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The Dirty Little Secret Of Inkjet Printers
About The Video

My inkjet printer flashed error warning lights at me and stopped working - it turned out that the fault was actually something inherent in the design of inkjet printers.

What's revealed here is quite a surprising fact about inkjet printers that I'm sure the manufacturers aren't keen for you to know...

Just Tell Me The Secret!

OK... the secret is that they're expensive to run...

I Knew That!

You may think you already knew that - inkjets typically come out at more than twice the per-page cost of laser printers.

But the fact most people don't realise is just how much ink these things waste.

See below left for the full dirt, or watch the video.

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Please note: Before, during or after the video, the player may display advertisements or links to additional videos - these are not affiliated to Atomic Shrimp and the selection is something over which I have no control.

The Printer

Inkjet Printer Disassembly

This is the printer I examined - I've tried to obscure the brand name to protect the not-so-innocent (actually, I don't want to focus on brand too much, as what we're going to see here applies to inkjet printers generally)

Inkjet Printer Disassembly

Here's the same printer, stripped of its outer casing - there's a little, innocent-looking hole underneath the print head path, indicated by the red arrow

Here's the printer with the platen removed - and suddenly that hole (indicated again by the red arrow) doesn't look quite so innocent.

The other thing to note is that the entire base of the printer - the area outlined in green - is occupied by a layer of absorbent wadding - approximately 5cm (2 inches) thick.

Inkjet Printer Disassembly

A Huge Block Of Absorbent Stuff!

Why does a printer need a huge block of absorbent stuff in the base?

Well, look a bit closer at that hole...

Inkjet Printer Disassembly

... and here comes the really juicy part of the story...

There's something in there... something... nasty! ... it's...

... ink - lots and lots of ink!

Dishing The Dirt

Still photographs just can't do justice to the full horror and shame of it (I tried) - but it's all captured in the video at the top of the page...

All inkjets?

I've seen doubts expressed as to whether it's really true that all inkjets do this - and that's a fair question...

I've dismantled quite a few dead inkjet printers (for the motors and other useful components) - and they've all been like this to some degree.

The printer depicted here is - I will freely admit - a particularly bad example of the phenomenon - but perhaps only because in this case, the specific cause of failure was a full waste ink reservoir.

What is undeniably true:

So... what's the solution?

Well... I can't really declare that there is one. All human activity seems to involve waste in some way or other - maybe that's just something we have to grit our teeth and bear.

Laser printers are one alternative - and it's true that they are usually much cheaper to run - calculated per-page across the whole life of the machine. But laser printers don't tend to be all that good at printing photos.

No solution is perfect, but here's one that's maybe not so bad:

Comments: 9 (Add)

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My mpf colour inkjet puts the ink in a box you can pull out. I spend over £6000 on ink each year. Epson wf-7610

Posted by KatDev Devt on Dec 14 2014 at 19:18
funny i saw your video today.my printer crashed and when i took out the cartriges and looked in i saw all the gooey ink and wondered what happend.cleaned it out and now things are fine! thanks

Posted by dan on Aug 27 2013 at 03:46
Colour does print with black prints. Why; if the ink drys out in the head, the head is dead and the printer as unless it is HP the only printer that the head is part of the cartridge. Law suit for monopoly against HP for over 15 years and it never on court docket, emagine that! The printer is really free, the money to pay for all this IS the ink.
Solution? Sell cleaning cartridges with just the base ink solution without the pigment to clean and store your printer, this feature H.P. can't do.

Posted by Bill on Aug 26 2013 at 11:40
I agree. Many a time I have had to clean out that gooey mass so that it wouldn't clog the jet ports on the print head. I love rubber gloves.Part of the problem is that most brands of inkjet printer will run through a cleaning cycle (Read:spraying ink down the hole,not onto you printouts) every time you turn the power on. This includes using a power strip to fire up your computer,Monitor, Printer, etc. My advice is to NOT plug them into any power strip that you turn off and on on a regular basis

Posted by OldPrinterRepairGuy on Nov 16 2011 at 14:59
Your video is exactly what happened to me last night when I took apart my inkjet printer for the same reason! What a mess! And yes, what a dirty little secret. I'm actually quite appalled by the waste and consumerism aspect of this. Will look into buying a different kind of printer or for a brand which doesn't do this. Thanks for the validation!

Posted by MelanieS on May 27 2011 at 13:30
Many Laser printers do something similar. I found this out the hard way when the "waste toner bag" exploded in one i was using and sprayed a toxic cloud of black dust around both the inside of the printer and the area surrounding it. The printer probably put about 1/4 of all its toner into the waste on each refill.

Posted by Peony on Jan 22 2011 at 16:23
My printer (Brand beginning with H and ending with P) does not cost much to run as I use compatible cartridges.

Very good results , no gooey mess in over 3 years?

Posted by Elderlybloke on Oct 26 2010 at 08:03
I'm not sure that one manufacturer (beginning with H and ending with P) uses this method. Their dirty little secret is that they make you buy a whole new print head every time you change the cartridge. I'm certainly not advocating buying that brand, and in fact am considering switching to one of the other brands (which *do* do what you describe). One way around this problem is to leave the printer in standby so it doesn't go through this self-cleaning nonsense.

Posted by Carol on Sep 13 2010 at 15:49
Well, the dirty little secret of an old inkject came dripping out of the base when we turned it on it's side, and stained the carpet in our office. We tried the suggested methods of cleaning, but it just seemed to get bigger. We ended up cutting a patch out of the closet and replacing the stained portion.

Dirty, dirty, dirty...

Posted by tubist on Nov 20 2009 at 15:54