Do Printer Cartridges Dry Up? Here’s What to Do!

The bane of every office worker’s existence! Your printer is out of ink just as you’re about to hit print on that big report for work. 

You frantically search for a replacement cartridge, and just when you think you’ve found one, you realize it’s been sitting in the drawer for months, and you have no idea if it will even work.

So, do printer cartridges dry up? Printer cartridges can dry up due to several reasons. Ink cartridges can dry up if they are left unused for extended periods. The ink within the cartridge can evaporate leaving the print head and nozzle with insufficient ink. A damaged or broken cartridge’s protective seal can also allow air into the cartridge and cause it to dry out. Use ink cartridges regularly and store them in a dark, cool environment to prevent this from happening. If a cartridge has dried up, it may be possible to revive it by submerging it in warm water or using a cotton swab to remove the dried ink.

4 Reasons Why Printer Cartridges Dry Up And Their Solutions!

Even the most reliable and best printer cartridges can dry up, leaving you with a printer that won’t work. There are a variety of reasons why printer cartridges dry up, and understanding them can help you prevent this problem and keep your printer in good working order.

1. Exposure to Air

When it comes to keeping your printer in top condition and ensuring that it runs smoothly, one of the most important things to consider is how air exposure can dry out printer cartridges. Printer cartridges are filled with ink, and they need to be kept in a sealed environment and regularly replaced to ensure that they remain functional. Unfortunately, when exposed to air, the moisture contained in the ink will start to evaporate, causing the ink to dry out and the printer cartridge to become ineffective.

Air exposure can cause a variety of printing problems, such as poor print quality, streaks, and lines in the final product. The ink gets thick and clumpy and is unable to flow properly through the printer head. In some cases, the ink may even get so thick that it blocks the printer’s head completely, rendering the printer useless. Clogging and other problems can occur as dry ink builds up in the printer.

To reduce the risks of air exposure, it is important to properly store and use your printer cartridges. It is best to keep them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat. If the cartridges are not in use, it is best to cover them with a breathable material such as a paper towel or cotton cloth. This will help to keep the cartridges from becoming exposed to the air.

2. Leaking Cartridges

When a printer cartridge starts to dry up, it is likely due to a leak. Cartridge leakage can occur when the seal on a cartridge is broken and ink or toner escapes and dries up inside the printer. The most common causes of seal failure are either due to mechanical damage, aging, or improper handling.

Mechanical damage can occur when a printer is moved or transported, and the cartridge is not properly secured. The cartridge can become dislodged and the seal can be compromised, resulting in a leak. Aging is another common cause of cartridge leakage. A leaking cartridge can be caused by brittle seals as they age. Improper handling can also lead to cartridge leakage. This can include using improper cleaning supplies on the cartridge or incorrectly refilling the cartridge.

When a cartridge starts to dry out, it is critical to address the issue promptly. If a leak is detected, the cartridge should be replaced to avoid further damage. You should clean the area where the cartridge is inserted whether it leaks or not. You can do this using a cotton swab or cloth dampened with isopropyl alcohol. This will remove any dried ink or toner that has built up in the area.

3. Expired Cartridges

Expired Cartridges could dry up

When a printer cartridge is left unused for an extended time, the ink inside can dry up and become unusable. This is because the ink inside the cartridge is a combination of liquid and pigment particles suspended in a liquid suspension that is held together by an emulsion. Over time, without use, the emulsion breaks down and the particles can settle to the bottom, causing the ink to become clumpy and dry.

4. Environmental Factors

Inkjet and toner cartridges can dry up due to environmental factors such as humidity, temperature, and the amount of exposure to sunlight or direct heat. 

High humidity can cause the ink to become too thick, making it difficult to pass through the print head or to be absorbed by the paper. Low humidity can make the ink too thin, making it difficult to adhere to the paper properly. Excessive heat can dry out the ink, causing it to clump and become hard, resulting in clogged nozzles and poor print quality. Sunlight and direct exposure to light can cause the ink to degrade and make it less effective.

Common Signs of Printer Cartridge Drying Up:

Common Signs of Printer Cartridge Drying Up

Signs of printer cartridges drying up can begin to appear long before the ink runs out. As a printer cartridge starts to dry up, it can begin to have clogged nozzles, which can cause streaks and lines on the printed page. If a clogged nozzle is the issue, then running a cleaning cycle can help, but it should be done regularly as the ink begins to dry up.

Fading prints are another sign that a printer cartridge is running low. The pigment particles become thinner and thinner as the cartridge loses water content. Similarly, a clogged nozzle can cause this, so running a cleaning cycle is still a smart move.

Printing may also become slower as the cartridge starts to dry up. This is because the ink is not flowing as easily as it should, causing the print head to take longer to move across the page. This can also be caused by clogs, so again, running a cleaning cycle is a good idea.

How do you fix a dried-up ink cartridge?

Ink cartridges can dry up over time due to exposure to air, neglect, or improper storage. To fix a dried-up ink cartridge, you will need some supplies. First, get a lint-free cloth, a shallow dish, and some distilled water. Fill the dish with distilled water and place the dried-up ink cartridge in it. Make sure that the ink cartridge is completely submerged in water. Allow the cartridge to soak for a few hours or overnight. This will help to rehydrate the cartridge and loosen any dried-up ink. 

After the cartridge has soaked, remove it from the water and wipe it down with a lint-free cloth. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as this can damage the cartridge. Once the cartridge is dry, you can reinstall it back into the printer and attempt to print. 

The ink cartridge may still be clogged if the printer does not work. To clear this, you may have to use a special cleaning solution that dissolves dried-up ink. This solution can be purchased from most office supply stores. Apply the cleaning solution with a lint-free cloth and gently wipe the cartridge down. Allow the solution to sit for a few minutes and then wipe the cartridge with a damp cloth. Reinstall the cartridge and try to print again. 

You may need to replace the cartridge if the printer is still not working.


When printer cartridges aren’t taken care of properly, they can dry out. You can help prevent this from happening by storing them in a cool, dry place, cleaning your printer regularly, and using the correct type of cartridge. Taking proper care of your printer cartridges will ensure that you get the most from them.


How long does it take for an ink cartridge to dry up?

It typically takes a few hours for an ink cartridge to dry up, depending on the type of ink and the temperature and humidity of the environment.

Do unopened printer cartridges dry out?

No, unopened printer cartridges do not dry out. When stored in a cool, dry place, printer cartridges can last up to two years without any issues.

How often should I print to keep ink from drying out?

To prevent ink from drying out, you should print at least twice a month. To ensure that the printer’s ink doesn’t dry out if it is not frequently used, print a few test pages every few weeks.