With the need to print invoices, contracts, proposals and other documents, it’s relatively easy to go through a lot of ink or toner at the office. Consequently, you probably have to purchase replacement cartridges frequently. However, while purchasing a few extras to keep on hand is a good idea, be careful not to buy too many cartridges, as they may not be fit for use if you store them improperly or for too long.
Sell By Dates
When buying ink or toner cartridges for your printer, always check the “Sell By” or “Warranty Expiration” dates on the packaging. On many cartridge boxes, there is a label for the date on the rear that displays the month and year after which the manufacturer does not guarantee the ink to be fit for your printer. Over time, air can get inside the box and antistatic bag in which manufacturers package cartridges, and degrade the ink or toner’s composition. Nevertheless, you can usually still use cartridges from unopened packaging up to about two years after purchase if you store them properly.
Built-In Expiration Dates
While most manufacturers print “Sell By” or “Warranty Expiration” dates on packages, they seldom place true expiration dates for the cartridges themselves. However, many printer makers include a built-in expiration date for the ink or toner, which they encode into the chip of the cartridge. Consequently, if you have a cartridge package with a "Warranty Expiration" or "Sell By" date more than two years old, be cautious when attempting to install and use the ink or toner. Depending on the way you stored the cartridge, it may be fine and still be serviceable. However, before you start printing with an old cartridge right away, look for signs that the printer has problems initializing or cycling the cartridge before the first print job. Most printers do allow you to override the expiration date warning, but it’s not always a good idea to do so. Therefore, if you have any problems at all during the initial cycling or initialisation of the cartridge, remove it and replace it immediately.
New Versus Remanufactured
Another factor that determines how long you can store a printer cartridge is its condition when you first buy it. Generally speaking, you can store new printer cartridges safely much longer than you can refill or remanufacture ones. This is simply because refilled or remanufactured cartridges often do not have seals that are as tight as those on new ones, or may have additional injection holes used to introduce new ink or toner. Just as with new ones, the way you store refilled or remanufactured cartridges affects how long you can use them. Nevertheless, try to use refilled or remanufactured cartridges within six months of the purchase date. With most new cartridges, you should be able to store them safely for at least 18 months as long as the "Sell By" or "Warranty Expiration" date is valid when you buy them.
By following a few simple guidelines for storing your cartridges, you can keep them in top condition for extended periods and avoid damaging or ruining your printer. Proper storage of cartridges starts as soon as you purchase them. Never leave cartridges in a hot car for more than a few minutes. Additionally, store the cartridges with their packaging in the upright position and in rooms with temperatures between 15 °C and 24 °C. Under no circumstances should you store cartridges in rooms with temperatures below 10 °C or above 35 °C. Finally, do not store the cartridges inside cabinets or closets that also have gaseous cleaning materials, such as ammonia or bleach. Gaseous cleaning chemicals may degrade the composition of the ink or toner, reducing its shelf life substantially.
Storing Used Cartridges
If you print documents regularly, you should not have problems with the ink or toner inside the printer going bad. However, if you plan to go on vacation or be out of the office for an extended period, the cartridge inside the printer may dry out or become unusable in your absence. Avoid this by removing the cartridge from the printer, and then sealing it in a re-sealable zipper storage bag with a damp sponge. After you wet the sponge, wring it out until water no longer drips from it but it is still damp. Insert both the cartridge and the damp sponge into the bag, and then close the seal. Place the sealed bag in a dark cabinet or closet. Using this method, you should be able to store the used cartridge safely for up to two or three months.