5 Ways to Help Keep Printer Ink from Drying Out

keep printer ink from dryinig out

We’ve all been there. You send something to your printer and, despite having plenty of ink, the document comes out nearly illegible. It has streaky lines, colors are missing, and it just all around looks terrible. And, of course, this problem tends to occur when you are in a hurry or when you need to print something important. 

Printers are great, but, if you don’t use them frequently, the ink can dry out. Sometimes, this problem can be solved by running your device’s print head cleaning utility, but that doesn’t always work. When the ink is extremely dried out, replacing the cartridge may be the only option. And, with the cost of inkjet cartridges, no one wants to throw one away when it’s still technically full of ink! 

The good news? There are several things you can do to help keep printer ink from drying out. With these simple tips, you can avoid the frustration of a dried-out cartridge and save yourself some money on replacements. Keep reading to learn more! 

Why Do Printer Ink Cartridges Dry Out? 

When you want to prevent your ink from drying out, it’s important to understand why it happens in the first place. The most common reason, by far, is infrequent printer use. Printers are meant to be used frequently enough that the ink simply doesn’t have time to dry out. Cartridges may also dry out if they are expired or if your printer or they are kept in close proximity to a heat source or in direct sunlight. 

If you refill your own cartridges, you could have problems, too. When not done correctly, air can make its way into the cartridge. This can clog print heads and cause the ink to dry out. For this reason, it is better to buy remanufactured inkjet cartridges from a reputable seller like Ink Jet Super Store than to try to refill them on your own. 

ways to keep printer drying out graphic

Use Your Printer More Often

Ink cartridges dry out when they are not used frequently enough. If you only print things every once in a while, there is a good chance that your ink will dry out before you use up the entire cartridge. Simply using your printer more frequently could help you avoid this annoying (and potentially costly) problem. Print at least a few pages every week. Make sure your document uses all of the colors in your cartridges to ensure that none of them dry out. Your printer should have the option to print a test page. This works perfectly, as it tests all of the colors. 

Inkjet printers are not intended for extremely rare use. They are designed to be used regularly, and failure to do so can cause the ink to dry out. Making an effort to use your device more frequently is one of the best things you can do to avoid this all-too-common problem. 

Moisten Cartridges

If you don’t want to waste ink on test prints, you can also prevent your ink from drying out by moistening the cartridges occasionally. Put on a pair of disposable gloves, and then remove your cartridges from the printer. Next, gently wipe the top of each one using a damp paper towel or cloth. This will remove any remaining ink from the surface and help keep the cartridge from becoming clogged. Pat dry to remove any excess moisture before reinstalling in your device. 

Adjust the Temperature

When ink cartridges are exposed to excessively high or low temperatures, they tend to dry out faster. Try to keep the temperature at around 68 degrees to extend the life of your ink. Also, it may dry out faster in places that are excessively dry. If the air feels dry in your office (or wherever your printer is located), consider running a humidifier to add some much-needed moisture to the air. In addition to helping keep your ink from drying out, a humidifier can make you much more comfortable. 

office thermostat smart pad

Turn Your Printer Off When Not in Use

If you know you won’t be using your printer for a while, turn it off using its own power button. When you do this, most devices automatically move the print heads into a position where they are more protected from drying out. Make sure you use the device’s power button, though! If you simply unplug it or switch off a power strip, the heads will remain wherever they are when the power is cut. In most cases, this is a surefire way to ensure that they will dry out quickly.

Store Your Cartridges Properly During Extended Periods of Non-Use

In situations where your printer will not be used for several weeks—or even months—at a time, it is sometimes recommended to store your cartridges outside of the device. If you use your printer this infrequently, keep the protective caps when installing cartridges. That way, you can replace them when the device is not in use. 

If you don’t have the protective cap, place each cartridge in a zippered plastic bag or plastic storage container. Remove as much air from the bag or container as possible, as air exposure is what tends to cause cartridges to dry out. You may want to consider placing a small damp cloth or paper towel in the bag or container. This will help maintain a moist environment and keep your cartridge from drying out. If you do this, just make sure that the cloth/towel does not come in contact with the cartridge’s nozzles. If it does, it can act as a wick and draw the ink out. 

closeup ink cartridges

Keep the cartridges in a cool, dry area, and make sure they are stored in the upright position. They should also be stored in an area that is not prone to extreme temperature fluctuations, as this can damage the ink or the cartridge. Avoid placing your cartridges in direct sunlight when not in use, as it can degrade ink quality. 

