You have a very good question, which is asked repeatedly in
the ANSWERS forum.
You do not state the actual model numbers of the Dell and Epson, so that I can only reply with general information, which may not be correct, since both DELL and Epson have hundreds of different models. The answers to the " COMMON" models that one might find today, are listed below. These are cut and pasted from previous answers I have given on DELL and Epson, and you can read more information by browsing through my ANSWERS section.
Generally, answering your question, NO you cannot harm your printer if you refill your ink carts -- IF the printhead is actually on the carts. This would be typically true on HP, or LEXMARK, common printers. EPSON, typically has the printehead BOLTED to the large round rail that the print assembly moves on, and you have to tear apart the entire machine to get the printhead out. If you used a really bad ink refill, or bad ink foam cart on the top of the unremoveable printhead, and clogged the head, then you would be rather stuck. DELL typically has an HP or Lexmark type of printhead, which has a gold plated plastic carrier with gold or chrome printholes glued directly on the ink cartridge, so that replacing the cartridge replaces the printhead. If clogging the head with incompatible ink should occur, the printer itself is unaffected. Just get another cart, and everything is back to normal.
As for " trying" to refill the ink carts, I have hundreds of bottles of refill inks, and try to refill everything. There are a few difficulties with a few ink carts, and a few bad ink refills, but generally, they are well worth it. Most ink refill manufacturers have special formulas made for each specific brand, so that incompatabilities are eliminated. Any local computer shop will have both clone carts, and refill kits, and you are best to shop around. The refill / clone market changes constantly, so I won't make recommendations! As far as I know, ONLY DELL will supply actual DELL carts, so that you are more or less forced to buy from them or, you can try to refill.
Here are 3 questions and my answers on DELL and Epson, which give a great deal of information.
How many times can you NORMALLY refill Dell ink cartridges before they start failing?
Best Answer - Chosen by Asker
Dell does not make printers. What you are looking at is the same factory type of Lexmark or HP printer carts, with the gold foil on the bottom, which is the actual print head. I like these the best, as, if you are careful ( CAREFUL ) not to press, deform, or mechanically abrade the gold or chrome print hole surface itself, you can use for YEARS, -- I have one that is 10 years old. There are a few situations though, that might give you problems such as a few types of BLACK ink that are incompatible with many standard refills, and if you put in black ink, the cart immediately quits. If you soak the cart in water about 3/4 the height of the cart overnight, you can print a page or 2, and then it quits again. I have not heard any explanation for this behaviour, but a typical cart is the dark green capped black cart in a LEXMARK printer 5XX or 6XX printer with the 16/17 26/27 carts. The color, on the other hand, can be refilled for years. The best carts just have various compositions of ordinary FOAM in them, sometimes with a layer of fiber on the top or bottom, but the foam is the holding mechanism. NEVER drill an existing vent hole on a cart if it contains micro-baffles that allow a tiny amount of air in, without allowing dry air outside to dry out the foam. HP uses a dual bladder air charged black, on a few models, and a few other ones do as well. These require more time and care in loading and taping.
If you purchase an ink refill kit, there is usually online instructions
and/or a manual that explains where to drill holes and tape etc.
They may even explain about the bladders or foam, although they usually do not. I have learned where to drill holes " my " way, which does not always agree with the typical instructions, and even different ink refill instructions have different methods.
If you are serious about refilling, COSCO has an awesome refill kit with 3 huge bottles of black, 3 huge bottles of the 3 colors, and 2 bottles of the photo ink, the drills, beads, tape, manual etc. for $20. I would go to many kitchen stores or such in the malls and look for digital scales - they are everywhere, about $25 and will tell you how much the full or empty carts weigh, and you can tell EXACTLY how much ink is in all the carts, regardless of the estimators.
Try not to push in or abrade the actual print surface, although it can be wiped gently with a damp soft cloth in the direction of the print movement. I put old carts that are sitting too long unused and drying out , in a glass of water 3/4 the way to the top overnight.
In filling, each cart for each type is slightly different, but for foam
carts, I drill a hole for each color about 3/4 the way up the side in an area that I put a piece of black electrical tape over when I am done. I try to avoid altering the micro-air ducting that is used by the manufacturer. After soaking, and filling to the 3/4 mark, I sit the cart on 2 or 3 folded kleenex gently in a glass for a few minutes and then check to see if the print surface is still dripping - if it wipes clean, then you are ready to do a couple of test prints.
When refilling, it is probably best to fill ALL the colors, and keep them this way.
Letting the print head go to completely empty IS REALLY BAD - because the print head is 1/2 to 3/4 away from the foam, separated by a microfilter and a long tube. If this tube EVER gets empty, the fast drying ink dries inside the tube, and on TOP of the print holes, and you will never fully regain the use of the cart after that. (( I do, by tying a string to a filled cart and spinning it at about 10 G to force air bubbles out of the tube, and by melting holes into the tube and using hypodermic needles to rinse with water, and them fill with new ink, and then epoxy the holes shut - most people would be unable to do these proceedures, and as far as I know, I am the only one who has done so. But then, I have over 200 printers, so that I have to be creative... ))
Keeping the print heads used on a daily basis ( I recommend a print of all 4 colors at least every three days ) and NEVER letting the heads dry out, would enable you to use the carts for years...
