days when on sale, I have seen Samsung C410W advertised for $100 before Christmas a year or two ago. Even when not on sale the low-end colour printers typically can be had for around $200. Colour laser printers are somewhat more expensive to buy than inkjet (when comparing basic models only, some high end colour inkjet printers cost MORE than entry-level colour lasers), but from a colour printer perspective, if you have 3 (or 6 for some Epson printers) plugged/dried up ink cartridges ONCE, the replacement cost can more than make up the difference in purchasing cost for the laser printer?

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I got my monochrome laser...

printer for 79 dollars, and I'm still using the same short factory cartridge it came with - it has lasted me 7 years!! I still have an ink jet, but I never use it. I've never unsealed the ink cartridges, so It will just sit there until I just HAVE to print a color DVD or something special like that. So far HP light scribe discs have filled that ticket - but they were discontinued by the company, so eventually I need a disc printer handy.

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Canon ink drying out

I have a Canon Inkjet Printer that I keep in Colorado (I am in NY) so I cannot keep it plugged in 24/7. My apartment gets rented out when I am not using it so my printer gets put away in the "owner's closet".
I remove the ink cartridges and put them in the container they came in and then put them into Ziploc bags. When it is time to use them again, I put them into the printer. If they don't work and I know there is ink in them, I put some hot water in the bottom of the container they came in and soak the bottom of the ink cartridge. Be sure the water is only on the bottom. Sometimes I have to do this several times, but it does work. Look on the internet for suggestions on cartridges that have dried out. That's what I did. These cartridges are too expensive to have to throw them out when they still have ink.

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Last I checked..

Canon does not use water soluble ink - maybe your technique worked for you, but it didn't for me, but this was year ago - maybe things have changed - gut I doubt it. The printer companies have an interest in you not being able to recover from their schemes!

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They aren't really made for this.

Ink jet printers aren't really made for this extremely rare use. If you are lucky or have a lot of foresight you bought one where the jets are part of the cartridge, not the printer. That way you may risk a fairly expensive cartridge - or several if there are separate cartridges for the different colours, but not a really expensive jet swap-out repair.

If you can't use your printer once a week then at least make sure you switch the printer off with its own power button. That gives it a chance to park the print heads in a position where they are better protected against drying out. If you just cut the power (or your electricity supply company does) the print heads are left wherever they may happen to be and then they will dry out for sure.

Likewise, it is not a good idea to store the ink cartridges separately, unless you can seal them properly. Remember, when you put in a new cartridge you have to remove some seal(s) to allow the ink to flow. Those seals would have to be replaced - usually it is better to keep the cartridges in the printer than to try this - unlike with the batteries in an expensive camera or similar ...

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I have never seen this problem

This will not be helpful but here it is. We have an HP4500. We are away in the southwest every year for three months. We pull the plug on the printer before we leave, We have never found an ink cartridge dried out when we return.

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Where in southwest?

Perhaps the southwest location you left the printer in is rather humid, and the high humidity helps to prevent the cartridge from drying up?

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Use it or lose it...or move to laser

I have had multiple inkjets, and invariably wind up with clogged jets or ink carts (depending upon which manufacturer the inkjet came from). So, I moved to laserjet. So, pay attention to CNET Cheapskate emails. I got a Color Ricoh SP C250DN for less than $80 from one of their deals. I also found a Brother MFC at Goodwill for $20 that satisfied my need for scanner and copier. Now the Brother is the main unit as most of the things we print are in B&W, and when we need color, the Ricoh is very good.

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color laser is getting better/cheaper

I also found a great buy in a color laser printer, a Dell C1760nw for $88, shipping included. The color results are excellent, the only thing "off" is when viewing the prints by specular reflected light on ordinary 20 lb copy paper, the gloss has an uneven glossy/dull appearance. But with normal non-specular lighting the colors and sharpness are great. One of these days I'll try real photo paper, but don't expect any real change since that is not listed by Dell as one of the usable paper types.

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not so cheap!

When a laser printer is that inexpensive, you have to ask why. They often come with "setup" toner cartridges, with just enough rubber to print a few hundred pages. The price of a fully functional cartridge will be similar to what you paid for this "bargain" printer.

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You can't just look at one specific point

Yes a new laser printer is supplied only with a starter cartridge which as you said is typically good for between 350 - 750 pages, depending on the printer make and model.. On the other hand a full cartridge is typically good for 2000 to 3000 pages, which for a typical household, should be good for quite a while. While an "original' full toner cartridge can be as expensive as the printer itself (between $50 - $200), one can always buy an OEM cartridge for much less, like between $25 - $50, An OEM cartridge is typically a "refilled" original cartridge. Its print quality is typically pretty good. An original cartridge can be refilled for 2 or 3 times before the print head deteriorates.

