Printer problems. We’ve all had them. No matter how new and shiny our printer, or how well we look after it, we’ve all had that situation when the machine just won’t do what we want it to – and it somehow always seem to happen at the most inopportune moments.
Fortunately, one of the most common printer problems is one of the easiest to prevent and fix. If your printer starts printing blank pages, or claims not to have any ink (even though you know the cartridges aren’t empty), you might be suffering from a bad case of ‘dried up ink cartridges’.
In this article, we explore what’s going on when a printer’s cartridges dry up, and what you can do to solve the problem and stop it happening in the first place.
Why ink cartridges dry up
If you think about it, ink is meant to dry up. Otherwise, it would run everywhere and wouldn’t look like whatever it is we want it to look like! But the way ink is designed, it’s only meant to dry when exposed to the air – that’s why the nozzles connecting what’s inside the cartridge (ink) to what’s outside (air) are designed the way they are.
When our ink cartridges dry up and stop working, it’s normally because the ink in these nozzles has come into contact with too much air and has dried to a point where no other ink can get through. They become blocked. Ink cartridges also have an expiration date – just like other organic products – and using them beyond this date means they’ll have a greater tendency towards drying out.
How to prevent ink cartridges drying out
Fortunately, there’s a really simple way to stop ink cartridges from drying out before they run out of ink. Just use your printer! By lubricating those nozzles with fresh ink, you’ll stop them getting blocked.
If you’re the kind of person who only prints once every few months, there’s quite a high likelihood that your cartridges will dry out in between uses. To overcome this, set yourself a monthly reminder to print a ‘test page’. This kind of page is specially designed to activate all the different colour cartridges you have (which wouldn’t happen, obviously, if you were to only print a black and white document).
Alternatively, if you know you’re not going to be using your printer for a few months, it’s really worth removing and protecting the cartridges. If yours came with a protective cover, put these back over the nozzle. If not – or if you’ve thrown it away – you can just wrap the cartridge in clingfilm. For extra protection, put the cartridge in a sealed container.
It’s also worth checking the expiration dates of any cartridges you have, to make sure that’s not the problem.
How to fix a dried out ink cartridge
Ok, so you’re too late for prevention, you need a cure. You’re trying to print, but nothing’s happening. Your first port of call is to use your printer’s inbuilt head-cleaning function. Where you’ll find this feature depends on your printer set up, but it shouldn’t be too tricky to locate – look out for words like ‘maintenance’ or ‘troubleshooting’. Once you’ve set this to run, what usually happens is that the printer will attempt to print a test page – which can help figure out which nozzles are blocked and need cleaning. After this, you just need to run the ‘head clean’ a few times and cross your fingers! It’s worth bearing in mind that this clean might fix some of the cartridges and not others – so at least you’ll know which ones you need to either buy replacements for or attempt to fix with the following solution…
It’s really easy to remove cartridges, so let’s take advantage of that. Open up your printer and take out the ink cartridge or cartridges that have dried up (you’ll know which are faulty because of the results of the previous step). Find a medium-sized bowl and fill it with lukewarm water. Submerge the ink cartridge, making sure that the nozzles are completely covered. Now, using a clean cloth or cotton bud, wipe it across the entrance of the nozzle and see if anything happens. Hopefully, ink will start to flow out into the water. If it doesn’t, you might want to leave the cartridge to soak for a few minutes before trying again. Make sure you give the ink cartridge a really good dry before you put it back in the printer!
Hopefully, that’ll fix the problem. If it doesn’t, it’s probably time to invest in some new Printerinks ink cartridges. But now you know how to take better care of them, there’s much less chance of them drying out before they’re truly empty.