From the Tips Box: Revitalizing Ink Cartridges with a Water Infusion

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If you’re convinced your ink cartridge has more ink to share than it is willing to give up, you’re right. Read on to see how How-To Geek reader Max squeezes extra life out of his cartridges with plain old water.

Max wrote in with his simple solution. He wasn’t as interested in refilling his cartridges as he was in getting all the ink out of them. Here’s his detailed guide to getting nearly every drop of ink out of your high-priced ink cartridge:

The ink in many brands of ink jet printer cartridges is generally water soluble. To see if your ink is water soluble, wet your finger and rub it across a page from your printer you don’t mind wasting.  If the print smears the ink is obviously water soluble.

The top of the printer cartridge generally has the manufacturer’s label attached. It covers tiny holes through which the ink was injected into the cartridge during manufacture.

Each of the ink chambers contains a small sponge which holds a miserably tiny quantity of ink. When the ink runs out it is only the water content that is missing. There is still plenty of color left in the sponge.

How do you remedy this dried up sponge problem? Suck up about 3ml of water into a syringe and probe the paper label until you locate the filling holes. Poke the needle through the paper into the hole and inject about 3ml of water into the sponge chamber.

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Important precautions and considerations: color cartridges generally have three or more filling holes and black cartridges may only have one (although it is possible both types of plastic cartridges may be of the same physical design so either types may have three or more holes). The black cartridge may only have one sponge and yet it may have several filling holes, so don’t over fill it. Unfortunately the only way to establish the exact design of the brand of cartridges you use is to hack one apart and look inside. Photo by zeathiel.

Once refilled you can ignore warnings that the ink is low until such time as you notice the quality of your printing is beginning to suffer.

This method just about doubles the life of a cartridge and doesn’t appear to damage the printer.

If you’re simply looking to extend the effective printing life of your cartridges before throwing them away this is a great solution for situations where you don’t mind slightly decreasing print quality to save some serious cash. It’s also a good step between squeezing extra life out of the cartridges and outright refilling them. If you use distilled water there is little reason to expect any damage at all to the cartridge and the cartridge can easily be refilled with replacement ink in the future. Thanks for sharing Max!

Have a tip of your own to share? Send us an email at tips@howtogeek.com; the best tips will find their way to a future From the Tips Box post!

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.