Inkjet Cartridges - Replace or Refill?

Category: Hardware

Inkjet printers are cheap. Keeping them stocked with ink can cost a small fortune. The manufacturers say to use only new original equipment cartridges, in part because it's an important piece of their revenue stream. But on the shelf at Office Whopper, next to the $38 brand-name cartridges, sits a $30 no-name job and a refill kit for only $20. It seems like a no-brainer, but are these cheaper alternatives your best bet?

Knockoffs and Refill Kits

For some printers, it truly is a no-brainer. Older printers, especially, do well with inkjet refill kits, but some newer printers may not be good candidates for home refilling, as we shall see. In any case, it's important to note that the ink in refill kits may not be the same quality as the ink in the manufacturer's cartridges, and the print heads on some cartridges are not designed to be used repeatedly.

People who use no-name replacement cartridges and inkjet refill kits may notice lower quality printing when using the refill kits, but your mileage will vary. Some office stores (Staples is one example) guarantee the quality of their store-brand inkjet products. I've been very satisfied with both the knockoff cartridges and refill kits for my Lexmark P3150.

In any case, it doesn't hurt to try. If you find that print quality declines after a few refills, you can always go crawling back to the manufacturer and beg them to sell you a shiny new cartridge.

Don't Wear White

Refilling inkjet cartridges is not always an easy process. It can be very messy, in fact, and may not be worth the cost savings if you wind up ruining your nice white dress shirt.

I strongly recommend that you study the directions carefully before starting, and make sure to cover your work surface with newspapers to prevent staining. Avoid overfilling, because getting ink on the printer's circuitry can interfere with the operation of the electronics and void a printer's warranty.

Some cartridges require cracking open the sealed lid or drilling through the cartridge top in order to inject ink. This is not a difficult task, but you do have to be careful not to damage the print cartridge while refilling it.

I also recommend wearing latex or rubber gloves, because it's almost impossible to avoid getting a little ink on your fingers.

Refill Roadblocks

Refilling is not recommended, or even possible for some printer types. A good example is the Epson CX series of all-in-one printers, which use Durabrite inks. The Durabrite inks contain a cleaning agent that is critical to keeping the nozzles and feeder tubes in the printer clean. Often, even aftermarket inkjet cartridges will not work properly in these printers, so the best bet is to stay with the original equipment manufacturer's products.

For some printer types, refilling is not an option at all. Some manufacturers include a countdown circuit on the inkjet cartridge itself, which communicates with the printer and will not print after a certain number of pages. For these printers, refilling may not be cost-effective. Other printers use cartridges with embedded circuitry that make it impossible to use anything but the manufacturer's cartridges.

In summary, using no-name replacement cartridges or inkjet refill kits can offer substantial savings. However, in some cases, print quality may suffer. But if your printer doesn't demand specialized inks, or artificially limit the number of pages the cartridges can print, you may come out in the black.

 
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Posted by on 11 Jan 2006


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Most recent comments on "Inkjet Cartridges - Replace or Refill?"

(See all 44 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

GT68106
03 Mar 2006

I just bought a new Canon PIXMA MP800 thinking I could get refills, other than the over priced Canon cartridges. Guess what; they've gone and put a chip in the new cartridges. I can't find anyone selling a cartridge for it but Canon at about $14 bucks each times 5.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Search around for a "chip resetter" for your printer. That may allow you to refill.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
24 Mar 2006

Ink cartridges are the bane of anyone who uses their printer a lot!!! It has been proven, that eventually, the cartridges costs more than the printer's initial cost. I have been using Canon printers, for about 7 years now, with the "ThinkTank" systems, that have 4 individual ink cartridges. Why? Simply, because they are cheaper and more cost effective.

I now use GotInk4U, to get my cartridges. I can get both the original Canon cartridges or the generic, at a very sizable discount. Plus, their shipping costs are about the lowest, I have seen, $4.95 to ship one order and I usually order many cartridges at one time. They ship USPS and it comes right to my mailbox. I love it and have been extremely pleased with them and their service. Check it out.

http://www.gotink4u.com


Posted by:

john walker
02 May 2006

Ive recently bought a hp psc 1410,after a few print outs the colour cartridge started running low.

So i bought a jet tec universal refill kit,even though i followed the instructions precisly,my problem is now

that printing a picture will start off fine with all the colours perfectly matching and then after about 10cm down the page it will start fading and losing colours,

any suggestions? And by the way I've already tried the cleaning function heaps of times.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Some refills are lousy, as are some of the knock-off cartridges. And some printers are very fussy about using the Mfr brand cartridges. You may to go crawling back to HP and beg forgiveness.


