Does Printer Ink Expire

The simple answer is yes, printer ink does expire. A general rule for ink cartridges is that they last two to three years if in their original package and with appropriate storage. The ink expiry date is a key thing that ink dealers and office manufacturers who like to buy in bulk should consider.

Ink is the backbone for running all the print needs of an office. Thus, businesses should optimize it for long-term use. So how do you devise the expiration dates of your printer ink? Let’s figure it out;

Why Does Printer Ink have Expiry Dates?

The value a printer adds to a business is undeniable. Printers save us from the hustle of going back to the ancient ways of handwritten documents and letters. Thus, the expiry date of the cartridges is necessary as it warns you about when you need a replacement. You’ll not suffer being left with a fully unfunctional printer with unexpected expiry dates.

Moreover, it’s important to note that sunlight, excess air circulation, water evaporation, and high temperatures degrade your ink. No matter the expiration dates, printer ink loses value if exposed to these factors, which may change its color and consistency, thus affecting the print quality and putting your printer at risk of damage.

When Does Printer Ink Expire?

An ink cartridge expires once it dries up. Though this may differ from one brand to another, inkjet printers have more durable cartridges than other printers today. Generally, ink expires at the time specified by the manufacturer, and most printers send an alert when the expiry is nearing. On the downside, the printer ink can also expire before the dates in case of improper storage.

Early printer ink can expire when;

  1. If the printer is not used constantly: The ink needs to move around often to ensure durability; failing to use your printer consistently may cause your ink to clump up and eventually dry up.
  2. Storing and operating your printer near a source of heat: Ink lasts longer under optimal temperatures. While extremely cold temperatures cause the ink to solidify, very hot temperatures, on the other hand, will cause it to dry up.
  3. Unsealed cartridge: The seal on ink cartridges is necessary to protect your ink. It prevents ink spill and prevents excess air from circulating in ink. While air is important to keep printer ink fresh longer, too much of it can contaminate and degrade the ink. Note that sealed cartridges still expire, but keeping them open fastens the expiry.

The Expiry Date of HP Printer Ink

The DaVinci Code (the expiry date for the HP ink cartridge) stamped on the HP cartridge can be challenging to interpret. However, you can break down the code as follows;

  • The country of origin indicated by the leading four digits
  • Subsequent six digits stand for the install by date
  • Next batch indicates the date of manufacture
  • The last set of four digits could be for internal tracking purposes

HP ink cartridge has two dates indicated; manufacture and warranty date, which is 24 months after manufacturing. Some will also come with the” install by” date, six months before the warranty date and 18 months after the manufacture date.

Expiry Date of Canon Printer Ink

Canon has claimed that its ink never expires as long as it stays in its original air-tight packaging. The coding on their packaging remains mysterious, making it hard to determine when ink will expire. Nevertheless, the ink will not dry out as long as the seal is not broken and the ink is stored right.

Expiry Date of Epson Printer Ink

A “Best If Used By” date is indicated on Epson ink cartridges 24 months past the manufacturing date. Furthermore, Epson recommends changing ink every six months for quality prints. Some research proves that Epson ink degrades the print quality after its expiration and may not be ideal for accuracy like in fine art prints.

Expiration Dates for Other Printer Ink Manufactures

  • Brother has it that its ink has a shelf life of two years and a minimum of 6 months after opening. This duration offers standard value to the user.
  • Xerox uses solid ink sticks with the manufacturing date and shipping date labeled on the package. They support the absence of an expiry date with claims that their ink never expires as long as it’s stored properly with the original box and tightly sealed.
  • Oki has a two years shelf life and lasts six months after opening. The company manufactures ink for its wide format rich color printers like its ColorPainter line.
  • Lexmark has a 24 months shelf life and lasts six months once out of the package
  • Panasonic makes several inkjet printers that use pigment-based ink. Their ink too Lasts six months when in use and has a shelf life of two years.
  • Ricoh limits its production to ink only for their high-end wide format printers. This ink lasts two years in storage and six months after opening.
  • Samsung has set its production on laser printers and quit manufacturing ink or inkjet printers
  • Sharp states that their printer ink has a shelf life of 20 months and lasts to a minimum of 6 months after installation.

 Can You Use Printer Ink That is Out of Date?

So long as the cartilage is not far out of the expiration dates and if stored properly, it can continue to function normally. A recently bought printer cartridge with signs of fade or strained lines could indicate that it’s near the expiration date or was not stored appropriately.

Note that some printers like those from HP may reject expired ink. This rejection is notable with the error alert on display. If you still use expired ink on your printer, the manufacturer may not cover the warranty damages.

The Durability of Opened and Unopened Printer Ink

Opened Ink Cartridge

Opened printer ink lasts a maximum of six months. Beyond this time, the ink will lose its quality and may yield poor results in the long run. Epson recommends replacing ink cartridges every six months, while HP recommends installing the cartridge as soon as you unpack from its original packaging.

Nevertheless, if you are not installing the ink straight after purchase, store it in an air-tight plastic container with the nozzle facing side up. Also, ensure to screw the cap on properly before storing it if twisted off at purchase.

To increase the humidity levels, dampen a rag, place it in the tank, and be keen not to touch the exposed print head with anything. Of course, everyone wants the ink to serve them longer. So, before beginning to print, be sure to do a nozzle test and clean the head. Doing this promotes a smooth printing process and keeps clogging at bay. This will, in turn, extend the life of the ink.


If ink needs to be used constantly after opening, does unopened in expire? Or how long can printer ink last in the package? Generally, unopened printer ink has a shelf life of up to two years. Beyond this time, the sponge which connects the cartridges to the print heads can eventually dry out, and the cartridge may lose quality or functionality.

After two years, even printer ink in the right storage may separate and sludge. However, Canon claims that their ink cartridges maintain their quality even after years of appropriate storage. Canon recommends storing the cartridges without breaking the air-tight seals to ensure durability.

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Printer Ink

Making the ink cartridges last longer is simple. If the seal is not broken, store them properly and in the right conditions to get the most out of their life.

  • Store them side up or upright
  • Keep them in their original air-tight pack without breaking the seal
  • Ensure to store in a dry place at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. For installed cartridges, ensure to use your printer often so the ink will not dry out and clog the printheads.

While these measures can make the ink last longer past its expiry date, you’ll need to be extra careful with remanufactured printer ink. Depending on the brand and purchase, remanufactured ink cartridges may not come in original packaging and mostly have a maximum shelf life of one year.

Although both new and remanufactured ink calls for the same protective measure, the latter comes with a bag or box packaging, which is not air-tight. For safe storage, transfer the cartridge into a re-sealable air-tight bag like a sandwich so the ink will not dry out.

Pro Tips to Keep Printer Ink Fresh

Whether you have installed your cartridge or stored it for later use, you can keep it fresh by doing the following;

  • Print one or two color pages every week if the printer is not used often. Consistent printing ensures that the ink does not settle far too long in the machine and thus prevents clogging and ink drying. A test page is the best go-to print page when you need something quick
  • If you have transferred the ink from its original packaging into a re-sealable bag, seal it with a damp sponge to keep the ink from drying. The moisture will aid in maximizing the shelf life of the printer ink as the ink will stay moist in the cartridge


Managing office supplies is overwhelming enough without considering ink expiries. To avoid the challenges of managing ink stock, you can opt for a subscription service that automatically monitors and orders the ink. This service will save you the risk of ink expiry that is mostly associated with bulk ink purchases. Nevertheless, we have gone into depth about everything you need to know about printer ink expiry. You can avoid it.

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