Can Printer Ink Expire? We Set the Record Straight

Colour Ink Cartridges

Managing office supplies is tricky enough without worrying about items expiring. Unfortunately, although printer ink can last for a long time, it can eventually dry out and expire.

While cartridges expire much faster once they have been opened, unopened cartridges can expire if they have been in storage for multiple years. Protecting your bulk ink purchases requires some simple advance planning and knowledge of how much your office printers are used.

When Does Printer Ink Expire?

An ink cartridge expires when it dries up, although when that happens can change from brand to brand. Inkjet printers typically have the longest-lasting cartridges of all the printers available. 

Ink expires naturally after the time specified by the manufacturer. Most modern printers display a warning when that is about to happen. However, it can also expire before the expected time if it is not under optimum conditions.

Printer ink will expire if:

  1. The printer isn’t used often. Printers and printer ink are designed for frequent use. If a printer is used infrequently, then the ink doesn’t move around as much, and it dries up.
  2. The printer is near a heat source. Ink requires an optimum temperature to work and, if the printer is too cold, then the ink inside begins to solidify. If a printer is too hot, then the ink can dry up.
  3. The cartridge is unsealed. All ink cartridges come sealed up for maximum protection, mainly to protect the surrounding area from ink spills. There is another use for the seal, and that is to protect ink from the air. Although sealed cartridges can still expire, they will expire much more quickly if they are opened. 

Ink in water

Types of Ink Cartridges

Pigment solutions are solid particles suspended in a solution. This allows ink to move through the printer and onto the page with little difficulty. These cartridges have the shortest shelf life, as the solution will eventually separate, with the solid pigment settling at the bottom of the cartridge. At this point, while the ink will technically be usable, the quality will have significantly decreased. 

Dye cartridges are not suspended solutions; they are simply liquids inside a printer cartridge. They work by remaining in a state of being viscose enough to adhere to a printed page, while still being liquid enough to move through a printer without any issue. Printing issues arise when this balance is disrupted. 

Inkjet printers generally use dye cartridges, but some high-end models can also use pigment ink. With either type, once an ink cartridge has expired, the best thing you can do is order new printer ink for your device. 

Can You Use Expired Printer Ink?

Printers are delicate instruments, thanks to their complex array of moving parts. Printer ink always has an expiration date on it—don’t risk going past it!

There are two reasons for not using expired ink. The biggest reason is that it can easily damage the printer heads, which require expensive repairs. The other is that the print job quality will suffer since ink cannot come out of the nozzles properly. 

After the expiration date, the ink begins to dry up. If the pigment has separated from the print solution (as can happen in some cartridges), then the printer may still work, but the quality of the finished item will be far below what is needed.

closeup contacts of ink cartridge

Do Ink Cartridges Expire if Stored Properly?

Ink cartridges will eventually expire, no matter what, but there are some ways to keep your printer ink from drying out prematurely. Protect a bulk ink purchase by keeping it away from direct sunlight and in a temperature-controlled room. Modern offices are sometimes short on closet space, but printer ink should be treated as a priority and given space away from windows and drafts.

If an inkjet printer won’t be used for a long time, take the cartridges out and put them in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. This additional moisture can help keep the nozzles from drying out. Make sure the towel doesn’t come in contact with the nozzles, as it can cause the ink to leak out.

Buying Bulk Ink

Unsealed printer ink can last up to two years after purchase, so it’s still an excellent item to buy in bulk. We sell ink in bulk at significant discounts. Order sizes are flexible, so we’re a great choice for large and small offices.

We carry high-quality brands like Epson, Canon, and HP in a massive range of types. Submit your order today, or contact us if you have any questions about your printer ink needs.