Self Refilling Ink In Printer Cartridges

Inkjet printers, are rather common in households and small scale offices. These printers are cheap because the technology used in them is cheap — ink spraying. There are cartridges filled with ink and an electrical circuit to control which pores are opened and which are not. And it generates the characters and images on the paper.

Why you should refill ink in the cartridges yourself?

Because, it’s cheaper, and you do it properly. A lot of shops can be found offering cartridge refilling services, but they charge like $1 or more for refilling a cartridge and don’t do it properly. I’ve often had to buy new cartridges due them filling poor quality ink and choking or spoiling the electrical circuits.

The refill kit is available for around $10 and half a litre of black ink costs around the same, $10. So if you calculate, you can refill the cartridge 50 times (assuming each refill takes 10mL) and the cost per refill comes out to be $0.4, including the equipment cost as well. If you don’t include that, then it’s $0.2. Very cheap!

Refilling cartridges may void warranty of your printer, so you better check with manufacturer’s terms before attempting this.

For the environment enthusiasts, I would like to point out that refilling cartridges is environment friendly — because every time you buy a new cartridge, the product has gone through various industrial processes, new plastic is used, etc. Also, when you dump your old cartridge in garbage, it simply goes into dumping grounds and as you might be knowing, plastic takes ages to decay, so why not recycle it?

As of writing this, I myself have refilled my printer’s black cartridge about 5 times, which means I saved $15 * 5 – $20 = $55.

Some printers have detachable print heads and others have non-detachable print heads. In printers with detachable print heads, the electrical circuits to control pores along with the ink supply are enclosed in one single detachable part (that’s why detachable head). In printers with non-detachable heads, the electrical circuits to control pores are fixed with the printer, while the ink supply is a different unit and can be replaced.

If you have a printer with a non-detachable print head, make sure that you buy good quality ink, otherwise the pores could get blocked and would cost you a lot to get it repaired. You should be concerned about the ink quality even with detachable print heads, because the print heads cost around $12 or above, depending on the quantity of ink, the make, and other factors. You don’t want to spend on new cartridges because the pores got choked due to bad quality ink, do you? But in general, if you have a printer with a detachable print head, you’re on a safer side, in the sense that you can buy a new original cartridge if for some reason the one you’re using gets choked.

Enough of discussion about print heads and stuff, now let’s come to the point — how do you refill the cartridges?

In this article I’ll be covering the refill process only for detachable heads due to certain limitations, which should give you an idea about refilling non-detachable heads as well. It’s quite simple, there are holes provided to inject ink into the cartridge. The photo below is of a HP 21 cartridge (black). The top sticker has been removed and you can clearly see the hole.

Color cartridges have three holes instead of one, because they contain inks of three different colors – Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. If you want to refill color cartridges, you have to buy inks of all three colors separately. To refill the cartridge, you simply need a syringe, a needle and a bottle of ink. Yes, that’s it! But, as I stated earlier, refill kits are available, which do a much better job. They come with a syringe and a blunt needle, so that you don’t inject ink into yourself! Also, a case (box) to carry out the process so that spilling does not occur. Below is a photo of the ink refill kit I bought from eBay.

The process is very simple. You fill the syringe with ink and then inject it very slowly into the cartridge. If you bought a refill kit, then follow the kit’s instructions.

That’s all, enjoy refilling and saving the money as well the environment :)

Published by

Nilesh Govindrajan

Nilesh is a student of computer engineering in Pune who takes crazy interest in Linux and Linux-related fields. He blogs at Follow him on twitter: @nileshgr

  • Lbrewer42

    Great info, but this is only half of the story…

    I have been refilling since the mid 90’s. One major problem people may run into is that printer companies do not like you refilling your own ink and so build programmed hindrances into their printers/cartridges.

    Sometimes the refilled cart. will not work b/c as it empties, the system tags it as being emptied. Then you need to know how to reset this. I had an HP where you had to know which contacts on the cart to cover with tape so when you reinserted it, the system saw it as a new cart and not a refilled one.

    Another problem is that the printer can also reject the cart. if it is too old. Somehow they build a date into them. I have even had name brand carts. that I pulled from original packaging, that when installed, the printer said I needed a new one b/c this one was out of date. I called the tech service and, thankfully, the operator gave me the reset code over the phone (it was a series of button pushed on the printer).

    You might need to look online and do some research to find your printer codes. So if you refill and it does not work – it might not be you – it might be the manufacturer who has decided he would rather have you buy his carts instead – after all – this is how companies such as Lexmark could always afford to give away free printers with computer systems. They “knew” they had you (well…some of us).

    And one more thing. I like Lexmark print quality, but these printers are ink suckers. My HPs have always used half of what the Lexmark machines I have had used. I cannot guarantee it, but this seems to me to be more of a money making ploy.

    Use a search engine and do your homework. You may also find you need a different quality ink than someone else does by which manufacturer you choose. Never buy a “universal” refill kit unless you know what you are doing as there is no such thing – they are only labeled this way. It only takes a bit more internet time (not money) to find the right refill for our printer.

    And, no, I do NOT own a refill business – this is just sharing from around 17 years of refilling experience for personal use.

  • Nice info that is. About the cartridge being reported as empty, the Linux HPLIP driver reports the status as ‘Good/OK’, but the ink level is reported as zero.

    Also, I agree with you about this being a possible money making ploy.

    I don’t really know how big the problem of cartridge rejection is, the number of cartridges refilled here in India — There are about 5-8 shops which do this in the area I live.

    The process of refilling is as simple as injecting ink with a plain syringe, how would a refill kit make a difference? In my case, I bought it just for the blunt needles and neat job it does: spills ink inside the box, so doesn’t get you dirty.

  • Nilesh you have write nicely. Refill ink cartridges ownself
    is a great way save some cash. Just need
    a refill kit that contains the tools you need to complete the task. Another benefit of recycle ink cartridges is we
    also saving the environment.