Printer Ink Cartridge Refills: Should You Do it Yourself?

by Rich on January 9, 2009

Ink refill kits have vastly improved over the decades. While once a single refill kit was supposed to service multiple brands and printer models, today’s kits are often tailor-made to specific manufacturers and printers.  If you’re up for the challenge of refilling your own cartridges yourself, you could stand to save a lot of money.  But the refill process can be a bit technical—and refilled cartridges are typically more prone to error than using other third-party cartridge options.  So should you try refilling your cartridges yourself? Here’s a look at the pros and cons.

Do-It-Yourself Cartridge Refills: The Benefits

While printer ink refill kits are a more adventurous option than simply ordering third-party cartridges, they do have significant benefits. Here are a few reasons why some users swear by them.

Reduced cost. Refill kits are usually the cheapest option out there for third-party cartridges—often cheaper than both remanufactured and original third-party cartridges. You can save thousands each year in printing costs by using refill kits exclusively or by incorporating them into your cartridge buying habits.

Environmental impact.  Printer cartridges do damage to the environment when disposed of in landfills. Leftover ink can leak into soil and water, and chemicals from plastics used to make the cartridges can also contaminate the environment.  It can take up to a thousand years, theoretically, for a plastic cartridge to completely biodegrade.  Despite these truths, only 15% of cartridges in the U.K. are recycled.  Using a refill kit allows you to recycle your old printer cartridges instead of throwing them away.

Convenience.  If you have a refill kit, you won’t have to go to the store every time your cartridges run out—you can just refill them and put them back in the printer. The added convenience makes a difference to some users.

Drawbacks of Refill Kits

Of course, with greater savings comes greater risk.  Refill kits may not be for everyone, and here are a few reasons why you may not be as satisfied with a refill kit as you would with a remanufactured or original third-party cartridge.

Room for mistakes. Because you’re refilling your cartridge by hand, there’s room for some human error in the process. If you don’t insert the ink into the cartridge correctly, for example, you may have air bubbles in the syringe that can result in uneven ink distribution on the page.  You’ll have to read the directions and follow all the steps carefully to make sure your ink is properly injected.

In addition, if your cartridge is old and worn out, you may not be able to tell—this is a problem you don’t encounter with remanufacturing companies, because they replace worn-out components of used cartridges before selling them.  And if you insert ink into a cartridge that’s been empty for a long period of time, the sponge may be dry—and this could cause problems with printing later.

Cartridges are getting more complex.  As ink refill kits get more and more specialized, manufacturers are going to greater and greater lengths to prevent users from refilling the cartridges themselves. Today’s cartridges have computer chips and other high-tech features that can get in the way of injecting your own ink.

Possible warranty void.  It’s a myth that any use of third-party ink or cartridges will void your printer’s warranty out of hand.  But if the damage caused to your printer is obviously from a third-party ink, this may cause problems with your warranty. Read your fine print carefully before making the decision to go with an ink refill kit, as they typically have more room for error than other third-party ink options.

Ink refill kits can save you a lot of money. They also do something good for the environment by allowing users to recycle their own cartridges instead of throwing them away.  However, they do have their drawbacks—and not everyone is comfortable with doing it themselves. If you still want to save money without risking problems from human error in the ink refill process, you can still find cheap cartridges through companies that sell remanufactured or original third-party cartridges built from manufacturers’ specifications. With all the options out there, you’re sure to find a discount cartridge option that fits your needs

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