Changing the ink in your home or office printer seems like a hassle, and it’s easy to put off this important task. However, it’s easier than it used to be, thanks to improvements in printer and ink cartridge design.
Waiting for too long to change the ink can result in a noticeable drop in print quality. In severe cases, ignoring notifications to change a dried-up or expired ink cartridge can even cause damage to the ink nozzles, which require expensive repairs or replacements.
With a stash of ink cartridges on hand, you can change your printer’s ink without any hassle or delay. Here’s how to change your HP printer’s ink cartridges.
Differences Between Ink and Toner
If you’re dealing with an unfamiliar printer, you’ll first want to verify whether it uses ink at all. Laser printer ink is actually toner, which adheres to the paper using a combination of heat and electricity. Toner is incompatible with inkjet printers.
Laser printers work by using electricity to charge a drum inside the printer. This drum rotates to collect toner particles onto it, then applies them to the paper in specific ways instructed by its programming. This printing method is usually faster and cheaper over the long term because of its high efficiency.
Inkjet printers use a tiny array of nozzles attached to each ink color. The ink colors are combined to form the print head, which moves back and forth over the paper to lay down ink line by line. This process is more time-consuming and expensive than laser printing but gives fantastic color photo results.
Double-check the model number on your printer closely and see if it says laser in the name. If it says inkjet or deskjet, you should purchase traditional printer ink specifically designed for that model.
Otherwise, the procedures for changing ink in an HP inkjet instead of a laser are mostly the same. Both printers have a small door that opens to reveal the cartridge, which you then remove and replace with a fresh one. However, HP laser printers’ cartridge location can vary, while inkjet cartridges are almost always under the top cover.
Use either the instruction manual included with the printer or instructions built-in to the printer’s driver software on your computer. Depending on your HP printer’s age, you may also be able to use a step-by-step guide on the printer’s screen. Remember that if you can’t find the instruction manual, you can usually find a copy online on the manufacturer’s website.
Use the instructions to locate the printer cartridge cover or door. Even though this plastic door is usually on top and may be marked with a small icon, double-check the instructions first, as the direction the door swings in may vary. Pulling or pushing the cover in the wrong direction could break it.
Leave the printer plugged in and powered on so the printer can make the necessary adjustments once the cover is opened. In most cases, inkjet printers automatically move the cartridges to the middle of the printhead to make them easier to remove. In laser printers, the drum rotates in place and should be easily accessible from the door.
Press down lightly on the cartridge itself or the small lever just above it to release it. Avoid pushing or pulling hard on the cartridge, as this may damage the sensitive parts holding it in place. If the cartridge resists removal, consult the instructions to make sure you’re removing it correctly.
Insert a new printer cartridge, making sure to push it gently until it clicks or latches into place. Once you’re done replacing the necessary cartridges, close the lid, and the cartridges should slide back into place on their own as the printer checks to make sure they are installed correctly. The printer might print a test page, but if it doesn’t, you can instruct it to do so using the touchscreen or the printer software on your computer.
Cleaning the Printer
Replacing the ink or toner cartridge in your printer is the perfect opportunity to clean the inside of the printer. This important task helps clear out dust, ink, and other debris that can eventually gum up moving parts. Although you don’t need to clean the printer every time you change an ink cartridge, make sure to do it anytime you notice significant streaking or replacing the cartridges does not fix fading color.
In some cases, attempting to clean the internal parts may void your warranty. Double-check the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics on what you can and cannot clean yourself and hire a professional for cleaning if needed.
For both types of printers, make sure to remove all the cartridges before cleaning anything and turn off and unplug the printer. Cartridges that are still full enough to continue use afterward should be set aside on a paper towel. Dispose of or recycle empty cartridges immediately to avoid confusion when replacing them later.
If using an inkjet printer, gently clean the printhead contacts with a sponge swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Avoid using a cotton swab, as small bits of fiber may get left behind. Clean the nozzle heads gently with another wet swab, let everything dry for ten minutes, and then reassemble.
For laser printers, wait until the unit has completely cooled off, which can take up to an hour after unplugging it. Wear gloves and a dust mask as you remove the drum and set it on top of a sheet of newspaper. Remove the toner cartridge, as well, and clean it with a special toner wipe.
Clean the surfaces of the drum and cartridge with isopropyl alcohol wipes. Avoid reaching into the printer itself to clean anything, as the wires inside are very sensitive and can even be dangerous if they still hold an electric charge.
Cleaning your printer should restore your print quality to its maximum clarity, especially if you also just replaced the ink cartridges. However, sometimes faulty printer connections or laser drums can continue to leave streaks even after they are cleaned and investigated with the printer’s built-in troubleshooter. You may need to get a new part for the printer or replace it entirely in these cases.
