How to Get a Little More Out of a Printer Cartridge

By Amber Carlson

Use cost-savings methods to make your ink cartridge last longer.
i George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Many manufacturer-branded and third-party vendor printer cartridges read empty when a large amount of ink remains unused. The testing also found that some inkjet printers tell users to replace their black cartridge when it is only half used. Steve Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute, says that consumers are getting ripped off, easily spending eight times more on ink than they do on the printer itself. However, for the savvy consumer, there are several methods available to make your ink cartridge last longer, and to get to the last bit of unused ink.

Make your Ink Last Longer

Set your printer to draft mode. Most printers have an option that allows the user to set the printing to draft mode. When in draft mode, also called Economode and Inksaver mode, the printer uses less ink when printing the document. Draft mode produces a lighter, somewhat-faded looking document, so it is best used for everyday printing that does not need a professional polished look.

Use smaller fonts. Every letter will use slightly less ink than a larger font. This method will also save you money in paper costs. You can also set your print preferences to print multiple pages on one sheet of paper, which will automatically scale your document down to fit two pages on one sheet. There are also software programs available to purchase that scale documents and manage print jobs.

Send your snapshots to third-party sources. When printing using high-quality photo paper settings, your printer's ink supply is sure to drain quickly. Using third-party sources to print your pictures saves you money and printer ink on every 4 by 6 or smaller snapshot you purchase. Many stores allow you to upload your photos online, and then offer a choice of receiving your prints by mail, or picking them up in the store, which saves you even more money.

Get to the last of the Ink

Trick your printer. When some printers sense that they are out of ink, they may refuse to print at all until a new cartridge is installed. But in many cases, there is still ink to be used in the old cartridge. Depending on your type of printer, you may be able to trick it into printing again. If your cartridge has a sensor built into it, cover the sensor with a piece of dark electrical tape to trick your printer into printing again.

Shake out the ink. When your printer says you are out of ink, but you have a suspicion that there may be some ink left in the cartridge, remove the cartridge from the printer. Turn the cartridge up and down, and then move it side-to-side. Be careful not to shake the cartridge too violently. These motions help release any ink that may be stuck in the cartridge. Put the cartridge back into the printer, and continue printing. This method may work a few times before the ink is truly used up.

Reset the systems status indicator. This is done on some printers with a simple shut-off and restart. Another trick to try on other printers is to remove your cartridge, leave the toner bay open for 15 to 20 seconds, and reinsert the cartridge.