Toner Leak: What To Do With A Leaky Toner Cartridge

Toner Leak

It’s a powdery, sometimes colorful, mess. Nothing cramps your printer’s style more than a leaky toner cartridge.

But don’t cry over spilled toner. We’ll show you how to clean toner cartridge mess. It’s a hassle, not a tragedy.

With a little time and patience you can get your printer cleaned up and running again.

Let’s do it!

Help! Toner Leak!

Cartridge Leaking What To Do

My toner cartridge is leaking! What do I do?

For starters, calm down!

Learn to control your emotions. Breath, damnit!

It’s just a toner cartridge leak. Good. Better.

Now, your first instinct when you encounter a leaky toner cartridge will be to grab a vacuum and suck that toner leak up.


Seriously, toner dust has an electronic charge that can short out household vacuum cleaners.

Do the job right and you’ll have a clean toner cartridge.

This is how to clean a toner cartridge. Start by gathering the supplies below.

Supplies Needed To Clean A Toner Spill

In order to tackle a printer toner explosion, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Non-surgical face mask
  • Plastic trash bag (or two)
  • Toner vacuum (optional)

How To Clean A Toner Spill

Don’t use a standard vacuum cleaner to clean a toner spill.

  1. Before tackling this toner spill, make sure the printer is unplugged from the wall outlet and has cooled for approximately one hour (components get hot inside laser printers, and you don’t want to burn yourself).
  2. Scoop out as much as of that dry toner spill as possible, and toss it in the trash. You’ll need a flat-edged scraper or a stiff postcard to shovel that toner out. You may want to use a separate trash bag just for the loose toner. It’s messy!
  3. Wipe away the excess toner powder with a dry paper towel or cloth. DON’T USE A DAMP CLOTH OR PAPER TOWEL INSIDE YOUR PRINTER! Liquids may cause toner powder to stick and can damage printer components. The outer surface of your printer is okay to clean with a damp paper towel.
  4. Toner dust on cloth or carpet can be dabbed with a moist paper towel to lift it. However, if you get the spot wet, the toner will dissolve and leave a permanent stain.

How To Clean Up A Toner Spill

Say, you’ve got a Brother toner cartridge that is leaking toner into your multifunction printer. Yikes! That’s a mess, brother!

But don’t worry. You can handle this.

You’re smart.

You’re good-looking.

This toner spill will not defeat you!

Remember when your HP printer was leaking ink and the printer leaked ink all over the paper? You handled that just fine! This toner spill cleanup will be a piece of cake!

Here is the step-by-step process to follow:

  1. First, get your protective glove and breathing mask. Inhaling toner dust can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, and breathing problems, so you want to protect yourself. 
  2. Next, slip on those rubber gloves. You can wash toner dust off your skin, but it’s easier to avoid the mess altogether by wearing disposable gloves. 
  3. Now it’s time to remove the old, leaky toner cartridge, and toss it in the trash. 
  4. Then, get a flat-edged scraper and start shoveling those piles of loose toner into the trash. Get out as much as you can. 
  5. Finally, use a dry paper towel or cloth to wipe up any remaining toner dust.

How To Clean Toner When It’s Leaking (Or After It Was Leaking)

  1. Yuck! Get that leaky toner cartridge out of your machine!
  2. Place a piece of paper towel beneath your printer’s cover panel to catch the loose toner and open the front cover.
  3. Remove the leaky toner cartridge.
  4. Hold it as level as possible to avoid any more spillage.
  5. Toss it in the trash. That thing sucks!
  6. Next, break out an old school broom and dust pan. You want to scoop up and toss out as much of the loose toner as you can, especially if you’ve got heaping piles of it.
  7. If you’ve got a serious spill or anticipate further printer repairs, you may want to invest in a toner vacuum. All of the components in a toner vacuum are grounded to prevent electrical shocks, and the filters are designed to handle minute particles of toner dust.

How To Clean A Toner Cartridge

First, wipe the exterior of the toner cartridge with a dry cloth.

If the cartridge is damaged, it doesn’t make sense to re-install it. Put it in a plastic bag, tie it closed, and toss in out. 

If the cartridge is not damaged, continue to wipe it down with a dry cloth until it is as clean as possible.

Blow into all those nooks and crannies to get the loose particles of toner dust out.

Whatever you do, don’t get the cartridge wet or use any cleaning agents on the cartridge surface. Doing so can damage both your cartridge and the internal parts of your laser printer. 

Once you’ve got a clean toner cartridge, reinstall the cartridge into your printer.

Plug your laser printer back in the wall outlet, turn it on, and print a test page.

How To Avoid A Toner Stain

Toner Leak Counterfeit vs OEM
Image source: HP

Now that you know how to clean toner stains and spills, you can better defend yourself against them. 

The best way to avoid a toner stain is by keeping your printer clean and well-maintained. 

Sometimes the problem is not the toner cartridge but the transfer roller.

A worn out transfer roller can cause excess toner to gather inside a cartridge’s waste bin.

A full waste bin will ultimately overflow and leak toner dust into your printer.

In your prints are coming out light, it might be time to change the transfer roller. 

Also, if toner spills persist, try switching from high yield cartridges to standard yield cartridges.

There is less toner inside a standard yield cartridge, therefore there is less risk of the waste bin overflowing and leaking toner inside your printer. 

Ultimately, the best way to avoid toner leaks is by sticking with genuine, brand name toner cartridge.

Compatible cartridges have a higher chance of leaking, while OEM toner cartridges are put through a strenuous series of performance tests.

Bottom line: brand name toner delivers better prints and a lower risk of toner leaks. 

Got extra OEM toner you need to get rid of? Sell toner cartridges to a legit toner buyback program.

5 comments on “Toner Leak: What To Do With A Leaky Toner Cartridge”

  1. Bryan Anne

    Do not use a regular vacuum. There are substances in the toner that should not be inhaled. Some printer companies offer specially designed toner powder vacuums that include a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter for cleaning up toner spills but these are usually not necessary. Step 1 : Put on your protective gear (rubber gloves and non-surgical face mask) to avoid inhaling the toner powder or getting some of it on your hands.

  2. Benert

    if you are heavy in printing, will that also cause leaking toner, the waste bin maybe overloaded casuing it to spill or explode?

  3. Ketty

    Thanks for the nice information about avoiding a toner stain…

  4. Rob van Campenhout

    where does the waste bin sit? on the toner cartridge or inside the printer itself somewhere?

    Kind regards Rob

    1. Rob Errera

      Rob, most toner cartridges have an internal waste bin built into the cartridge.


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