Refilling Your Printer Ink Cartridges

In most marriages, spouses have different ways in which they are willing to save money, and other things that they're not willing to do without, even if it means spending more money. In my marriage, I'm the one coming up with most of the money saving methods that involve food prep and housework, but I need my varied and tasty food, and occasional entertainment (which is why I recently spent some money at the used book store- no big libraries here). My husband, on the other hand, is willing to go without a lot; he's willing to eat the same boring food over and over (so long as he has ketchup to spice it up) and to spend nothing on entertainment, but does like his occasional electronic gadgets. He's also got lots of ideas up his sleeve as to how to save money in all sorts of ways.

This tip is credited to my dearest husband, Mike, who researched and figured it out all on his own and has taken on the roll of ink-filler-upper.

Back in June I shared an extensive list with many ideas on how to cut back on how much ink you're using, and while it has many useful tips, all those tips do is lengthen the time between ink purchases, but don't allow you to spend less money on the ink itself. As a homeschooler, I find lots of free schooling materials online. Printing workbooks can definitely eat up lots of ink, so this tip is especially appreciated in my home.
With all the printing that we do, we haven't purchased new printer cartridges in a long time.
How do we do it?

Via his Googling, my husband discovered that you can refill your ink cartridges via special (and somewhat expensive) kits. With our inkjet printer cartridges, Mike figured out that you don't need to spend money on those nifty kits and new ink; you can do it yourself without any special equipment, just with things you can find in your house and local grocery store.

Before anything, I'd like to warn you that doing these things will probably void any warranty you'd have on your printers, but being that in most cases, its more expensive to buy cartridges than it is to buy a whole new printer (together with cartridges!), I think that it's worthwhile to do this anyhow.

Printers work by weight, or something like that. Even when printers say that cartridges are empty, the cartridges usually still contain a lot more ink that just goes to waste. According to my husband, if you add some water to the cartridge, the printer is fooled into thinking that you've replaced the cartridge, and will start printing again. The first few times you do so, the quality of the ink is not compromised- it prints things just as dark as before. After doing this many times, the ink will get thinned out a lot, and the printed materials may end up being too light, at which point, you'll want to either replace it or refill it.

If you're printing for your own personal use (no demands as to quality of the printed materials), when the water trick stops working, you can replace the ink with liquid food coloring. Unless you have a source of black food coloring, you can just mix red, yellow, and blue to make a dark brown "ink".
Alternatively, they do sell printer ink for refills, but this will be more expensive than food coloring.

So, how do you refill?
According to my husband, each type of cartridge is slightly different, but all inkjets (I think) have a hole in them with which they can be filled. A syringe works well to refill them. My husband said that on our cartridges theres a little lever to press to release the pressure once you refill them, but I don't know if all cartridges have that.

If there is a metal chip on your cartridge, often ink will dry up and clog it, especially if you go for long periods of time between printing. Rubbing alcohol will soften it, as will soaking it in warm water.

Google the type of printer cartridges you have along with the words "refilling instructions" for more specific instructions for your machine.

If you're too nervous about doing this yourself, many stores sell refilled ink cartridges or will do the task for you, but of course, this while still much cheaper than brand new cartridges, is more expensive than doing it yourself.

P.S. We have 2 types of printers- a Brother DCP 115C, and a Samsung SF 341P.


What type of printer do you have? Inkjet, laser, dot matrix, or something else? How much do replacement cartridges cost you, and how frequently do you replace them?
Have you ever refilled your ink cartridges? Would you ever try it with water or food coloring?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Thank you so much! This post will be very helpful.

  2. I think you should call it frugal genius, I tried putting the colored print heads of my HP564 cartridges on a wet paper towel, then peeled back the label on the back, took a needle & perforated it a few times, then took eye dropper and added water, color was unevenly coming back to print head, so then I blew into the small hole until color came through; bubbly, I tapped lightly and wiped off cartridge, tried them with 90% improvement. I think the trick is knowing exactly how much water to ad, so the printed pic. does not have horizontal lines, too much liquid on the print heads? but adding the food coloring to the water, I think would decrease the amt. of water needed, hopefully preventing the horizontal lines. It will be a challenge to get the magenta color on cue. Life is full of fascinating experiments, and saving money makes me feel smarter. Thanks & God bless you abundantly, Gena

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