Ask LH: Will Non-Genuine Ink Damage My Printer?

Ask LH: Will Non-Genuine Ink Damage My Printer?

Dear Lifehacker, We all know that ink is ridiculously overpriced. The printer companies always say to stay away from non-genuine ink, but is there really any damage that non-genuine ink cartridges can do to your printers? Thanks, Ink Twice

Ink picture from Shutterstock

Dear IT,

Printer manufacturers make most of their money through the selling of ink, so it’s not surprising that they want you to avoid third-party products.

I’ve personally never experienced any issues with no-name ink other than the fact that it sometimes confuses the printer’s ink gauge. This can result in bogus warnings about running out of ink when there’s still plenty left in the ribbon. In other words, you’re forced to ignore the alerts and instead keep an eye out for fading ink; a slight annoyance.

Otherwise, the main issue with cheap ink is a higher potential for colour inaccuracy. Because printers’ colour profiles are based on their own ink, you might notice some minor colour errors if you swap over to a different brand. That said, the issue should only be of concern if you require perfect results. For most users, the abnormalities should be small enough to ignore.

On another note, it might be a good idea to check the warranty information for your printer — the terms and conditions may stipulate that using no-name ink voids the warranty. That said, if you’re using a budget printer in the region of $100, the risks are probably worthwhile.


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  • So many damn printers returned because third party or refilled cartridges leaked inside them. Generally they work fine but it’s always a risk. Some third party cartridges actually have their own warranty that will replace your printer it’s proven their ink broke it. Just something to think about outside the printer’s warranty itself.

  • In our case we tried an “alternative” ink cartridge for two different printers and the same issue occured… they leaked in the printer. The second time I think I saw what the problem was, the way they had manufactured the removable parts of the cartridge caused the “seal” to be broken thereby giving room for the ink to escape. As the manufacturers ink never had this problem (this is with both a previous Canon printer and now a HP) I’m far too gun shy to try them again… it’s not worth the risk for me… but am glad to know some work perfectly well enough.

  • My Father in Law has a Canon MFP which flat out refuses to work with a generic ink cartridge, whilst I have had serveral Canon printers which are fine with third party ink. Lesson, your mileage may vary. Never had a leak either, just lucky I guess.

  • I use Precision Colors ink replacements in my Canon Pro9500 II, and they work beautifully. Not the cheapest, but the colors are spot on according to my colorimeter. Considering a full refill costs around $35 vs $350ish (10 x $35) for Canon genuines…

  • Plenty left in the… ribbon? Inkjets? 😛

    The confusion happens usually when you refill genuine cartridges rather than buying ones meant to be refilled. There are tools to reset them. In some models/brands especially these chips actually actively prevent ANY refilling, even if technically possible.. Which is about the worst thing for the environment possible obviously..

    Also printer companies DO make most of their money from selling ink to the point where MANY consumer printers are actually sold at a direct loss to the company.. This is generally to blame for the overall decline of the consumer printing market, since printing remains strong in the face of facebook etc etc, but prices are continually beaten by off market alternatives.

  • Inkjet Cartridge refilling is a messy affair, but I’ve never had a significant leak or printer failure from it. If you’re refilling ink cartridges frequently, you’d be better served with a colour laser. I refill my ink powder every 4000 pages. Its infrequent and doesn’t leave much mess.

  • Higher grades of generics are normally fine, ones with chips, with printer and ink guarantees etc. However, I’ve had plenty of customers with knock off cartridges that have leaked, aren’t recognised by the printer or require a chip swap that gets bodged. Worth a go, but there are a few choices of non-genuine brand, best to go for a better one and make life easier on yourself.

  • How legit is it for the warranty to be voided if non-genuine cartridges are used? That sounds a lot like the car industry with their “Service with a dealer only using only our brand oils and filters” which has since been made an illegal practice.

  • it depends on the ink being used, too – I know a decent number of pro photographers (who are naturally quite interested in extreme colour fidelity/quality) who use third-party inks, but only very specific ones, not just the one you buy down the street.

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