Do Toner Cartridges Expire? Debunking the Myth

Toner Tips by James Cai

Expiration dates are easy to overlook and ignore. Does anyone check the expiration dates for beef jerky or pasta noodles?

Like that cup of mixed berry yogurt, toner and ink cartridges come with expiration dates that are kind of important to pay attention to.

Especially when it comes to storage and usage.

The truth of the matter is that the workings of it can be rather tricky. For example, once an ink cartridge expires the integrity of the ink goes downhill rather fast.

On the other hand, after a toner cartridge expires you may get a few more years of use if it was stored properly.

Assembled is a look of the inner workings of toner and ink cartridge expiration and what you need to expect with each.


Ink Cartridges


Ink cartridge lore has been rolling around the internet for as long as anyone can remember.

To refill or not refill? New cartridge or refurbished? Brother or HP?

Like the consumer chatter of buying ink, the inner workings of how ink cartridges work has also evolved.

For example, Hewlett Packard has recently developed cartridges that are microchipped. Once they reach the expiration date, the chip alerts the printer and will prevent the cartridge from activating even if it’s full.

Even if the cartridge isn’t microchipped, using an expired cartridge may cause the copper contacts, which signal to the print head, to fail because the contacts have warped.

toner piggy bank

Toner Cartridges


As stated earlier, toner cartridges have a bit more gumption when it comes to how long they last past their expiration date since it’s filled with powder rather than liquid.

But that doesn’t mean you should take that as a free pass to use an expired one.

It may cause harm to your printer if the cartridge is faulty. And if your printer is damaged, there’s a possibility your warranty would be voided for using an expired cartridge.

Since cartridges can often cost more than the actual printer, a lot of companies take advantage of sales and stock up on toner (and ink) while the price is right, but buyer beware.

The toner may last longer than expected and like a child whose eyes are bigger than their stomach, you have too much food (and toner) on your plate.

You’ll run the risk of having printer cartridges on your hands that’ll expire before you can use it. If you find yourself in this predicament, there’s an easy solution.

If you know you won’t be using them, (and they’re still factory sealed and free of damage) you can turn to toner buyers for a pretty decent profit.


Warranty vs Expiration


When you receive your new cartridges, be aware of two important dates.

On the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) box, there will be a date that expresses when the warranty ends (generally a year).

That lets you know how long the manufacturer will cover the item. The second date is the expiration.

This is generally found on the packaging of the actual cartridge or sometimes on the cartridge itself (usually for ink).

If your cartridge is refurbished, don’t be surprised if the expiration date has already passed when you purchased it. That date is for the original purchaser.

Make note of when you bought that cartridge (it helps to write it down) and keep in mind that toner cartridges will be useful for about two years whereas ink can last up to a few months.


After Expiration


Once ink expires, the liquid will turn sluggish, and if you try to use it, it will clog your print head and damage your printer. Overtime, moisture will enter the cartridge and clump up the powder.

As this takes a significantly longer time than the ink turning sluggish, the toner lasts quite a while longer.

There have been tales of people getting use out of cartridges that are more than three years past their expiration date. And yes, technically they are considered “expired”.

But, you do run the risk of losing your printer’s warranty. Once your cartridges have expired, you have the choice of purchasing new ones from an OEM or seeking a cheaper route through refurbished items.

toner palette

Making a Good Thing Last


While an expiration date will forever be looming over your cartridges, it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to prevent the inevitable.

But that’s not true. Proper storage of the cartridges can make a huge difference.

For both, make sure you keep them in their original packaging. Store in a cool temperature controlled environment. Too hot or too cold can damage the powder and ink.


For the Toner:

-Make sure it’s lying flat and not upright

-In an area free of dust

-Nowhere near where corrosive gas


For the ink:

-Store in an upright position

-In a dark area free of sunlight

-Keep the cartridge sealed


Expiration dates are unfortunately not a myth. They may seem like guidelines but they are not rules to get the most out of your product.

To make matters worse, an expired cartridge may trigger a stubborn printer to refuse to print if it’s sensors pick up that the cartridge is old.

That reason alone is enough to prompt you to keep expiration dates in mind.

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