How to fix a dry ink cartridge Jul 06, 2011 15:54 by Matt Bird

Why do ink cartridges dry up and what can I do to prevent this?

There are a number of reasons why people find that, despite their being plenty of ink in their cartridges, the nozzles have dried up and fail to print properly.

  1. The most common cause for this is infrequent usage. 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.
  2. A second common cause of the nozzle heads becoming dry and clogged is expiration dates. Many people are unaware that printer cartridges have expiration dates and using them after this date can lead to problems with printing. To minimise this risk always check expiration dates and only buy what you need to ensure your cartridges don’t expire.
  3. Some people choose to use refilled cartridges. If this is done incorrectly it can lead to air getting into the cartridge, drying up the ink and clogging nozzle heads. Be careful when refilling cartridges or ensure this is professionally done.
  4. Always ensure that your printer is kept in a room with a stable temperature as temperature can affect the performance of your ink cartridges.


What can I do to fix a dry ink cartridge?

There are a few methods to try if you find that your printer cartridge heads have become clogged.

  1. Run your print-head cleaning function on your printer. 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. If you have to continually repeat this then follow the steps below.
  2. If your cartridge continues to be blocked then you will need to 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.
  3. If you find yourself repeating these instructions on a regular basis printer cartridge cleaning kits are available to suit different models and makes.


Matthew Bird+ is “Printer Man” at, and writes the helpful articles you all love. When not writing about printers, he is dreaming about printers, and he is happy that way.

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  1. Ellen says:

    Your instructions say to immerse the printer head in warm water. Please clarify. Does that mean the entire cartridge is immersed? Thank You!

    • Matt Bird says:

      Hi Ellen,

      No, just the printhead part of the cartridge. It’s the bit where the ink comes out and should be easy to spot when you take the cartridge out of the printer :)

  2. Kristopher Vincent says:

    Going with a wet piece of cotton worked like a charm. Thanks!!

  3. Wigginton says:

    It worked for me. My replacement cartridges – from you – had been around since March 2017 and were dried up. I did as you recommend, soaking them in water, and it worked. Maybe the Yellow is still a little pale, but basically OK.
    But I won’t order cartridges again that long before I need them.

  4. Tim says:

    I have this problem too and only ever with the black ink and not with any other colour.

    If regular printing of test sheets doesn’t work, I have found that taking the black ink cartridge out and putting a couple of drops of isopropyl alcohol/head cleaning fluid into the ink dispensing hole dissolves the blockages and everything works again once the cartridge is replaced.

  5. Alan Lessack says:

    we only use our Epsom WF-2630 printer for 3-4 each year. I remove the cartridges before leaving.
    I installed new cartridges upon our return and no success and then called Epsom. They determined the
    problem being dried ink in the system and repeated cleaning of the printer heads and nozzles was
    unsuccessful. They suggested taking the printer to a 3 party but the cost would be as much as buying anew printer.

    My question is there another approach to fixing the problem…..if not…
    what type of printer would be better that is not using inkjet??

  6. Your my hero, after no help from my local ink company , looked on line did what you suggested soaking ink cartridge in warm water, I have my printer back. Just in time for printing off my boarding passes. Thank you so much.

  7. Anurag says:

    Thank you!
    It worked :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much sir, you are brilliant, it worked..

  9. Anonymous says:

    thank you very much, it worked for me, your a big help

  10. Shashi says:

    It worked!! Thanks a lot!

  11. Kevin says:

    It worked

  12. Myrna says:

    I am a snowbird and leave my apartment for 6 months. Should I remove the cartridges from the printer? If so, what should I do with them?

  13. CP says:

    I had almost the same cartridge as your display above, it hadn’t been used for 2 years or so. I took a while getting even water into the dry ink, but I used a syringe and wet the whole metal strip, then focused on areas that didn’t absorb water as quick- by adding more of the cold water and leaving until the droplets absorbed in. I shook the cartridge a few times, works perfectly having at least 2/3 ink left. Thank you.

  14. Estelle says:

    Thank you sooooo much. Worked perfectly. Only have to soak it in the warm water for a minute and dry it. You are a genious!!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. It does work.

  16. Aaqib says:

    My printer started working after three head cleanings.Thanks!

  17. ermma says:

    omg this worked

  18. Morgan says:

    Only moly this worked in just 20 sc than you very much Sir.

  19. Colin says:

    Thank you very much.
    Worked for me.
    Glass of red now!

  20. Dushan says:

    THANKS Matthew, worked for me.
    Just a couple of seconds the top of the cartridge was soaked in warm water, and it started to flow.

    Have a nice day.

