While running a printing job yesterday, I noted that the black was starting to print a touch thin. Paused the job, and when I removed the cartridge, had a thought. Employing the same physics as getting the last of the ketchup out of the bottle, I took the cartridge in my right hand and smacked the heel of my right against the palm of my left a half-dozen times. After wiping off the bottom of the cartridge, I stuck it back in the printer and resumed the print job. Another 20 documents were produced before the quality started to drop off, and I repeated the process.
Do any thrifty Dopers have other ideas regarding getting the maximum mileage on print cartridges?
Ink cartridges vary in their design; printers that do not incorporate the print head into the cartridge (notably Epson) typically don’t like part-used cartridges being removed and may refuse to print with them when they are reinserted.
Some (maybe most) printers don’t physically sense the residual ink levels in the tank, but calculate it based on the number of droplets used so far; in these cases, the printer driver may tell you it’s time to change the ink, but you may be allowed to carry on printing until you feel the output has actually declined. - which I’d recommend - I’ve had cases where the cartridge was reported empty but carried on printing for ages.
Some printer cartridges contain a sponge to stop the ink from slopping about and to attenuate its flow to the nozzles, but this can sometimes work to your disadvantage if you’re printing high-coverage sheets; allowing a minute or two for the ink to flow down through the sponge can gain a new lease of life out of apparently dead cartridges.
In addition to the ‘sauce bottle’ method you mentioned, there’s also the ‘centrifuge’ - either:
-go outdoors, hold the printer cartridge in your hand so that the nozzles are facing away from you, then whip your arm so as to force the ink towards the nozzles, or:
-Put the cartridge in a sturdy plastic bag, position it so that the nozzles are pointing away from the opening of the bag, seal the top and swing it in rapid circles.
Finally (and again, for users of Epson printers) some printers contain a large block of absorbent material that is used to catch the (surprisingly large volumes of) ink that is squirted through the print heads during the priming and cleaning processes; the printer maintains a ‘waste ink counter’ which is supposed to indicate whether these absorbent blocks are full up, but in practice, I’ve found that it goes off very very early indeed (when they are perhaps less than a quarter used); the user is presented with a message ‘printer requires servicing’ (‘service’ a £40 inkjet printer? yeah, right) and nothing can be printed…unless you install this independent freeware utility and use it to reset the waste ink counter. Of course, this might mean that your waste ink reservoir overflows, causing a huge mess (never happened in my experience), so use at your own risk.
For laser printers, removing the toner pack and tipping it gently one end up then the other often results in extended use when toner is running out.