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DIY Printer Ink Cartridge Refill Options

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If you're a modern computer user, you've undoubtedly wondered whether some of those inkjet cartridge refill programs are a bargain or a scam. A. Lizard examines the various options for keeping those old cartridges out of the landfill and possibly saving a few pennies along the way.

The tradeoff for inkjet printing has always been the cost of the printer versus the total cost of ownership. Buy a sub–$50 printer, and replacing the cartridges will probably cost even more than the printer did—over and over. And all those cartridges ordinarily wind up in landfills. But there are alternatives:

  • Pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a laser printer.
  • Refill the cartridges yourself.
  • Have your cartridges refilled by a third party.

Do It Yourself?

You may get the best results with printer cartridges like the midrange and high-end Canon models have, which are simple ink tanks and don't have the print head built in. One-shot print heads aren't designed to last forever.

These kits aren't for everybody. Some people need fairly precise vendor ink matching. Photo printing, for instance, is one area in which small differences can become big ones. If you don't deal well with tools, don't like to follow instructions to the letter, and are really afraid of making a mess, you don't want one of these kits.

The procedure seems relatively simple:

  1. Drill a hole where the diagram says to put it.
  2. Through the hole, pump in the amount of ink that the instructions specify, using the included syringe.
  3. Do anything else specified in the instructions.

Printer ink refill kits aren't difficult to use, and you can get good results with them. Break the plastic button off the provided hand drill/gimlet and chuck it into a drill (low speed) or cordless screwdriver.

A few extra suggestions for refilling a cartridge:

  • Put down newspaper before you get started.
  • Make sure that you're following the instructions for the right cartridge.
  • Don't overfill.
  • Unless the instructions say otherwise, immediately after refilling you should clean the syringe used to inject the ink. Fill the syringe with warm water and spray the water out of the syringe nozzle. Repeat if necessary.

Good luck.

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