How To Save Money on Printer Ink Cartridges

Lexmark vs HP Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges are perhaps the most overpriced item on the market. Simple small ink cartridges can retail for over $60.00 dollars and in worst cases over $100.00 dollars. Not only they are overpriced but they have a horrible impact on the environment. It is estimated that a staggering 10 million disposed ink cartridges end up in a landfill site. According to a Planet Ark report in 2006, if all 18 million ink cartridges sold were sent to the dump, this would create waste of 3,000 tons of plastic, 2,500 ferrous metals, 400 tons of aluminium & 26 kilograms (about 58 pounds) of precious metals. On top of all this, that 3,000 tons of plastic can take up well over a couple of hundred years to degenerate. Ink cartridges are made up of timber, a plastic that is derived from crude oil. They also contain steel parts which are mostly made up of iron, a valuable resource. This is a big waste of fossil fuels and raw materials. Since plastics haven't been around for that long and they are already causing major problems. People are beginning to worry with the amount of plastics contained in landfill sites and space is becoming an issue.

The Solution

A great way to save money and protect the environment at the same time is to use refillable ink cartridges. Refillable ink cartridges are the enemy to printer manufactures. Over an entire year, you will end up paying more in ink toners than the actual price of your printer. Refillable ink cartridges will free you from buying into the system that only benefits these companies. It is a system in place that doesn't benefit anyone and certainly not the consumer nor the environment. Only a few companies manufacture printers that are compatible with refillable ink cartridges. One of those companies is Brother. Brother's printers are among the best and highest quality printers and allow the use of refillable cartridges. Unlike Lexmark or HP ink cartridges, Brother printers DO NOT store ink levels in the internal memory but rather stores it within the cartridges chip. The ink levels stored in the chip of an OEM refillable ink cartridge can easily be reset back to full with a chip re-setter.

Items You Will Need

In order to start taking advantage of refillable ink cartridges, you might need to dump your old wasteful printer. By dumping, I don't mean actually mean dumping it, you can ship it to, they will take care of the recycling process for you. You don't have to pay for shipping at all, they cover all costs. Now, let's start the list of the things you will need.

  1. Brother MFC-J470DW, you can get it new on eBay for $99 shipping included. Click here.
  2. Refillable Ink Toners, with chip! Click Here to view the toners.
  3. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black ink bottles. Click Here
  4. 5 milliliter syringe, you will need 4 for each color.
  5. You can also buy a refillable kit that include all these, except the synrinces. Click Here to view.
  6. Chip Re-setter (Optional if the refillable cartridges comes with a self-reset chip). Click Here to view.
  7. Plastic gloves (Optional).

Once you have gathered all these things, it's time to learn how to refill your cartridges. First off, make sure to lay out some newspaper or plastic bags on the floor where you will working. Accidents do happen and in case you tip over your ink bottle, you don't want the floor to be stained. Follow these steps.

Step 1: Remove Toners

How to Remove Brother toners

Open the toner compartment and remove each toner individually by pressing down on the black lever and pulling the toner outward.

Step 2: Identify Holes


These refillable toners come with two openings. The bottom opening is for air to go into the toner. At every print, the printer will suck out ink slightly causing a vacuum. This opening should ALWAYS be left open without the plug to avoid any problems. The top opening is used to refill the toner with ink and should ALWAYS be sealed with the plug after refilling. In some refillable toners, these openings switch spots so make sure to identify them correctly.

Steps 3: Refill Toners

Refilling Brother Toner

Use the syringe to extract 5 mil of ink from the ink bottle. Carefully insert the tip of the needle in a straight line and inject ink into the correct toner opening. These toners can hold 15-20 mil of ink, but I recommend not to inject more than 15 mil of ink. After all the ink has been injected, close the opening with the plug. Do this to all empty ink cartridges, remember to use one syringe per color.

Step 4: Reset Chip

Brother Reset Chips

Unless your refillable toners come with a self-reset chip, you will need to reset the ink levels back to 100%. The chip resetter has three rod pins that are used to connect to the chip and reset ink levels. Match the 3 pins on top of the chip 3 gold plates and press the resetter down against the chip. If the chip resetter was able to connect to the chip and reset ink levels, the LED will turn green. Sometimes it takes a few tries, but keep trying.

Step 5: Insert Toners Back

Brother Inserting ink toners

Once all your toners are filled and ink levels are back to full. It's time to insert them back into your printer. Start with the black toner followed by the yellow toner and so on. Open the ink cartridge compartment and insert the black toner in its correct position. You will need to apply a little force until you hear it snap into place. After all toners have been inserted correctly, close the compartment. The printer will prompt you with a message asking if the ink cartridges have been replaced. Press 1 to indicate yes. Do this for all colors. If you did everything correctly, you will see the ink levels full on your printer's LCD screen.

Final Step: Test Print Quality

Brother MFC J470DW Print Quality Test

It's important to clean the print head and test for print quality after replacing any toner. On your printer key pads, press "Menu." Select the "Ink" option and press the "OK" key. Under Ink, select the "Cleaning" option. Then, select "All" to clean all color ink heads. Your printer will start to make a bunch of noises. Let it finish. Once it is done, press "Menu" again and select "Ink." Then, select "Test Print." Under Test Print, choose "Print Quality" and press the green "Start" button. A page will be printed with 4 boxes for each color. If your page looks like the picture above, you are all set. If not, you might need to calibrate the alignment or perform another ink head clean up.

If you encountered issues or didn't quite understand a step, feel free to leave a message below.

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