Tech Tip: Expired Ink Testing and Best Practices for Inks

Using Expired Inks

Wondering if you should keep that expired ink cartridge in your Epson printer? If you aren’t concerned about the longevity of your printhead, perhaps the impact on color rendering might persuade you to swap it out for a fresh one. We tested the effects of expired inks on our Spectraflow Lab P7000CE. Read on to discover what happens when expired inks are used to print.

Epson recently placed renewed attention on their long-recommended best practices for keeping fresh ink in UltraChrome HDX printers at all times. There are two dates to keep in mind: the imprinted expiration date on the ink cartridge label and also the date when each cartridge was first installed into a printer.

Epson UltraChrome HDX ink has a roughly two-year shelf-life after manufacture, and the dates printed on the cartridges and boxes show both the packaging date for that batch of ink and also the date two years in the future when the ink will expire.

Epson also recommends that inks are used for a maximum of six months after the initial “puncture” of the ink cartridge seal. Because the inks are water-based, contaminants from the air can lead to moldy ink and other environmental impacts on the formula that can cause color shifts and lead to printer reliability issues if “chunky” ink were allowed to reach the print head.

For the sake of research into the impact that expired ink might have on color output, we let the inks in our Spectraflow Lab P7000CE expire past the printed cartridge dates and ran some tests on color consistency from print to print.

On the printer with the expired ink set, we printed and measured back-to-back pairs of IT8.7/4 charts with 1617 CMYK color patches, and the print to print consistency of the most effected colors showed an obvious decline on the printer with expired ink.

On the colors that were most effected by the expired inks, the print to print error was roughly double what we expect to see on a printer with a fresh ink set.

To maintain consistent color output from your Epson UltraChrome printers, Spectraflow recommends keeping Epson’s best practices for ink freshness in mind. Always keep fresh ink in your printers, and recycle ink cartridges that have reached the imprinted expiration date.

To manage the prescribed six-month lifespan of an installed cartridge, Spectraflow recommends using the correct size of ink cartridge that can be consumed for each color within six months. Ink cartridges for the P6000, P7000, P8000, and P9000 are available in 150mL, 350mL, and 750mL sizes which can be mixed and matched for the most efficient and least wasteful combination of ink sizes for your typical usage.