Despite what printer companies want you to think, running out of ink doesn’t mean you have to buy a new cartridge – even if the one you have isn’t labeled refillable. Almost all ink cartridges can be refilled at least once or twice. The difference between “refillable” and “non-refillable” cartridges is that the former can be refilled more times than the latter before you need to replace it.
There are a few different ways to go about refilling your ink cartridges. For today’s lesson, we’ll focus on Canon ink cartridges. To help you save money and avoid buying new ink cartridges all the time, I’ll show you how to perform a common refilling practice. I like to call it the “Drill and Refill” method, which is currently the most popular way to refill an ink cartridge.
This method is very simple compared to others, so let’s get started. First, you’ll need to gather all of your materials. These will include 4 bottles of ink (one black and one for each color), a thumb drill, scotch tape, a utility knife, a paper towel, a pair of gloves, and eye protection. I also recommend wearing clothes you wouldn’t be too upset about staining. Refilling your ink cartridges will be a messy process, which means it should be done on a surface that won’t be too damaged when there’s a spill. A hand or electric drill may also come in handy, but you can get by without it.
Checking the Cartridge Condition/ Preparing Used Cartridges
The condition that your Canon ink cartridge is in will be relevant. Suppose it’s the original Canon ink cartridge that came in your printer and still functions properly. In that case, it’s in prime condition- especially if it’s fresh from the printer. You can also find used empty cartridges on eBay in various different conditions.
The eBay sellers may use certain terms like virgin, OEM, non-OEM, and remanufactured. A virgin cartridge has never been refilled; a remanufactured cartridge has been refilled. An OEM cartridge is the original one that came in the printer; non-OEM is not.
If you order ink cartridges off of eBay, you’ll want to put them in the printer and test them to make sure they haven’t gotten damaged and still work properly. The last thing you want is to put forth the effort to refill it only to find out they aren’t operational.
When you insert the new cartridges into the printer, you’ll receive two kinds of warning messages. The first error message will include one of the following:
“Printer ink depleted.”
“Counterfeit or used genuine cartridge inserted.”
“Ink cartridge is low on ink.”
These warnings can be ignored by clicking okay and continuing. You should still be able to print. Most printers’ ink level indicators aren’t accurate for refilled cartridges, which causes them to get confused and send this message.
The second kind of error message will include one of the following:
“Cartridge cannot be detected.”
“Cartridge must be replaced.”
There’s a chance you won’t receive any of these, so you’re good to go. If you receive one, your printer cannot read the cartridge, or the cartridge has failed the electronics test. To fix this, pull out the cartridge and clean the electronic contact points and the contact pins inside the printer. If the problem persists, the cartridge is damaged and is not worth refilling.
Once that’s done, you'll need to check the printhead. To do this, pull out your phone and open the camera. Hold it reasonably close to the printhead and zoom in on the camera. Using this, you can look at the printhead very closely to check for any visible signs of damage.
The Refill Process
After confirming that your desired printhead has no visible damage, it’s time to begin the refill process. Using the utility knife you obtained earlier, peel off the sticker on top of the cartridge. Canon cartridges will have a circle next to the letter H, which shows exactly where we want to drill.
Use the thumb drill in the center of that circle and move in a circular motion. Focus on making the hole bigger, not making it deeper. Now we can put ink into the cartridge. Take one of the ink bottles and fill it with 7 mL of black ink. If you’re using a squeeze bottle (which I recommend), each squeeze will be approximately 1 mL.
The process for the colored ink cartridge will be similar. If you peel the sticker, you’ll see that this cartridge has three circles instead of one. Each circle leads to a different color. It’s important to not cross contaminate the colors, as it will mess up the printing.
Drill each hole and use a needle to poke into the hole and verify the color. Use a clean needle each time. Each color’s compartment can hold 3 mL of ink. Repeat this process until all of the colors have been filled. Place a piece of scotch tape over each cartridge so the holes are covered. Use a pin to punch a small hole through the tape so air can flow through the cartridge.
What if the Cartridges Clog?
Since these cartridges were out of ink and likely dry for a long time, it’s almost guaranteed they'll form a clog. Before we insert them back into the printer, we need to remove the clog. To do this, we add a triple action cleaning solution to a tray. This cleaning solution can be found on my website, BCHTechnologies.com. Hot water would also work, but it’s less efficient. Leave it to sit for a few hours.
Before reinserting the cartridges into the printer, dry off the electronic contact points with a paper towel and absorb excessive ink from the bottom. Use a dabbing motion and never rub it. Fibers from the paper towel could get into the holes and pores that way, which would cause unfixable clogging.
The printer’s ink level monitor will still complain about having low ink, but that’s just because the reader is inaccurate for refilled cartridges. Run a test print. You may have to run your printer’s cleaning function. After a while, your printer will catch on that you’ve printed more pages than it thinks you should have been able to.
It will ask you to cancel the print on whatever device your printer is hooked up to. Do not cancel the print. Instead, hold down the red stop triangle button for ten to fifteen seconds. The printer should start working again. You will need to do this once for each cartridge. The printer will no longer track the ink level, so you’ll have to keep an eye on it yourself.