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My mother needs to print photos of the family, but since photos have 100% coverage, the ink cartridges run out quickly. Buying new cartridges is far too expensive (it would be significantly cheaper to just have them printed at a photo shop). So as an alternative, we are looking at ink refill kits.

I have a few questions and concerns about them however:

  1. Do they even work? That is, will there be any significant difference from using a real cartridge?

  2. Is it safe? Will I be damaging my printer? (If the ink is poor quality, the cartridge may be ruined, but that seems to be the case anyway since you have to drill a hole in them.) If so, then can the cartridge be refilled over and over again?

  3. Are there any compatibility issues? I would think that so long as the colors are correct, ink would be ink (particle and nozzle size notwithstanding), yet some refill kits list specific cartridge models or advertise ink that is "specially formulated for X printers/cartridges".

I am also wondering the same things about laser printer toner refills for myself.

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I suppose if the ink/toner is of reasonably good quality, it should be okay. If the cartridge is already empty, then the worst that could happen is that the bad ink clogs it and ruins it, but you were going to throw it out anyway, so at worst, you waste the $20 or so it cost to buy the refill kit. Frankly, considering the absurdly high cost of ink and toner these days, it’s certainly worth trying a refill kit. –  Synetech Nov 29 '13 at 19:49

3 Answers 3

I use the toner refills and I am happy to report they work fine. The refilling does need to be done with care because toner dust is an irritant, so you don't want it spilling all over the place. Fortunately toner refills usually come with plastic gloves, a funnel and full instructions.

Through the use of toner cartridges, and forcing your printer to keep going until the toner really is empty (cover the sensor holes with tape: until printing quality noticeably diminishes, don't waste your money on a refill), you can reduce your printing costs considerably. I run a sports sunglasses supply business and we use our little Brother printer a lot so keeping the cost of these consumables down is vital.

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Its a good idea to your homework before getting a printer - some brands are easier than others (canon has been reliable for us, tho we eventually worked out how to do it with dells too) - generally refilling the ink will void your warranty (but in many cases, that's easy to work around - swap in a non refilled cartridge if needed). There is also supposed to be some risk of print head clogging.

In my experience i haven't had too many issues with refilling printer inks. Apparently the formulation differs based on the ink type (pigment based ink vs Dye based ink) - which is why there's brand specific inks.

Dumb cartridges refill better - IE, the cartridge itself dosen't have the print head built in, and as such there's no 'intelligence' in the cartridge. Some printers also have RFID chips to monitor if a cart is genuine (dell does this. You can sort of tell the printer to ignore an empty cart and print anyway, so its an anti 3rd party ink rather than an anti refill measure. Ideally cartridges should have NO logic whatsoever in them, or minimal logic. We've never had print head clogging, so far, but in general deep cleaning should fix it (or in many cases they are user replaceable - I haven't worked out how expensive that is yet)

Not all ink carts need you to drill a hole - with canons, we punched a hole in with a special tool, and with some others (dell), you inject the ink with a hypodermic needle into one of the holes already on the printer.

Finally, most printers will NOT detect ink levels on refilled cartridges, so you'll need to monitor ink levels yourself. Its fairly easy on printers with ink tanks, as opposed to having the ink soaked in a sponge, but its something to keep in mind.

Laser printer toners.. eh, don't do it yourself. that dust is NASTY. I've seen some office printers use big bottles of toner which might be more sensible. For regular printers... its probably not practical.

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I don't know anything about the toner refills, but the ink jet refills generally work and are also generally safe, if you get the correct kit for your printer. The only issue that I have encountered with them is that the colors make come out a little off because the ink formulation is not exact (this is especially true refilling HP printer cartridges).

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But what does "correct kit for your printer" mean? Like I said, assuming compatible colors and dye-particle size, should not ink be ink (ie, colored liquid)? –  Bobson Sep 26 '11 at 3:06
    
Some refill kit manufacturers make them for specific printers. Some make 'universal' kits. Just make sure the box says it will work with your printer. –  Justin Pearce Sep 26 '11 at 3:08

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