So, you’ve got yourself a laser printer and want to know how long does toner last?
Does toner go bad or expire after some time? And how many pages per toner cartridge can you print?
You’ve come to the right place. Let’s dig in.
What Is Toner?
If you’re only printing simple text documents, you might not realize just how much difference there is between laser printers and inkjet, toner vs ink.
Toner and ink are in fact entirely different substances and laser and inkjet printers transfer them to the page using entirely different mechanisms.
While ink is a liquid with some form of coloring agent added, toner is actually a very fine powder made from granulated plastics.
Their differing properties affect how long they last and in particular toner shelf life.
While toner cartridges are more expensive than ink cartridges, they last much longer and are more cost-effective in the long run.
But how long does toner last?
Let’s dive in and find out below!
Does Toner Expire?
One of the good things about using toner is that while it can degrade over time, generally it does not expire (and there is usually no toner expiration date).
Toner cartridges certainly last much longer than ink. Its powder structure means it doesn’t dry out like ink cartridges.
The limiting factor determining toner expiration dates is usually not the toner itself, but other components within the cartridge wearing down.
So how long does toner last?
As long as you take good care of it and store it correctly, it can last virtually forever.
However, when purchasing toner cartridges, you might notice some dates.
The manufacturer will provide a date for when the cartridge’s warranty expires (generally a year) and a second date, the expiration date (sometimes printed onto the cartridge itself).
For ink cartridges, the expiration date is important. The ink dries out and can clog up the printhead damaging your printer.
With toner cartridges, as long as they are kept dry and no moisture gets inside, they give good results long after their expiration date (in case there is one mentioned on the cartridge).
One thing to remember is that if you use an old toner cartridge past its expiration date and end up damaging your printer, you may void your warranty.
But in general, toner cartridges last a long time. So if you do spot a great deal, feel free to stock up without having to worry about toner expiration dates.
Toner Shelf Life – Is There a Way To Extend It?
We’ve discussed toner shelf life and toner expiration dates. But if you have a cartridge and want to ensure it will still work years from now, what should you do?
Keep It Clean
Perhaps most important is keeping your laser printer clean. A well-maintained printer is a long-lasting printer while also extending your toner cartridge use.
The most important thing to consider for toner cartridge shelf life is moisture. Moisture is toner’s natural enemy.
If it does get inside the cartridge, it causes the powder to clump and stick together, ruining its performance and potentially damaging your printer.
Learn Your Printer Settings
Perhaps most important is keeping your laser printer clean.
A well-maintained printer is a long-lasting printer while also extending your toner cartridge use.
If you have additional cartridges, not in your printer, make sure they are stored correctly to maximize their shelf life.
- Keep them clean, free of dust, and of course, away from moisture.
- Lie them flat and not upright
- Store them in a dark place out of direct sunlight
- Make sure they are at room temperature
Give It a Good Shake
If your cartridge is getting to the end of its life, but you still need a few last pages, take it out and give it a good shake.
You might dislodge the final toner powder stuck inside and just about get away without having to buy a new cartridge, for now.
Laser Printers (Toner) Vs Inkjet Printers (Ink) for Infrequent Use
If you’re buying a printer and it won’t be in regular use, laser printers are often the better option due to the long toner shelf life.
Laser printers don’t suffer from the same performance issue as inkjet printers when left idle for significant periods of time.
Inkjet printers often get clogged up with dried out ink when not in regular use. Keeping them maintained requires careful cleaning.
Plus without a toner expiration date looming over you, you won’t have to keep buying new cartridges and throwing out old ink cartridges filled with dry ink.
Your toner cartridge is sitting there ready to go even after long periods of inactivity.
How Many Pages per Toner Cartridge Can I Print?
When purchasing toner cartridges, they often come with an estimate for the number of pages they can print.
There is a significant variation in output, and the real-world results depend on:
- Printer make and model
- Printer settings
- Color vs black and white
- Type of printout (text document, photo, etc.)
A typical toner cartridge will produce anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 pages, based on a coverage of 5% (roughly third of a page of double-spaced text).
Dense pages filled with small font text or graphics will dramatically reduce this output and you may only get up to 1,000 pages per cartridge.
High-capacity toner cartridges are available, and they can print anywhere up to 12,000 pages (based on 5% coverage).
At the end of the day, toner’s powder form means it is a very long-lasting product.
Laser printers can operate with the same toner cartridge for years without the toner going bad.
So while there are best practices to increase toner shelf life, the answer to the question, how long does toner last?
Is almost forever.