  21. David Coolwater says:

    HOLY COW!!!
    Matthew Bird, you are AWESOME, man.

    I simply took my dried up black ink cartridge and soaked its head on a warm water not like other people saying they used hot water. HOLY COW. It worked. I still have 65% of black ink… I was thinking of going out and buying a black ink cartridge but this is fantastic. You just saved me $20.00, Matthew. Thank you so much.

    Have a great day my friend. :)

  22. V. Thompson says:

    I read your advise. I soaked the cartridges in HOT water. Within 10 seconds the black started showing ink in the water. I added more heated (not boiling) water and the tri-color showed pink in the water. I dried the cartridges repeatedly. Blow air into them. make sure they are dry (2 minutes for me or less) put in printer and they worked perfectly..

  23. Paul Swenson says:

    Excellent advice! I was dubious about soaking the print cartridge in warm water, but tried and it worked beautifully. I actually had to reload the bowl with increasingly warmer water before it finally worked.


  24. Tami Jo says:

    Thank you so much for the great advice! Helped us save money.

  25. diego greogrio says:

    help my printer is canon e510 the inks color is full but the photos it print is not the color my work its striped

    • Matt Bird says:

      Hi Diego,

      That’s normally a dry cartridge or blocked printhead. The troubleshooting on this page, or running a few cleaning cycles through your printer, should get your print quality back to normal :)

  26. Ken says:

    Help. My magenta ink doesnt flow back to the cartridge instead it just stopped in the middle. How do you fux this w/o going to the repair shop.

  27. Alex says:

    I have Epson and I’m only having a problem with the black, it is completely full and doesn’t seem to be dried up and I’ve done the print head cleaning (with the printers function and with a dry Q tip myself just to make sure), print head alignment, and just about everything else I know to do maintenance wise to figure out what is wrong but pretty much it starts off like its supposed to, fades to gray, skips a horizontal line/gap across the whole page where there is black (if there is color in that gap it prints that), goes back to gray, then black and repeats down the rest of the page. Sorry this is so long lol.

    • Matt Bird says:

      Hi ALex,

      That sounds like a printhead problem instead of the cartridge, your best bet is to:

      – run up to 6 cleaning cycles to check for improvement.
      – if that doesn’t make a difference, you’ll likely want to get an Original black and try printing solid sections of black to try and force through any blockage. Originals have extra lubrication that can help with this.

      If you’re still seeing the issue after that, odds on you’ll need a new printer unfortunately. We hope you get it fixed :)

  28. paras says:

    wow thanks for it .. Hot water bath worked !!!

  29. Anonymous says:

    my printer wont print! it says ink cartridge you dont have black .. but my black ink almost full . help me

    • Matt Bird says:

      That normally happens for one of the below reasons:

      1 – you have the wrong black installed (e.g. Epson blacks all look the same, but only one is meant for your printer)

      2 – The chip is either covered / missing on the cartridge, so the printer can’t register it.

      Check both of those and you should find what’s causing it :) Otherwise contact who you purchased the black from for more troubleshooting.

  30. junrel bardon says:

    is this good for the canon Prixma Fine cartridge?

  31. David Price says:

    What happens to the copper contacts and any chip in a cartridge when immersed in water?

    • John Sollars says:

      Hi Dave,

      Depends on the quality of the water, if it is pure distilled water it will dry with no ill effects, if there are impurities in the water, when it dries the impurities will be deposited on the copper strip and will cause problems – hope this answers your query?



      • David Price says:

        Hi John
        Thanks for the reply. I have tried now soaking both carts from an HPC3180 for about 12 hours. Not in distilled but my local water is very soft indeed (I am in 87210 Le Dorat France.) Some ink is emerging in the print heads but no ink gets to the paper when I do tests, cleaning and priming no ink reaches paper. Maybe, just maybe – it’s because the printer, with carts installed, has been sitting in a box in my office for 5 years!!!??? We live in hope.

        Today I bought a pair of new 15 ml carts in Limoges – genuine HPC3180 parts for the exorbitant sum of 42.00 Euros! Wow! how that hurt on my pension… They work well – as they should. I was told by the assistant who has the same printer as me NOT to use clones or compats as when she did they fouled up her HP software somewhat. Any comments, John, on that last point?
        Kind regards

      • John Sollars says:

        Hi Dave,

        Not sure what she means by ‘fouls up her software’ the only issue we have had in the past shipping by airpost into Europe is that some re-manufacturers cartridges don’t cope very well with altitude and tend to play up when they are installed. Our Jet Tec refills are pressure tested so shouldn’t cause any problems



  32. Carry says:

    you really are a life saver!

  33. Steve says:

    Thank you for this, life saver