The Hewlett-Packard Company settled a lawsuit in which they were accused of using popups prematurely to urge consumers to buy more ink for their small-form printers. For compensation, the settlement requires consumers to meet certain eligibility requirements related to purchase dates and only applies to certain printer models. With this history of uncertainty regarding the useful life of ink cartridges, educating yourself about printer cartridge shelf life helps you make appropriate decisions for your business. Business owners may need to think twice about ordering cartridges in advance. Businesses that don’t use large amounts of ink might consider purchases cartridges only as needed, even if doing so creates added inconvenience.
The packaging materials used to protect ink cartridges enable a shelf life of at least 18 months past the manufacturing and shipping dates. Not all HP printers have expiration dates on ink cartridges. Some printers use the expiration date, but allow the user to override the expiration and continue using the cartridge. The expiration dates exist to prevent the printer components from damage. Over time, ink cartridges get clogged causing the printer to work harder and may result in the need for more expensive repairs. Using an expiration date on certain printer models allows HP to protect the customer by preventing potentially damaging expired cartridges from harming the printing system.
Packages exist to prevent air absorption and limits the evaporation of water. Both air and water evaporation eventually damage and clog cartridges over time. Keeping the ink cartridge in its original packaging until the time comes to install the cartridge helps prolong the length of time before the cartridge goes bad. This becomes especially important on printer models that provide an override option to continue using the cartridge past the expiration date. Over time, ink may evaporate, resulting in a change of ink chemistry. Turning the printer off when not in use and keeping ink cartridges out of direct sunlight and sources of heat helps prevent evaporation.
The date on the side of the ink cartridge package or the cartridge itself only indicates the warranty end date. Determining the expiration date requires an analysis of the ink level, the warranty date and the installation date of the cartridge. Some color printers have an expiration date of 18 months after the initial installation, or 12 months after the warranty end date. Other printers with expiration dates expire 24 months after the warranty end date or 30 months after installation. HP uses whichever date comes first for the official expiration date. Most printers don’t have expiration dates for ink cartridges.
Several factors contribute to the rate that ink gets used. Some ink gets used when preparing to print a new print job. Other times, ink gets purged from the print heads to prevent clogging and damage to the print system. Extended time between print jobs also affects printer performance and may require more aggressive cleaning routines that use additional ink. Some ink leaks from the cartridge and some ink won’t get pulled from the cartridge. Color ink often gets depleted when printing only in black-and-white, and user print modes affect the amount of ink used.
Models With Expirations
Certain Officejet Pro, Photosmart and Designjet models allow for expiration date overrides. Printers without an override include the Officejet Pro K850, Digital Copier Printer 610 and Business Inkjet models. Additionally, some Professional Series, Officejet and Color Inkjet models prevent expiration date overrides. No other HP printers use ink expiration dates. If the model supports overriding the expiration date, the printer typically provides a popup alert asking if you want to ignore the expiration date of the ink cartridge and print anyway.