Is printer ink toxic? Let’s be honest — when the topic of printer ink comes to mind, health and safety are probably low on the list of concerns.

Top on the list is cost, availability, print yields, or even selling them for cash.

But still, some of us may wonder, is ink poisonous?

The truth is, most ink and toner products are made with strict adherence to industry standards and safety guidelines. While most inks and toners are non-toxic, the contents vary by brand and product, so it pays to know what’s inside your printer ink and toner. It also pays to know how to get ink off your skin and clothes!

What’s In Printer Ink?

What is printer ink made of? The ingredients in most printer inks are water, ethylene glycol, and alcohol.

In addition, there are dyes and pigments which give inks their color. The chemicals in printer ink are not toxic, but ingesting it can make you sick.

Is Printer Ink Edible?

What happens if you drink ink? Is ink edible? Is printer ink poisonous?

The World Health Organization recommends drinking a lot of water if you’ve swallowed printer ink. Printer ink toxicity is generally quite low, especially for humans. The chemicals in ink for printers are considered about as toxic as dish soap, but eating ink is not recommended!

Is Printer Ink Harmful To Pets?

We’ve discussed above printer ink toxicity for humans, but what about our pets?

Is printer ink toxic to cats? Is printer ink toxic to dogs?

It’s true that dogs and cats can be drawn to the sweet taste of ethylene glycol, but unfortunately it can be very harmful to pets.

According to Treehugger, ethylene glycol can be fatal to dogs and cats, even in fairly small amounts. (The Humane Society of the United States says one teaspoon of ethylene glycol can be fatal to a 7-pound cat.)

If your cat or dog ate a printer cartridge, get them to the vet immediately.

What About Toner?

The laser printers used in most offices don’t use liquid ink. Rather, they are made with a fine powder called toner that they melt onto the paper.

Toner does contain compounds that are dangerous in large quantities. But toner is certainly considered safe in the quantities one is exposed to in an office.

In general, toner cartridges are also considered safe. But if they become damaged or broken, they can release toxins. The chemical called carbon black used when creating black toner is known to cause cancer. Some toners also contain small amounts of iron.

Play It Safe

Is printer ink safe for skin? What about ink toxicity for your hands and other parts of your skin?

It is a good idea to take care when handling and using toner, printers, and other printing ink ingredients.

Better to play it safe — wear gloves whenever changing the toner in any of your office equipment or disposing of old ink cartridges. Carbon black inhalation can cause headaches, eye irritation, chronic itchiness and small growths on the tongue. Direct contact with the skin may result in mild to severe irritation. Why take the chance? Keep a box of disposable protective gloves near the printer supplies as a reminder.

Another important factor to reduce health concerns is to ensure the ink and toner you are buying are brand name, authentic products and not repackaged or generic formulas.

Original ink and toner means no damaged cartridges and no risk of coming into contact with toner powder, ink, or color printing chemicals. All major brands of ink and toner cartridges will include a Material Safety Data Sheet.

The High Cost Of Ink 

Replacing your ink is the most expensive part of owning a printer. Printer manufacturers make the bulk of their profit selling replacement ink and toner cartridges. That’s why printers are generally inexpensive but the cost of supplies are high. Each year, more than $20 billion in ink gets used on printouts. That’s big business!

Making Printer Ink

Printer ink is similar to paint. Different color dyes are added to an oil base. Black is made using carbon black and varnish. In addition, a number of additives help ink to disperse properly and stick to the paper. Manufacturers also use ingredients to reduce the amount of foam, stop bacteria growth, and increase the luster of ink. 

Getting More From Your Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges generally come in four colors: blue (C), red (M), yellow (Y), and black (K). Avoid printers that use all-in-one tri-color cartridges. Ink is wasted when you are forced to replace the entire cartridge when only one color runs out. (We’re looking at you, magenta!) 

In addition, consider these tips for extending the life of your ink cartridge: 

  • Use your printer at least every couple of weeks to keep ink cartridge heads from drying out. 
  • Use a font that consumes less ink, like Times New Roman or Courier.
  • Use “draft” or “grayscale” mode to reduce ink usage. 

*Check out the video below from The Printing Ink Company about how ink is made.