How to fix an ink cartridge that is dried out?

Updated: 2021-06-06

If you have an inkjet printer, chances are you’ve experienced some problem with it at some point. Usually, it’s just a minor annoyance; the printer doesn’t turn on, there’s no ink, or it just won’t start printing. Usually, these problems are easy enough to fix, but sometimes, they are caused by more severe issues.

The printer suddenly stopped printing

If your inkjet printer has suddenly stopped printing or is printing but skipping one color even though the cartridge in question does not appear empty, don’t panic. These symptoms are familiar to experienced inkjet users, and the diagnosis is apparent: dried ink.

What causes ink drying in an inkjet printer, how to prevent problems and how to fix them if they occur?

Let’s start by recalling how an inkjet printer works. The heart of an inkjet printer is the print head, which is equipped with thousands of tiny nozzles that spray small droplets of liquid ink onto the paper at high speed. Logically, if the ink is not liquid, there is a problem, and we cannot print anything.

The ink can dry directly in the ink cartridge, or residual liquid can dry in the ink intake tube or directly in the print head’s nozzles.

Why does ink dry out in printers?

There are few reasons why ink dries up:

Infrequent or irregular printing

Ink drying is often the result of not using the printer for long periods. If your inkjet printer is more of a piece of furniture than an office helper, you’ve probably already encountered the problem of dried ink. A similar situation can occur if you only print with the black ink cartridge for an extended period. Black cartridge runs out of ink, and the other colors are not used, and they dry out over time.

Expired cartridges

When you go to the store to get a printer cartridge, you usually look for the best price and the best brand. But have you ever stopped to read the expiry date on the cartridge? If you don’t, you might be throwing your money away when you buy cartridges that are near the end of their lives. It may surprise you, but even printer ink cartridges have an expiry date. As a rule, you will find it with all other products on their packaging. Using cartridges after the expiry date can lead to printing problems.

What is the shelf life of a printer cartridge?

Manufacturers and resellers boast that printer cartridges can last a long time – but the shelf life of printer cartridges is not set in stone. The shelf-life of original printer cartridges is measured in months, so you should check the date your printer cartridge was manufactured to make sure it is still fresh.
The shelf life of an individual cartridge varies. In general, it is best to use a cartridge within the first year of purchasing it, though some manufacturers claim that their printer cartridges have shelf lives of up to two years.

Cartridges that are not refilled properly

To save money, you may have looked up instructions online and refilled empty cartridges with ink on your own. Or you may have bought unprofessionally refilled ink cartridges that cause problems when you print. Either way, unprofessional refilling empty ink cartridges is a risky practice, and it’s easy for cartridges to malfunction if not handled professionally. Avoid unprofessional refilling of cartridges if you want to achieve quality and stable print outputs.

Wrong location of the printer

The placement of the printer itself can also affect ink drying. Printers should be placed in a room with a stable temperature. You should avoid placing the printer near a heater. Otherwise, the ink will dry out faster.

Incorrect storage of cartridges

Often the ink in a cartridge will dry before you can even use it. In addition to being stored for too long (past its expiration date), the way a cartridge is stored also affects its proper function. Replacement printer cartridges should be stored in a dark, cool place and not exposed to temperature fluctuations.

How to fix the dried out printer head?

Automatic print head cleaning

A nozzle clogged with drying ink does not necessarily mean that the printer refuses to print. You can also recognize this problem by prints that are poor quality, blurry, and smudged.

All modern printers are equipped with an automatic print head cleaning function. This is actually a special printing mode where the printer allows more ink to be sucked into the printhead nozzles. This is because the ink itself also contains solvents that help release dried ink from earlier use.

The print head cleaning program itself is run using the printer software driver on your computer. Some models also have this option available directly from the printer’s hardware menu. If you are not sure how to run the cleaning, refer to your device’s manual.

It is best not to remove the ink cartridges from the printer at all, even if you suspect they may be dry. Always try the automatic print head cleaning function first. Smaller deposits can usually be dealt with by the printer itself.

When the cleaning is complete, try printing another page. If the result is not optimal after the subsequent printout, you can repeat the print head cleaning. When the printer is down for a lengthy period, it is often necessary to go through the cleaning process several times.

When cleaning the print head, the printer consumes a large amount of ink. The printer may not have enough ink to clean the print head multiple times. The process cannot clean the printer head with an empty or running out of cartridges.

How to fix the dried-out cartridge?

It is often better to buy new cartridges than to resuscitate dried cartridges. But If you have to, you this little tip circulating among inkjet printer users to breathe life into dried cartridges.

You’ll find plenty of instructions on the internet for dipping dried ink cartridges into a bowl of warm water and using a piece of cotton wool or cloth to remove the dried ink at the cartridge outlet gently. Once the ink starts to release into the water, the plug of dried ink is gone for good, and it’s time to pull the cartridge out of the water. This should be followed by thorough drying, ideally allowing the cartridge to dry correctly for an hour or two.

If even these methods haven’t brought the dried cartridge back to life, it’s time to get a new one. And to prevent the situation from happening again, prevent the ink from drying out.

How to prevent ink drying in your printer?

The risk of ink drying out increases in proportion to the amount of time the printer is “out of service”. The best way to prevent ink drying in cartridges is to print regularly. Just print a page once a week using all the inks, and you’re good to go.

Place the printer in a convenient location

Don’t leave the printer in places where the temperature varies. It is not advisable to place the device under a window where the sun shines during the day or near radiators and heaters.

Buy quality cartridges

Avoid suspiciously cheap cartridges from dubious sources. We cannot recommend buying or using refilled cartridges. If you want to save on printing costs, consider buying cheaper compatible cartridges instead of original cartridges.

Buy only as many as you can use

Printer cartridges with expired dates can cause printing difficulties. They are often the cause of many minor printer malfunctions. Only buy as many cartridges as you can use.

Store cartridges correctly

Store replacement cartridges in a dry, dark place at a constant temperature. Keep them wrapped in their original sealed packaging to prevent unnecessary dust from falling on them.

If you print little, get a laser printer

If you’re a really occasional printer user, consider getting a laser printer. The laser printer toner is a powder, and powders don’t dry out 🙂