Determining the shelf life and expiry date of the colorant › InkCenter Blog

Toner for laser printers | © Image: 89073410 – antpkr, depositphoto.com

The most common types of printers used in offices, copy shops and homes today are inkjet printers and laser printers. The latter require a coloring agent called toner to get print jobs onto the paper. In terms of durability, this fine powder is years superior to printer cartridges for inkjet printers. In this article you will learn some details about toner that are worth knowing: we have put together durability, developments by well-known manufacturers and other information for you here.

What exactly is toner?

As already mentioned, toner is a colorant according to DIN 55943, which is used for so-called electrostatic printing processes. Thus, toner is used in laser printers and copiers. The composition of toner looks like this:

  • The powder consists of synthetic resin, metal oxides, additives and, most importantly, pigments
  • These pigments represent the actual coloring substances of the toner
  • The powder consists in its entirety of very small particles (between 5 and 30 microns)
  • Due to this small particle size, the powder is so fine that it becomes free-flowing and acts like a liquid.

toner durabilityToner is a fine powder that consists of several components

For laser printers, the most common colors are black, cyan (a hue that represents a transition between blue and green), magenta (a reddish-blue color also known as light purple), and yellow toner The last three colors are of course only needed in color laser printers; they can be used to mix all the colors that are required for color printing. Toner powder comes in a cartridge that goes into the printer and dispenses toner when needed. Toner is therefore the essential printer accessory for laser printers.

How long does toner last?

The core question of this article revolves around regular toner life. It should be said in advance that no definitive statement can be made along the lines of: “This toner has a shelf life of 36 months”. However, a remark can already be made at this point that will reassure many readers:

When stored correctly, toner has practically no expiry date!

We will discuss the aspect of optimal storage of toner cartridges in more detail in a separate article.
Due to its powdery nature, toner can neither dry out nor stick, which distinguishes it from printer ink or printer cartridges and extends its durability enormously. In addition, toner is also usually included by the manufacturer high ranges and large print volumes are designed. Original toners in particular are often very expensive in terms of development and production, so it can be seen as a fair move by the manufacturer to offer customers a certain level of performance for their money.

Toner: expiration date set by the manufacturers

Despite the above statement, you may notice something about your toner packaging: an expiry date is actually listed here. As a rule, a minimum durability of 24 months is given.

Regulations and directives (particularly within the EU) often force manufacturers to state an expiration date on their products. But according to the motto: “Best before” does not automatically mean “Immediately deadly from” does not mean that you have to dispose of your toner directly. Basically, the producers only protect themselves in accordance with the applicable laws.

How long can toner be kept open?

A toner cartridge packed in its original box may give the user a good feeling about toner durability. However, an unpacked toner does not mean that the shelf life automatically decreases rapidly. As already mentioned, the nature of the colorant ensures naturally high durability. First of all, you can confidently rely on the guarantee that manufacturers and dealers give you (here at TinteCenter, for example, you get a three-year guarantee on both original and compatible toners). But even after this warranty has expired, in most cases it should not be a problem to be able to continue using the toner.

Reactivate toner cartridges

If you have not used the cartridges in your color laser printer for a long period of time, you can ensure that the printing process works smoothly again by taking the following steps:

  • Turn off the printer.
  • To be on the safe side, unplug the power cord and allow the unit to cool down for at least half an hour if you have been using it recently.
  • Remove the toner cartridges (by the way, you can find valuable tips for changing the toner here).
  • Just in case, make sure not to wear expensive clothes. It is best to put on work clothes that you would otherwise use for painting or gardening.
  • Go outside with the cartridges or cover your surroundings with painter’s film or similar. This is also to be understood as a precautionary measure.
  • Shake the cartridges carefully but thoroughly so that the powder inside can be optimally distributed again.
  • You can then reinsert the toner cartridges and connect the device to the mains again.
  • After the warm-up phase, you should be able to print as usual.

Toner cartridges: Durability is not solely dependent on the toner

As has been noted several times in this article, the toner itself has almost eternal life. The situation is somewhat different with the cartridges, which serve as containers for the powder. Because they can wearing parts (e.g. printheads similar to those of printer cartridges) contained, which can become porous over time. In this case, too, you can rely on the reliability of the manufacturer’s guarantee; however, once the same has expired, you should take a closer look to be on the safe side if you notice any imperfections in the printed image or other abnormalities. In such cases, it often helps to clean the laser printer – but if in doubt, you should play it safe and replace the cartridge.

Laser printers and toners: make the most of their service life and order in advance

Whether you use a laser printer from Brother, Epson, Samsung, Kyocera or Canon: the toner durability is comparably high with all providers. It is therefore not only advisable, but also risk-free, to stock up on toner cartridges in order to avoid a standstill of the device in the worst case. So if you find that there is an attractive discount on original cartridges for your printer, you can strike without hesitation. Or they use compatible toner.

Depending on the provider, these are either recycled products or replicas of the originals. Regardless of the source, these products also go through strict quality controls and are resold to the user with a dealer guarantee. In many cases, the prices for compatible toners are well below those of the original products, since the manufacturers of the same also have their good name paid dearly by the end consumer. It is therefore definitely worth testing and stocking up on compatible toner.

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