How to Fix a Dry Printer Cartridge: Step-By-Step Solutions

Printer ink just like most liquids can dry up when stored for a long time. Therefore, if you do not use your printer for a long period, the ink inside the cartridges may dry.

In instances where you cannot use the dried printer cartridge, it is better to get rid of it and buy a new cartridge which increases the amount of electronic waste and adversely affects the environment. Instead of discarding a dry printer cartridge, it is best to fix it and continue using it.

Signs of a Dry Printer Cartridge

A dry printer cartridge can lead to streaks on your prints and lower the overall productivity of your print project.

However, you can track down a dry printer cartridge with your eyes and hands, fix it, and print again in no time. The signs of a dry printer cartridge are:

  • Smudging: When black lines or smudges appear on your paper sheet, it may indicate that the cartridge in your printer is dry.
  • Streaks and smears: When you see stripes, smears, and streaks on your printout, it could be a sign that your printer cartridge has dried out. In some instances, you may notice a faint color or lack of a particular color in the printouts.

You can use a test page to check whether the printer cartridges are dry. At the same time, you can pay attention to what color ink the color printer uses? This will avoid too much confusion when you use it later.

Causes of Cartridge Drying

If you are a first-time printer owner, you must be aware of all the supplies and accessories that you require for your printing project to be successful.

Printer cartridges are one of the first things on the list and it is key to identify the cartridges that are compatible with your printer model.

The ink in your cartridge will ensure your printing job succeeds or fails, so it is important to treat the components with care for them to last long. It can be extremely frustrating when you need to use your printer but the ink cartridge has dried out for whatever reason.

There are different reasons why your ink cartridges are failing to deliver at a crucial time when you need them most. Below are the causes of cartridge drying.

Poor Storage

Your printer ink can dry when you expose it to very high or low temperatures in the storage area. This happens mostly if you rarely use the ink cartridge and the ink inside the cartridge does not move around for temperature regulation.

Temperature plays a vital role in the efficiency of your printer cartridge, so it is important to keep your cartridges at room temperature.

Also, if you do not store the cartridges properly, they can dry up quickly. For example, if you store the cartridges in a downright position, the ink settles at the top of the cartridge leading to dried-out, unclear, and streaky print outputs.

Therefore, if you are in an office environment, at times the office could become cold or hot and you may set the temperature too high or too low which may lead to wastage of your printer resources.

Occasional Printing

If you do not print often, your ink cartridges will dry out. This is because infrequent use of your printer and ink cartridge can cause your printer ink to dry out.

Clogged Printhead

Clogged Printhead

If you do not clean the print head of your printer cartridge properly, the ink can dry out on the top side, leading to unclear prints.

Even though many modern printers have auto-head cleaning functions, if you own an old printer model, you may have to clean the printhead manually.

Whether automatically or manually, cleaning the printhead of your printer helps maintain the quality of the ink and prevents the ink cartridge from drying.

Exposure to the Sun

If your storage area exposes the printer cartridges in direct sunlight, your printer ink will dry up quickly. The ultraviolet rays from the sun can make the ink evaporate which eventually makes the ink not work properly.

When you buy cartridges, it is best not to leave them in an area where they are exposed to sunlight to prevent them from drying out.


Most people are not aware that printer cartridges have expiry dates. Your ink cartridge may be dry because it might be past the due date.

Although most cartridge manufacturers do not show expiry dates on them, most ink cartridges last for 36 months at best. Besides the expiry date, storing the cartridges for twelve months without any use can lead them to dry out.

Step-By-Step Guide to Fix a Dry Printer Cartridge

You can only fix a dry printer cartridge after identifying the type of cartridge that you have.

Laser printers have printheads that dispense ink onto paper. In some printer models, the printhead is built onto the printer itself but in some, it is on the cartridge.

Cartridges with an in-built printhead have a thin slot but if you are unsure of your type of printer, you can get in touch with the supplier.

If your cartridge has an inbuilt print head, you can fix a dry printer cartridge by following the following steps.

  • Remove the cartridges
  • Remove the printhead by pulling the lever.
  • Place a warm and damp paper towel flat on the table.
  • Place the cartridge on top of the edge of the paper towel with the printhead facing down and give it a few taps on top.
  • Slide the cartridge down the paper towel and you will see streaks of ink coming out onto the paper towel.
  • Drag the cartridge from top to bottom on the paper towel.

You are more likely to find ink flowing from the cartridge, but if it does not, you can follow the following steps.

  • Place warm water in a tab and get another paper towel.
  • Put the cartridge with the printhead inside the warm water for approximately 15 seconds.
  • Place the cartridge back into the paper towel.
  •  Drag it top to bottom again while trying a few times until the ink starts flowing.

If the ink does not flow after doing the above, soak a cotton bud in warm water and rub it across the printhead.

If the ink flows, remember to dry the cartridge well before you return it to the printer. Alternatively, you can fix a dry printer cartridge by following the following steps.

1. Remove the cartridge

Open the case of your printer and carefully remove the dried cartridge by lifting the flap.

2. Apply sanitizer

Put the dried cartridge on a clean surface and apply a few drops of sanitizer to the ink nozzle. It is best to use a non-scented sanitizer because some scents may affect the performance of your printer cartridge. Rub your finger on the ink nozzle to allow the sanitizer to seep in.

3. Wipe out the ink nozzle

4. Place the cartridge nozzle in warm water

After warming some water, place the nozzle side of the cartridge into a bowl full of warm water.

Submerge the cartridge halfway into the warm water then wait for 10 minutes until you see the ink leaking into the warm water.

After the ink leaks into the water, remove the cartridge and use a paper towel to catch any ink drips.

5. Dry the cartridge well

After removing the cartridge from the water, clean it with a soft cloth or a paper towel.

6. Check whether it is fully working

You can ensure the cartridge is working well by rubbing the ink nozzle over a piece of paper. If it makes an ink mark on the paper then the cartridge is fully working.

7. Fix it back

Once you have dried the outside of the cartridge, place it back into its slot in the printer. If all these approaches fail, then the printer cartridge is too dried out and the only way out is to replace it.

If your printer does not have an in-built printhead, it most likely has an in-built cleaning facility.

It works differently based on the manufacturer of your printer. It is best to consult your printer manufacturer or reach out to the manufacturer.

Even though ink dries out, you can always prevent it from happening. You can do so by taking proper care of your cartridge which will ultimately save you time and money.

You can prevent your printer ink from drying out by printing often, storing the cartridge properly, placing the cartridge at the right temperature, and keeping the cartridges sealed.


If you are in a position where you will not be using your printer frequently, it is best to remove the ink cartridges from the printer and store them properly.

However, if you cannot prevent your printer cartridge from drying up, there are different ways you can explore to ensure it works again.

After fixing it and installing it back into the printer, wait for a few minutes then run a test page. However, if all the ways fail, you can dispose of it well so that it does not pollute the environment.

If you want to find the right ink cartridge for your printer, you can choose YBtoner. They provide the highest quality ink cartridges to match your printer, providing high efficiency for your printing. 

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