So the most fundamental decision between getting an inkjet or a laser printer really - in my opinion - comes down to:

1. How often does one expect to print? Daily, once a week, once a month, etc.?
2. How much effort does one want to exert to try and keep the ink cartridge/print head from drying up? And those efforts may or may not work.
3. How many photos does one expect to print, and how picky is one about the printed photo quality. Inkjet printers using photo quality paper print excellent quality photos almost exactly like those printed in commercial photo stores, while laser printers print photos "adequately", but certainly not good enough for salon exhibits.
4. Inkjet cartridges have an expiry date. Photos printed using expired cartridges very likely will suffer in their quality. Laser toner cartridges don't really "expire". The manufacturer may put a "use by" date on it, but the content is dry powder. So as long as a laser cartridge is stored in a cool, dry place, in my opinion, it is still perfectly usable after prolonged storage. If indeed stored for a long period, just shake it up a bit to loosen up any settled powder before starting to do any printing.

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Good job...

addressing the factors one must think about - for me, it is use both types of printers. I can't say how much I LOVE saving money by using my laser printer - people forget that if you don't print at least once a week, you are losing money BIG TIME by having to constantly replace cartridges that are dried up or, in fact - the whole printer goes bad!! I haven't had to buy a cartridge in YEARS - so I can't stress how good that made me feel once I figured this out.

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Replace with INEXPENSIVE Generic toner and inkjet cartridges

Generic toner and inkjet cartridges are LESS than one third the cost of OEM at retail office supply stores. My Brother DXCP-9040CN laser toner runs as low as $8 for a 5000 sheet TN115 generic cartridge in bulk packs of 6 ($48 for 6 delivered no tax), same for my three Brother lasers using TN450 toner cartridges that I think I get for $7 each in bulk online.
My two Brother MFC-6490CW uses inkjet cartridges that run around $3 each in bulk online. The beauty is I get $2 back recycling each cartridge at Office Depot and Staples, 10 cartridges/toners allowed a month at each supplier.
I run those machines continuously so the ink does not dry out. But you may still get clogged print heads.
If the inkjet print heads clog, try a shot of ammonia mixed in hydrogen peroxide injected with a syringe into the ink port will clear the clog. Wait a while after injecting, and you may have to do it a few times, printing a test page each time (not an ink cleaning which just clogs it more). You can also put a shot of ammonia into the ink cartridge which works like adding a can of fuel injector cleaner in your car.

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I used to take the cartridges out of my HP Deskjet, place tape over the copper heads, put each in a separate zip bag, and then store in the freezer. I would take them out a couple hours before I had to use them. Then I would peel off the tape, wipe them clean with a paper towel and put them into the printer.

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Use it more often

Like others have said, use it more often. I wouldn't say once a week, but maybe the 1st of each month? Have a small image that uses all cartridges (because Canons, unlike HPs, have 4 cartridges) and print it out once a month.

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What bubble have you been living in for at least the past 12 years victork1? I have had HP Office Jet Pro All-In-One since 2004 and they always come with 4 ink cartridges. Like others have said, leave the machine on and print some type of color page at least once a month to keep the juices flowing.

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No bubble ...

Viktork1 is CORRECT angelmee, HP Officejet 4630 series uses ONLY TWO cartridges, one black and one tricolor !! Sorry to break it to ya!

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I "Feel For You"

We used to have this large plotter that had pen-type cartridges. Used, but infrequently and always dried out. Turns out the "printer/plotter room" had heat problems. Massive heat problems. On weekends, no air conditioning and the cleaning staff would close the door. With many printers powered on, the plotter heads would instantly dry out.
I have an HP printer. I bought a "photo" cartridge for it and it came with a "cap" (plastic) that put a sealed sponge cap over the heads. I tried to find that cap as a separate product but failed. I did find a few suggestions:

1) A company called "Ekuten" has kits to unclog printer heads for various models. If the head dries out, this might help.
2) Plastic bag: put the cartridge/heads in a plastic bag with some hot water in it. Push out the air just before closing it airtight like a loaf of bread with a twist tie.

There are other good ideas here. Not all printers have separate cartridges and heads so there is a technique that I've seen but don't like the thought of about putting the cartridges in the sink with newspaper around.... One of the best is to create a test page that exercises all colors and black and run it at least once a month. In HP, there is a test page and there used to be a head cleaner program.

Tupperware and a bit of water may help if the seal is good. Of course, laser printers may help instead of inkjet.

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