The Difference Between Ink and Toner

by Rich on September 29, 2009

While some may refer to ink and toner as being one and the same, there are actually quite a few differences in how they are made and how they function. For starters, toners and inks can not be used interchangeably with printers. Inkjet printers use ink and laser printers use toner. Toner is a powder that is carbon based. It is made up of dye granules that have polymers that help it to adhere to paper.


Toner comes in a cartridge, just like liquid ink. It is typically more expensive then liquid ink, but it lasts a longer time and is capable of printing more pages per cartridge. Keep in mind that many of the rules of technology apply to toner cartridges. The higher the quality, and more expensive, the cartridge, the better it will operate. Higher quality, expensive cartridges are filled with very finely ground powder. The less expensive toner cartridges are going to have larger granules of powder and you may find that it smears or does not otherwise perform as well.

Most home users choose inkjet printers and find they work fine for their needs. However, those choosing a printer for business purposes may prefer laser printers and toner printing. Laser printers are more expensive and take up more space, but they offer better quality printing and they are often faster and more efficient.

Those using a laser printer will find they need to change the toner cartridge just as someone using an inkjet printer will need to change the ink cartridge. Due to the tendency of toner to spill from the cartridge, it may be wise to use rubber gloves and an apron when changing the toner cartridge. Should toner get on your skin, washing it immediately with soap and water. You should also avoid breathing toner and may want to wear a paper mask when changing toner cartridges to avoid inhaling microscopic particles.The FDA has classified toner powder as a class A carcinogen. There is some debate over how much harm it can cause skin, but those working around toner are advised to be safe instead of sorry. Printer companies insist their products have been tested and present no real danger to users. Others believe toner powder is the single most dangerous aspect of computer technology.

Toner Powder

Should you spill toner on clothing or carpet, vacuum the powder immediately. After vacuuming, you can blot the area with cold water. If putting your stained clothing in the washing machine, wash on cold and air dry. Heat will fuse the color into the fabric and you will find you have a permanent stain. In either case, on clothing or on carpet, do not rub the toner. This will smear the powder into the fabric and make it more difficult, or impossible, to remove.

Understanding the difference between ink and toner can help you make the correct choice when purchasing a printer. If you work with a laser printer, being familiar with toner will also help you to be safe when in the work environment.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Diana November 19, 2009 at 6:35 pm

* Powdery toners are used in laser printers, in certain plain paper faxes, and in certain plain paper xerographic copiers.
* Liquid ink is used in inkjet printers and in inkjet copiers and faxes.
* “Laser Jet” is Hewlett Packard’s name for its line of laser printers.
* “Deskjet”, “Officejet”, and “Designjet” are Hewlett Packard’s names for its lines of inkjet printers and plotters.
* “Bubblejet” is Canon’s name for its line of inkjet printers.
* If the paper coming from the printer, copier, or fax you are using is warm, the system probably uses powdery toner.
* If the ink on the paper is wet to the touch, the printer, copier, or fax you are using probably uses liquid inkjet ink.
* If your cartridge is about as wide as a sheet of paper (9 to 12 inches or 225 to 400 mm) or larger, the system probably uses powdery toner.
* If your cartridge is about 3 to 4 inches in size (75 to 100 mm) or smaller, your cartridge probably uses liquid inkjet ink.

2 Alexander Mcintosh November 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm

very good information there, readers will appreciate that! :)

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