Refilling one’s own ink cartridges isn’t for everyone. First there’s the mess – it is easy to cause your hands, clothes, and work surfaces to stain badly. Second, timing is crucial – an empty cartridge must be refilled within one week of running out to avoid dry ink collecting at the bottom. Third, you have to inject the correct amount of ink into the cartridge, making sure it doesn’t leak too fast (causing the ink to drip) or too slow (causing no flow of ink at all). And fourth, in some cases you have to drill into the cartridge to inject the ink.
In sufficiently adept hands, however, the task is possible. There are readily available tutorials and videos on the net for those brave enough to take up the challenge. The real issue comes when it all goes wrong, and, be warned, things can go wrong. Here are some common problems and solutions:
1. The printer doesn’t print at all. This means that the ink has not made it to the exit hole of the cartridge due to dry ink, or an air bubble, which is blocking the passage. A possible solution is to turn the cartridge upside down and attempt to inject ink through the exit hole (if this is large enough).
2. Printers prints only parts of letters, or pages are coming out smudged or blurry. This is due to dry ink at the bottom, which partially clogs the print head. Use the printer cleaning utility, or soak the print head in a 50 percent ammonia/water solution. However, do the latter only if your print head is disposable.
3. The printer doesn’t print colours correctly. This usually means that one cartridge is blocked. It is useful to remember the following:
Green without yellow (i.e. yellow cartridge is blocked) will come out blue.
Green without cyan come out yellow.
Orange without magenta will come out yellow.
Rectify the problematic cartridge and follow 1.
4. The printer constantly prints in brown. This means you have accidentally injected colour ink into the wrong cartridge, or, in the case of a multi-colour cartridge, ink has overflowed and mixed within the cartridge.
5. Cartridge is leaking. It is normal for a cartridge to leak from the ink exit point for a few minutes after re-filling. If the problem persists, you may want to inspect the cartridge for small cracks, which can sometimes be sealed using tape. If this fails you probably have no option but to discard the cartridge.
Two notable advantages to refilling your own cartridges shouldn’t go without mention. One is the environmentally-friendly nature of the method. Another is price – if able to tackle the mission you could take between 25-50% off your printing costs, depending on the manufacturer.
But should the time and hassle not prove worthwhile, you could take the more traditional route and opt for a cost-effective brand of cartridges – HP, Epson and Dell Inkjet Ink are particularly good value for money. And, as far as environmental concerns go, local councils are recycling more and more items such as car batteries and aerosols, and are likely to do the same with empty cartridges – this is worth checking.