Is It Worth It To Refill Ink Cartridges?



Refilling your ink cartridges looks tempting. Printer ink is expensive. Why pay $75 or more for a new set of genuine OEM ink cartridges when you can refill print cartridges by hand for around 15 bucks? What could go wrong?

Frankly, a lot. Cartridge refilling is not a job for neat freaks or people in a hurry. Who refills ink cartridges? People who:

  • Enjoy messy projects
  • Own an art smock
  • Wear rubber gloves
  • Use protective eyewear
  • Own — and can operate — a power drill
  • Have time to spare

What You Need To Consider

Refilling ink cartridges isn't as simple as it sounds, and it's important to keep in mind that a printer ink refill requires patience, creativity, and proper handling of tools.

OEM ink cartridges are typically not designed to be refilled, so attempting to do so can be a tricky and potentially risky endeavor.

In addition, refilling a non-refillable OEM cartridge voids the manufacturer's warranty, so you will be responsible for any damage that might occur to your printer.

To refill ink cartridges, you will need to handle various tools, like drills, syringes, and tapes. Plus, it's essential to wear protective gear, like disposable gloves and eyewear, to minimize the risk of accidents.

It's worth noting that many printer manufacturers have made it more difficult to refill ink cartridges by designing them to be harder to access or by incorporating smart chips that detect if a cartridge has been refilled.

Attempting to refill certain cartridges could even damage your printer, so it's important to do your research before attempting a refill.

Blue ink splatter image

Potential Pitfalls

  1. Drilling a hole in a plastic ink cartridge can be more complicated than it sounds. Some refillable ink kits will include a small screwdriver or awl to bore a hole in the top of the ink cartridge, but it's challenging to do by hand (and easy to slip and cut yourself).
  2. Ditto the syringe used to refill the cartridge.
  3. Hitting the bladder inside the empty cartridge can be challenging. If you miss the bladder and accidentally fill the cartridge with ink, the cartridge will not work, and there's a high likelihood the cartridge will leak and damage your printer.

Red ink splatter image

Helpful Hints

  1. If you do decide to refill your ink cartridges manually, it's important to use high-quality ink to avoid clogging your printer's printhead or causing damage to the printer.
  2. Use a small gauge needle to refill printer ink cartridges.
  3. Draw ink into the syringe slowly to prevent air bubbles. Are air bubbles in cartridges bad? You bet. Injecting air bubbles into the cartridge can cause it to malfunction.
  4. Do not overfill! This can be difficult if your cartridge is solid black. Determine the capacity of your refills cartridge beforehand and inject 25%-30% less ink to prevent overfilling and leakage.
  5. Once the cartridge is filled, it should be allowed to rest upright for a few hours so the ink can settle at the bottom of the sponge inside the cartridge.
  6. Weigh up the potential cost savings against the time and effort required to refill cartridges, as well as the potential risks of damaging your printer.

Black ink splatter image

A Final Word: Is it Worth Refilling Printer Cartridges?

The answer depends on how much your time is worth. First-timers will take a while (and make a mess) when trying to refill printer cartridges.

At best — if all that can go wrong goes right — you'll end up with a printer cartridge refill that prints "nearly identical to" or "almost as good as" OEM originals.

Refilled ink and toner cartridges will never print with the same quality as genuine OEM cartridges. One way to lower your printing costs is to get those OEM ink and toner cartridges to last longer.

If you want the best quality printing possible, use genuine OEM toner cartridges and genuine OEM paper. Original equipment manufacturers invest much time and research into matching ink (and toner) with paper to achieve the best results.

You can achieve the same results using original OEM supplies...but it won't come cheap.

There are times when it's worth sacrificing print quality to save money. Refilling toners and refilling printer inks may appear to offer significant savings, but the results are mixed and undoubtedly messy.

How much are you saving if you splash indelible ink on your clothes, stain the surface of your desk, or worse? Don't take the risk. Stick with genuine OEM inks!

Rob Errera

Rob Errera

Rob Errera is an award-winning journalist embedded in the world of printers and printing supplies. Rob has nearly two decades of experience writing about cutting edge technology, business trends, and the ever-evolving industry of printing.

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