Lets face it, you can buy a brand new printer WITH carts for less than the carts, do that if try to use the old ones, you have nothing to lose,- if you screw up, well, you buy a new one - if you drill it properly, then you just saved the price of either a cart , or a new printer. I have seen, in an industrial park, a pile of brand new identical printers, in the boxes, with all the software disks and packaging, untouched, except for the box top opened and the
ink carts removed ie, the entire box, software, printer, packaging, and even free bonus CD's and sample paper, was less than the ink carts, so they just bough a pile of new printers, and threw them all out-- for the ink. Go figure.
Hope this helps.
Dell changes options and marketing constantly, so I am GUESSING what printer you probably have. If you post the exact carts and description of them and the printer, I could help better.
Also, I note from two of the other answers provided since I posted this, that people are stating that you can ruin your printer and void your warranty and damage things by using " NON DELL " ink..
Please.... give it a break. I have never, in a quarter of a century heard of an ink refill damaging a foam cartridge type of printer - people can damage a printer and do really strange things, but if the ink, which everyone states is poorer quality, is not giving you the TRUE, DELL, look,
then just get another DELL cartridge. Your printer has no idea what ink is hitting the paper that you are printing on!
Someone mentioned that LEXMARK has a bad reputation of poor ink cartridges, which is debateable - which make model and year and refill cart is the person talking about? Where are the statistics? Out of the hundreds of printers I work with, I can list the models from HP, Canon, Epson, etc. that had horrible problems, and for that matter, I can list horrible problems with almost any " Brand name" computer component over the years. With new techniques and products and modifications being sold daily, it would be difficult to imagine that every single thing sold by one specific company was perfect, all the time - they arent, and people do get stuck with lemons occasionally - from ALL manufacturers.. All you can do is hope for the best. But the SALES and MARKETING and LEGAL bs of doom and gloom in using a NON DELL ink, is actually funny! I cant help but wonder how many HUNDREDS of printers these people have actually used in their lifetime....
Another addendum, as people provide other answers.... Reading over the answers is quite funny since the logic they present is " DONT use refills, since it will destroy the machine and warranty , AND, throw out the printer anyway, since it not a good one in the first place ! " So ... I ask, why worry about a warranty if you are going to throw out the printer and buy a " good" one ? Also, below an ANSWER states that you CAN refill, but never use a generic kit... but they don't state what you CAN use if you arent using a generic kit? And they highlight the word " NEVER ". As though HP or DELL put out name-brand specific refill kits !!! Unheard of -- they give away printers at cost just to make money on the carts, so providing " NAME BRAND " refills would destroy their greedy marketing plans...
You can check my ANSWERS for information on other printers, ink and refills as well.
Epson CX5400 Printer Problem - Doesn't recognize full black cartridge?
Adopted the printer. Says that there isn't any black ink. The cartridge is so full it sloshes. Everything "looks" fine in there - the tube is connected. I don't think it's clogged because if it were that, it would at least ATTEMPT to print.
It won't let me do a cleaning or alignment or anything until I get this problem fixed (which is annoying).
Should I go buy another ink cartridge to see if that fixes the problem? And if I do buy one and it doesn't work, are you able to return it? I wouldn't think so but a lot of stores do amazing things sometimes.
If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.
Thanks for your help and have a great day!
Best Answer - Chosen By Voters
Hi there. I have lots of printers - 200 or so.
I have fought with quite a number of models similar to yours,
winning only occasionally.... usually loosing.
You state the tube is connected - and I wonder what tube. The
carts do not have any tubes on them.
Looking at the documentation for the exact catridge you are using,
the BLACK ink T032120$33.24 on the web, and looking
at the PDF of the printer manuals on the web, your machine is
almost identical to many of the units I am familiar with.
The only tube is a vaccuum hose under the print head cleaning mechanism.
The last person who posted a question stated that they used the printer for over a year with no problems, and changed the ink but it prints nothing. I asked how they went about changing the ink carts for a year, and later they posted that they never changed the carts in a year, and then let it sit - ouch... when they went to use it again, even with new carts, it would not print...
Please note in brief, that the print carts on the TOP of the print head assembly have nothing to do with the print head drying out on the nozzle area - inches away....at the far bottom.
Is there some way to get a color printer going again after some downtime? I already replaced cartridges.?