When in doubt about the best way to store your inkjet cartridges when not in use, check your device’s manual. Some manufacturers recommend leaving their cartridges inside the device rather than removing them. The company that manufactured your printer is the best place to figure out exactly how to store your printer and ink to avoid dried-out cartridges and other mishaps. 

What to Do if Your Printer Ink Dries Out

Despite your best efforts, it isn’t always possible to prevent an inkjet cartridge from drying out. Maybe you went on an extended vacation and haven’t used your printer in weeks. Or maybe you’ve neglected your printer due to an illness or injury. Perhaps you’ve forgotten about a cartridge that you have stored away. There are a lot of circumstances and situations that could lead to printer ink drying out. With the busy lifestyles that most of us lead, it’s easy to simply forget about taking steps to proactively keep your inkjet cartridges from drying out. 

The good news is that you may be able to fix it. It is actually quite rare for one of these cartridges to dry out completely. Instead, the ink in the print nozzles dries out and creates a blockage. By removing this blockage, you may be able to get the ink flowing again. Before you order new printer ink for your device, try these techniques to see if you can get your dried-out ink working again. 

what to do if printer ink dries out graphic

Try Your Printer’s Print Head Cleaning Routine

Just about every inkjet printer has its own built-in tool for cleaning print heads. You may be able to access it by opening your printer dialogue. If your device has a touch screen, you may even be able to access it directly from the printer. Some models also have a dedicated button for print head cleaning. If you are having trouble locating the tool, try right-clicking on the printer icon at the bottom right of your screen. This should bring up for a menu. Look for something like “Utility,” “Settings,” “Properties,” or “Toolbox.” Select that option and look for a troubleshooting or maintenance tab. 

From there, you should find an option that says something related to head cleaning or cleaning print heads. If you get stuck, try searching for your printer’s model number plus the phrase “print head cleaning.” Even if you are not much of a tech guru, you should be able to locate simple instructions that will guide you through the process of finding and running your printer’s print head cleaning utility. 

Launch the tool, run it, and print a test page. You may need to repeat the process a few times to achieve the desired result. If you have run the tool a few times and are not seeing any improvement, it may not be working to solve your problem. If you are unable to see a distinct improvement after a couple of tries, move on to the next option. 

Clean with Hot Water

Many inks are water-soluble. If your device’s print head cleaning routine fails to get the ink flowing, you can try cleaning the nozzles manually using hot water. Fill a shallow bowl or cup with hot water, and place your cartridge in it for five to ten minutes. You don’t need much water—just enough to submerge the nozzles. 

Next, place the cartridge on damp paper towels with the nozzles facing downward. Leave for no less than two hours. Overnight is preferable. Once the cartridge is completely dry, put it back in your printer and run the self-cleaning process again. 

technician cleaning ink cartridge

Use Rubbing Alcohol 

If hot water doesn’t get things flowing, try cleaning the nozzles with rubbing alcohol. Remove the cartridge from your printer and gently scrub the nozzles using a soft cloth or a cotton swab that has been dipped in rubbing alcohol. You may need to do this a few times. Once the cartridge is dry, put it back in your printer and try the self-cleaning process. 

If these steps do not work, replacing the cartridge may be your only option.  


Inkjet cartridges aren’t made to last forever. They’re designed to be used up and replaced fairly quickly. This is fine for people who print frequently, but, for those who don’t, it can be quite frustrating. If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of your ink cartridge being dried out when you tried to print something, you understand why this simple problem can be so irritating. 

While all cartridges will, eventually, dry out if they are not used, there are steps you can take to extend the life of your printer ink. Try the tips listed above, and you may be surprised to find that you will need to replace your inkjet cartridges a lot less frequently. And, if your ink does dry out, don’t be so quick to throw it away! You may be able to revive it by simply cleaning the dried ink off of the nozzles. 

When you do need ink, we can help. At Ink Jet Super Store, we stock a wide range of cartridges for devices from leading brands like HP, Lexmark, Epson, and many others. We have both OEM replacement cartridges and high-quality remanufactured ones, so you can choose the ones that are right for your needs and your budget. Use our handy ink and toner finder to find the ink cartridges you need today!