Checking for Proper Installation
Even if your printer seems to think the cartridges are installed correctly, it’s possible there’s an error in installation that the system doesn’t catch. Look closely at the printer’s test page to make sure colors show up clearly and lines are crisp. If there is an issue, you should run a diagnostic program using the printer driver software on your computer.
Also, make sure to listen for unusual whirring or other sounds while the printer is printing. It’s normal for different noises to occur while the printer is testing the nozzles immediately after installation, but if they persist through several print jobs, open the printer and look for any obvious problems, such as a carriage stall or a paper jam.
Changing Multiple Cartridges at Once
Photo inkjet printers may have six separate ink colors to replace since they sometimes use additional colors for richer print results. However, most color printers only have four colors total, including black. Usually, the black cartridge is used the most, so it will be larger than the other three.
When changing multiple cartridges at once, remove only one at a time and replace it immediately with the same color. Accidentally switching the locations of two colors can cause significant problems later. Although most HP printers can sense if you’ve placed the wrong color in, you could still cause some staining and undesired alterations to colors.
Even if another cartridge isn’t critically low yet, take the opportunity to replace it with a fresh one. It’s easy to accidentally run out of ink in the major of a large printing project, especially if that project uses a lot of a specific color.
Instead of placing separate orders for individual colors when they run out, save time and money by stocking up in bulk. If you use a specific color more than others, you can stock up on additional cartridges for that color.
Following Software Prompts
Most modern printers now prompt you when your ink is low on specific colors. This removes the guesswork of having to open the printer and visually examine or shake ink cartridges to gauge their ink level.
Your printer may give you a notification that it’s time to change your ink sooner than expected if your ink is drying up or about to expire. Some HP printers determine expiration based on when a cartridge was installed, while some calculate it based on months past the cartridge’s warranty. The printer may even sense when the ink is no longer flowing as well as it used to, even if it’s not near the ink’s official warranty date.
Expiration times vary, but generally, ink will start to dry up within two years of opening it and sometimes much sooner depending on environmental factors. An environment that is either too cold or too hot can cause the ink to degrade faster, as can dry air or storage in direct sunlight.
Expired ink can be changed just like any other ink, so don’t hold off replacing it once your printer tells you to. Expired or dried-out ink can damage your printer nozzles if allowed to sit for too long, so take action with a fresh cartridge right away.
Keeping Your Office Space Clean
Used ink cartridges can leak if stored improperly, even if they’re mostly empty. When removing used cartridges from a printer, make sure to set them on a paper towel or piece of newspaper immediately. You can also wear gloves if you want to protect your hands further.
New ink cartridges can also leak while they’re being inserted. If the cartridge comes with a plastic bag, tape or a small cover on it, avoid removing the cover until right before you’re ready to put it into the printer. Make sure to hold the ink carefully by its sides near the top without touching any of the connections at the bottom.
Instead of throwing away your cartridges in the trash, find a local recycling center that will take them. It may be most efficient in a large office to keep empty cartridges in a separate, clearly marked container next to your other recycling. Throwing used cartridges into general recycling can make a mess and make it more difficult for your other recyclables to be processed.
Are There Differences Between HP and Other Printers?
The overall methods for changing the ink in HP printers are the same as with other brands, so if you’ve changed other printer inks before, HP printers will likely be easy. They vary between models, but generally, inkjet printers’ ink cartridges are located under the top of the printer, and laser printers’ cartridges can be in a variety of places. Best practices for avoiding leaks and cleaning the inside of the printer are also generally the same.
However, you need to only use HP printer ink cartridges with HP printers. Even if they’re similarly sized, using Epson ink cartridges or other incorrect cartridges may void the warranty on your HP device. HP inks may also be formulated differently, especially for photo inks.
Keep in mind that HP does not recommend refilling cartridges, due to a potential decline in print quality. Buying new cartridges helps ensure your print nozzles stay as clean as possible and reduces the chance of problems caused by leaks or dry ink building up. Work with a dedicated and reputable supplier to get great cartridges at a discount, and then send your old cartridges to a recycling center to help take care of our environment.
Your Bulk Ink Supplier
InkJetSuperStore has a generous bulk discount so you can stay fully stocked and ready to change your printer ink at a moment’s notice. We have a full range of inks for a variety of brands and even have ink for older models that’s hard to find elsewhere. Count on us for all your inkjet and laser printing needs.
Jeffrey B. Banke/shutterstock.com
Dmitry S. Gordienko/shutterstock.com