Posted by:

GENE
21 May 2006

Have been trying to find the right refill system but unsuccessful until a few days ago, I ran into an Amazon refill kit for my Lexmark printer at walgreen. It was perfect and cheap! It prints like the original inks. I got 5 refills for 13.99 on sale. Buying at the stores would have cost me $160.00 plus tax. Their refill system is the best I have ever seen. No mess, no needles, no syringes, no injection, no overfill. The refill kit does the refill not you. It knows when the catridge is full and stops. It is a life saver. I only wish I knew them years ago!! Stratitec is hopeless. Prints once and dries up. It is waste of money. All those needle and syringe refill kits are a waste of time and money, plus the ink mess. Thanks.


Posted by:

Doug Beer
26 Sep 2006

I use my printers way more than they were intended to be used for. I was playing in a band, and doing all of the poster work, calendars, bumper stickers, bio books, and whatever else I could think of in full color, with a whole lot of black. This was all being done on two Canon IP6000D's and a Canon S400 that I used for back up. I have owned many printers and sent them all to an early grave. I stand behind Canon, as far as printers go. Buying new ink cart. every time I need them, would have been in the thousands. So I am a big believer in refills. I was using Island Inkjet at my msll for a very long time and I really would recommend them to you all. However that too became to expensive and I started buying the refill kits at Sam's Club for $20. My choice now is the best whay I believe. Find the company that your printer is made by and buy bulk ink off of them, gallons if you can afford it. By doing this, you save a bundle on ink and you save buy doing it yourself. You also know that you are getting the correct ink for your printer.

The one other problem I have with all of this, would be with Canon printers and any other company that uses a seprate printhead in their printers. When your printhead dies, you might as well throw that printer away because it cost way more to buy anew printhead than it does to buy a new printer with a printhead and full cartriges of ink.


Posted by:

Serge
22 Oct 2006

Hi everyone. I am having quite a difficult time finding a refill kit for my lexmark x3480 series printer cartridge. Does anyone know of a site that has these available? If I would have known how difficult these are to refill, I probably would have bought a canon printer. So if anyone can help that would be great. Here is a link to the type of cartridge it uses. I have looked long and hard and can't find anything at all. So here's hoping someone out there knows where to find the appropriate refill kit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I searched on Google and found that the Lexmark RFK-LXB and LXC cartridges are available from some vendors in the UK...


Posted by:

Maureen
02 Nov 2006

Thanks to John/January 28, 2006 for his comment on the difference between the two black inks in Canon BCI-6 and BCI-3. All of my BCI-3 cartridges have turned into total disasters, and that's probably the cause. I've been using the BCI-3 ink as universal. Now I've got black ink EVERYWHERE!

Re: Print Heads crapping out- After some difficulty, I've managed to clean mine and gotten it back into production. Canon heads are easy to remove. Then I flushed the ink out with tap water, then soaked the bottom of the head in rubbing alcohol for 6-8 hours, then flushed again with tap water to remove any remaining dried ink, then soaked it a few more minutes in alcohol to speed drying. Leave it out to dry. So far, so good. It's worked great for two days of hard use - we'll see.


Posted by:

rani raj
08 Feb 2007

I just bought a new Canon PIXMA MP800 thinking I could get refills, other than the over priced Canon cartridges. Guess what; they've gone and put a chip in the new cartridges. I can't find anyone selling a cartridge for it but Canon at about $14 bucks each times 5.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A chip resetter might help. Check on Ebay or Google.


Posted by:

John Allan
26 Apr 2007

This is a late addition to an old discussion, but nobody seems to have mentioned the environment. One big advantage of refilling, or buying recycled cartridges, is that it reduces the massive production of plastic carcases which will mainly go into landfill sites after a very short life indeed. And as for buying a cheap printer, then throwing it away or passing it on to someone else when it runs out of ink...that's just expanding the problem enormously. When will green campaigning agencies target the printer manufacturers and persuade someone to bring out a "green" printer which might cost a lot more upfront, but will offer an easily refillable ink tank and long-life print heads?


Posted by:

Spam_Fritter
08 Jun 2007

DELL printers are in mostly re-badged Lexmark printers, and as such can accept standard Lexmark cartridges. The cartridges do however need a slight modification before they will fit into the Dell printer carriage.

I'm not sure where you can find out which Lexmark model corresponds to your printer but I am sure a web search will provide an answer. I found details recently when I was trying to find Mac drivers for a Dell printer. The driver part was not easy. Finding the equivalent Lexmark model was.


