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Is It Worth It To Refill Ink Cartridges?

Posted by Rob Errera on 27th Nov 2018

Is It Worth It To Refill Ink Cartridges?

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

Frankly, a lot. Refilling ink cartridges is not a job for neat-freaks or people in a hurry. However, refilling your own ink cartridges can be worthwhile if you:

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

How It’s Done (In Theory)

  1. Start with an empty OEM ink cartridge.
  2. Drill a hole in the top of the cartridge. (In some cases you can skip this step and refill the cartridge at the ink release point. Other times you may need to partially disassemble the ink cartridge to access a refill point.)
  3. Fill a syringe with replacement ink. (Wear disposable gloves and work over a sink or garbage can.)
  4. Insert the syringe in the hole, piercing the plastic “bladder bag” inside the cartridge.
  5. Once bag is refilled, remove the syringe and reseal the hole with a piece of tape.

blue ink splatter

Potential Pitfalls

  1. Drilling a hole in a plastic ink cartridge can be harder than it sounds. Some ink refill kits will include a small screwdriver or awl to bore a hole in top of the ink cartridge, but it’s difficult 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

Helpful Hints

  1. Use a small gauge needle
  2. Draw ink into the syringe slowly to prevent air bubbles. Injecting air bubbles into the cartridge can cause it to malfunction.
  3. Do not overfill! This can be difficult if your cartridge is solid black. Determine the capacity of your cartridge beforehand and inject 25%-30% less ink to prevent overfilling and leakage.
  4. Once the cartridge is filled, it should be allowed to set for a few hours so the ink can settle at the bottom of the sponge located inside the cartridge.

black ink splatter

Results

At best — if all that can go wrong goes right — you’ll can end up with ink cartridges that print “nearly identical to” or “almost as good as” OEM originals. Refilled ink cartridges will never print with the same quality as genuine OEM cartridges.

If you want the best quality printing possible, use genuine OEM toner cartridges and genuine OEM paper. Original equipment manufacturers invest a lot of 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 your old ink cartridges may appear to offer significant savings, but the end 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!