Many major manufacturers of printer cartridges have long been indicating an expiration date on their products. Does a printer cartridge expire, then?

Shelf Life of Printer Cartridges
The shelf life of cartridges refers to the estimated timeframe that a cartridge lasts inside the sealed package. This length of time can differ based on the specific type of cartridge that you use. The shelf life of original printer cartridges is up to 24 months while the shelf life for compatible cartridges can reach up to 36 months.

After some time, the ink will dry out and settle within the cartridge that can cause clogging in your printer. To prevent clogs, it is recommended to print once every two weeks for your cartridges to stay primed. Toner cartridges don’t dry out like ink cartridges because of the toner powder’s plastic nature. However, the internal cartridge components will soon wear out after some time.

Why is There an Expiration Date on Your Printer Cartridge?
Expiration dates are used by printer manufacturers to encourage the consumers to use their ink before it can become prone to print quality concerns or clogs. These expiration days are typically found on the side of the cartridge box or the side of the printer cartridge.

Similar to expiration dates on food products, expiration dates on cartridges must always be taken with a grain of salt. Different factors aside from the expiration date alone can contribute to the ultimate deterioration of printer cartridges that include how you store it, the storage environment’s temperature, and if it is still inside the sealed package or not.

Proper Storage of Cartridges
A printer cartridge must be stored in an upright position all the time. If you store a cartridge upside down or on its side, the ink in the cartridge is going to shift to one side, potentially resulting in print quality problems when you install it in the printer.

Cartridges are best stored at room temperature in a dry and dark place. If you expose your cartridge to extreme cold or heat, the quality of the print will soon deteriorate, and there are instances where the cartridge may end up unusable. Ink can bubble up and leak because of heat, while colder temperatures can make the ink separate. But, after the cold cartridge readjusts to the temperature of the room, it should still be able to print.

Can You Use a Printer Cartridge After Its Expiration Date?
As long as you properly store your cartridge in the right environment, it will still be possible for you to use it past its expiration date. Even though you can’t expect sealed ink cartridges to last forever, many of them are meant to last for a minimum of two years following the date of purchase. You can still get some use out of your cartridge even if two years have already passed, so you might still want to try using it. However, there is also the risk that your printhead might get clogged if you get an expired cartridge. Fixing it might be potentially pricey, so remember this before installation.