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Ink vs. toner: What’s the difference?

Have you asked yourself in running your business, “Is toner the same as ink?” If you don’t know the answer, you’ll want to discover the difference between ink and toner to ensure you purchase the correct office supplies for your machine. Given the importance of a printer at work, learning the difference will not only help you change the cartridges when it’s time, but also help you ensure your device is always working to the best of its ability.

Office worker using a printer

What is the difference between ink and toner?

Knowing the difference between ink and toner will help you more easily get the job done when printing needs arise at work. The biggest difference between ink and toner is that ink in an inkjet printer is dye-based and toner in a laser printer is pigment-based. Another very notable difference is that inkjet printers output at a much slower rate than laser printers with toner. Additionally, the quality of laser prints with toner is much higher than with ink prints. Though ink is a more costly way to go, what you save in money, you’ll spend in quality.

What is an ink cartridge?

Ink cartridges come in inkjet printers, and this type of cartridge contains dye-based ink, which is liquid. This liquid ink sprays onto the surface of the paper. Most inkjet printers use black ink cartridges for the standard text you see in workplace printed documents, such as memos and invoices. If you’re looking to print photos with your inkjet printer, you need the other three colors of ink cartridges to go with your black cartridge.

When the time comes to refill the ink in your printer, use an ink refill kit rather than buying a new cartridge. This saves you money over time until a replacement cartridge is absolutely necessary. You can refill the ink in the current cartridge by finding the hole at the top of the cartridge that leads to the ink reservoir. Use the provided needle in the refill kit to dispense replacement ink into the reservoir.

What is a toner cartridge?

Toner cartridges in laser printers have pigment-based ink, which is actually fine power, rather than liquid ink. The particles in toner form a heated bond with the paper when the two come in contact, which is quite a different method than ink spraying on the paper, like with ink cartridges. The pigment and plastic in these cartridges work together and melt as the plastic heats. This process avoids bleeding colors, smudges, and streaks.

Most laser printers have a low-toner light to alert you when it’s time to replace cartridges. You can also print out a supply status page that tells you the percentage of toner remaining. When your toner runs out, you’ll replace the entire cartridge; however, if you can’t replace the cartridge right away, you can remove it, shake it up, and then replace it to extend its use for a bit longer. When it’s time to replace your toner cartridge, no matter what color, you’ll have to remove the entire cartridge and replace it completely.

Stack of printer paper for the office

Maintaining an inkjet printer

It may sound strange, but to best maintain your inkjet printer, use it more often than not. Daily use helps keep the parts sharp and lessens the chance of trouble with the ink cartridges, especially when it comes to the ink nozzles clogging from ink that’s dried up. Another maintenance tip is to ensure dust doesn’t build up in and around the printer. This means placing your machine away from door openings and food and drinks. It’s also important that someone regularly wipes it down.

Maintaining a laser printer

Like any office machine, your laser printer and its toner need periodic attention. As such, schedule a time to clean it. You can use a toner vacuum that has filters to confine toner particles in one area. Make sure to remove these particles so they don’t clog the device.

Another option is a toner cloth, which is a single-use item that cleans the machine. Much like the toner vacuum, the cloth traps particles and removes them from the unit. Never clean the inside of your printer right after using it. Let it cool down before removing dust and dirt.

Final thoughts on ink vs. toner

Once you understand the difference between ink and toner, you can make the right decision on the type of printer to use. Consider the quality you’re looking for or how quickly you need to complete print jobs. You can save money with ink, but if you’re looking for the highest quality prints, toner will get you what you’re looking for.

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