How Long Do Inkjet Cartridges Last?

By E.D. Strong

How Long Do Inkjet Cartridges Last?

In 2005, 1.3 billion inkjet cartridges were sold, worth $30 billion. One U.K. estimate put inkjet ink price per millimeter at seven times greater than that of Dom Perignon. Unlike laser printer toner cartridges, inkjet printer cartridges do not indicate how many pages they will print. Instead, an inkjet cartridge's lifespan is largely guesswork. However, knowing a bit about inkjet cartridge ink can refine such guestimates.

Cartridge Design

To maintain inexpensive inkjet printer prices, most manufacturers omit printing heads, instead opting to sell ink cartridges that have the ink nozzle as part of the overall design. Printer makers such as Hewlett-Packard, Canon and Lexmark include inkjet nozzles with their inkjet cartridges. Because a properly working inkjet nozzle can determine how much (or how little) ink is delivered to the printing surface, keep the ink jet nozzle clear. There are simple maintenance tips.

Expiration Date

Just as food includes an expiration date, the same goes for inkjet printer cartridges. Most inkjet cartridges include an expiration date, after which use is frowned upon by manufacturers. Inkjet printers will stop printing when this date is reached. Manufacturers and others suggest ink beyond this date could damage an inkjet. In 2003, a report indicated HP cartridges had internal expiration dates--30 months of use.

Cartridge Tips

Following several tips on how best to use it can extend the lifespan of an inkjet cartridge. Don't unseal an inkjet cartridge until immediately prior to installing it. Ink can evaporate through the attached nozzle, as well as the cartridge's plastic body, according to HP. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, printing more could actually extend your ink cartridge's life. To prevent nozzles from becoming blocked, print something at least once a month, HP advises.

Storage Tips

If a cartridge has to be removed before replaced, manufacturers suggest storing the product upright in a sealed plastic container. Extreme cold and heat should be avoided. When a cartridge is removed, close the printer's inkjet compartment, allowing the print heads to return to their "home position." Also, don't wait long before replacing a depleted cartridge--HP recommends no more than 24 hours.

Printing Tips

Instead of just hitting the "print" button, first review the job with "print preview." Along with showing how many pages are to print, it helps determine if some are not needed. Omitting unnecessary pages can extend your ink. Avoid color. Unless printing graphics, set printing preferences to all black. Non-black cartridges usually contain less ink. Another way to conserve inkjet cartridges is to use "draft" mode when possible. This will use less ink.