Posted by:

Shirley
25 Jun 2007

I've been trying to print having refilled using a jettec inkejet refill kit and the print quality is quite poor with some pages too ink heavy and others too faded.. I've followed the instructions. Any advice as I have purchased several of these kits and don't want to waste any more money if I don't have too.. (The ink did seem to oouse from the bottom of the cartridge initially even after cleaning)..

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like bad quality ink to me.


Posted by:

Eric
26 Oct 2007

Hi, I work in a cartridge refilling company. Since my career circles arount refilling, I gravitate around the cartridge industry. As a personal oppinion, it has been my experience that most of the price of ink from the origional manufacturers goes into R&D to prevent refilling. Most technology invented for cartridges are designed to inhibit refilling, and advertised as advancements with the consumer in mind. There is also the "warranty war" where printer companies were misinforming the public that refilling voids your warrenty. Thats like GM voiding the warrenty on your car because you used Shell gas.

Now this goes into economics, which I'm not an expert, but if a large percent of your money goes into making your product more disposable, then buying the product only insures that it becomes more expencive and less reliable. I haven't mentioned the company I work for, because I'm an environmentalist first and an employee second, but refilling isn't just a respectable enviro-practce, it's a way to keep the economy and market free and un-monopolized. So I don't care if you go to my store, or the other guys, because the other guys haven't spent your money to try to use industry leverage to put me out of business. Anyways, I'm starting to sound grumpy, so I'm going to get off the computer and stare outside for a bit. Its a beautiful day.


Posted by:

Steven
17 Dec 2007

I want to replace my HP7130Xi with an HP officejet or other model like Canon or Okidata but must have all-in-one capabilities like the one I have now that have tried refills twice with not much luck returned both of them. HP told me the printheads being separate was not their idea but the outsourced other manufacurer that did this model for them changed the design. HP claims the new model the printhead is included so get a new fresh one each time change their ink.

The ink is in only a few stores (wholesale stores) but even then the price ia about 65.00 for 2 color and one black! Would like to get into a good fast all in one that is much cheaper to use and can refill the ink without trying to reset chips! Any suggestions?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Including the print head with the ink cartridge is why the price is so high. It's generally seen as a move by printer makers to boost their profits. The Lexmark P4350 may suit your needs.


Posted by:

Al Stevenson
19 Dec 2007

I have a dell 720 printer. I had the original black cartridge refilled several time by Island Ink-jet several times, and bought a new one from Staples when they said they could not refill another time.

I had that one refilled and when I tried to install it,I they installation window, that asks which cartridge is being installed and if it is new, did not have the advance arrow highlighted, and th eprocess could not continue. Same error when I just entered a print command. I bought another from Staples, and the same things happened.

I wonder if any readers have had such a thing happen. I don't know if it a printer problem or a software problem


Posted by:

Emma
04 Feb 2008

I had a Lexmark 2 cartridge refilled for my x3480 printer and was told I needed to reset it for the printer to accept the cartridge as being full but as much as I have tried I can't seem to figure out how to do it. It keeps telling me I'm out of ink still. Any suggestions on how to fix this?

EDITOR'S NOTE: What have you tried? Some cartridges require a chip resetting device.


Posted by:

dorkey
22 Jul 2008

The refilled cartridges should be have original HP inks.because HP’s inks are likely to be more fade resistant and have a greater color. If nothing else, the HP print drivers are developed for use with HP ink components, and the refilled color cartridge is unlikely to be an exact match, so photos may look better with HP ink.


Posted by:

davidthesilverfox
24 Oct 2009

I've been using ink refillers that I bought on the internet for years and have refilled the same Canon cartridges maybe 15 to 20 times! I get great printing, both black and color, but my wife keeps saying we need to get new Canon cartridges because she wants better color. So I broke down and got new cartridges - could not believe the price, I can refill at least 5 times for that! - but the color is WORSE than we had before!!! The black is all over the place, I ruined 8 to 10 pages before we could get a decent copy! I can't wait until it runs out and my refill bottles arrive.!


Posted by:

angelo
01 Dec 2009

I had my ink cartridges refilled and now I am getting an error message on my HP Inkjet 5700, is there a way to get the refilled cartridges to work?


Posted by:

jared joshua t
09 Feb 2013

how wil i fix a cartridge problem that displace error cartridge


Posted by:

Hanston
09 Dec 2013

It would be nice to see a list of printers that can use refillable cartridges without going through some steps to defeat the ink level estimation firmware. We need to stop mindlessly throwing things in the trash, recycle, reuse.


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