How to fix a dry ink cartridge

Dried ink cartridges can completely stop you printing and are a real bane for people who go away often and leave their printer idle. While in a lot of cases you'll need to replace the whole cartridge, there are some workarounds you can try.


What Causes ink to dry up

Infrequent use

People who use their printers only rarely will find that cartridges dry up quickly and can easily become clogged as a result. This can be reduced by printing more frequently or running regular cleans and ink tests to ensure the nozzles remain clean.

Cartridges have expired

Many people are unaware that printer cartridges have expiration dates and using them after this date can lead to problems with printing. We generally advise to never store cartridges longer than 12 months to avoid any issue, and make sure to store them in cool, dry areas away from direct sunlight.

Manually refilling cartridges

If this is done incorrectly it can lead to air getting into the cartridge, drying up the ink and clogging nozzle heads. It's why we only source from reputable remanufacturers with amazing quality control.

Stored near radiators or in warm rooms

Always ensure that your printer is kept in a room with a stable temperature as temperature can affect the performance of your ink cartridges. That desk drawer isn't so helpful if the desk straddles a radiator...


What to do to fix a dry ink cartridge

1: Run printhead cleaning in your printer settings

This option may be available through your computer or as a function on the printer itself. Your user manual will give you guidance if you are unsure how to do this. You'll likely need to run this 4-5 times. 

2: Soak the cartridge

Remove the cartridge from the printer. Place the cartridge in a bowl of warm water (Stinkyink recommends this is done in a bowl and not the bath or a sink to reduce the risk of staining) so that the printer head is immersed. 

For serious blockages you might want to soak a cotton bud in the warm water and rub it across the area of the cartridge where the ink comes out. Remove when ink begins the flow into the water. 

Clean the nozzles dry with a paper towel or lint free cloth and replace into the printer. Repeat step 1. If you do need to repeat this more than twice we recommend that you buy a new cartridge as it is likely to be unfixable.


If you are frequently getting dried ink cartridges it might be worth buying a more suitable printer where the printhead is built into the ink cartridge. This means when the printhead dries up you only have to replace the cartridge, with no risk of the printer getting damaged. Pop over to our printer buying guides to see our top recommendations.

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