The problem has nothing to so with the ink in the cartridges on
the TOP of the moving print head assembly, but rather, with the
tubes running FROM the ink at the top, down, into the the PRINT
nozzels... These tubes are LONG, and the ink is deliberately
FAST drying, so that the ink in the tubes dries out from both
ends, if given any opportunity to do so. The ink right at the nozzel
holes is the FIRST to go, normally, since there is no way to protect it -- the top end of the tubes usually has the ink refills sitting there, with " some " ink, which keeps that end from drying out. The WORST case is to remove the top carts, say for example, to go to the store to make certain that you have the right replacements, and then leave the carts off for a long time...
this is deadly... Epson had dozens of identical looking carts, with horribly long, almost identically numbered carts, that are NOT the same, so that this is a REAL problem, and I know lots of people
who have spent a lot of time and money getting carts that are the wrong ones...Make certain, to start, that the numbers are IDENITCAL to the ones needed...
Once the bottom print head nozzels are dried, and/or the tubes ABOVE the print nozzel heads start to dry, there is no easy way
to get at the dried ink...
On the web the other day I saw an ad for a CLEANING SOLUTION for print heads, which claimed to solve many similar problems, and you could try a search for similar products...
On " SOME " printers, the print head can be removed, like on
many older Canons, and with HP and Lexmark, the print heads
" ARE " the ink refills, so this solves the problem...
Epsons bolt the head onto the rail, so that getting cleaning solution ( which I have stopped using ), or just water, ONTO the
print nozzle holes is difficult - but not impossible, and on the
web I have read a number of reports of people who have revived
a dead print head... you have nothing to loose by trying...
Here is a typical answer that I have given in the past...
( try not to be prematurely discouraged... follow the suggestions
since the degree of difficulty is different in every case - you
may have complete, easy success .... )
Here is my reply to the question....
I have a couple of new epson printers.
The new cx printers are extremely hard to fill. How did you fill them in the first place?
If you drill or melt a hole in the top, in the EXACT
correct position, and slowly fill them, letting the air
and ink bubbles exhaust, then, they are "full".
I weigh the cartridges when new, and when empty, and
when re-filled, so that I know if indeed, they are
re-filled. You can now buy gram or ounce weight digital scales
everywhere, including kitchen stores, and retail outlets,
and they are 20 bucks or so, and very accurate.
Check the carts to see if on the front, bottom or back
edge there is a tiny green circuitboard attached to
ink cart with two melted dots of case plastic posts.
If so, then you have otherwise, a piece of plastic,
contaning 35 cents worth of ink, with a self-destruct
programmable chip on it. Every time you use ink, the
chip is programmed by 7 gold contact points, and the
printer "guesses" how much ink you have, and subtracts it.
At about 25 per cent to 33 percent full, the chip is
told that you are out of ink. This rather full piece
of plastic, is then DEAD, and cannot be used again.
I have used a new, FULL cart, and simply run the CLEAN HEAD
Epson utility a few times, and been told that the carts are now
50 percent Full ( HALF EMPTY !!! -- and I hadn't printed
anything yet!!! )
The extra caution in telling a cart with ink in, that it
is empty, is done to prevent the cart from ever really
emptying, which would suck air into the carriage fill
post nozzel, and into an inch or two of piping inside
the print carriage / head assembly, and in 20 minutes the
ink inside these tubes would dry, and almost permanently
destroy the tiny print holes ability to re-wet with any
If you take out a cart, you must either put in a new one
immediately, or re-fill immediately. I have seen many
Epsons in the garbage - all with badly dried print head /
carriage assemblies - if you have a SCANNER/ PRINTER,
such as my CX printers, the second the print head is
"told" by estimation software, that it is "empty" the
entire machine, including the scanner is DEAD, since,
when you turn it on, you cannot get past the ERROR
ink out message !!!!.
The Espon printers with the "new and improved" print ink
heads and ink carts, are EXTREMELY fragile, and will
self-destruct at the tiniest problem. If the power goes
off, and the head is not parked, it dries out. If you
take out a cart and go to the store with the cart to
make certain you have the correct one, the print head
dries out. You cannot take out the print head to soak
it in water without completely tearing the printer apart,
and removing the delicate microfilm plastic position
strip, and the drive belt, and many fragile parts...
If you do manage to get the print head out, the print head
is extremely delicate, and ordinary tap water will
contaminate the print head holes, and actually
clog the head worse than the dried ink. Using paper
products with sharp cellulose fibers clogs the heads,
if you wipe the heads.. ( one webiste uses strips of
coffee filters and distilled water, with some success ).
The green, self destructing programmable chips on the
empty pieces of plastic cases, ARE RE-PROGRAMMABLE, and
programmers are available at most decent computer retailers,
such as COMP USA, FRYs, Staples, Business Depot, etc.,
since these reputable companies know that the customers
are being ripped off with being forced to purchase 50
cent ink carts, that are not even empty, for 40 times the
cost of manufacture! You MUST make certain that the programmer
you purchase LISTS the printer model, or the cart model,
since there are dozens of programmers, and Epson keeps
changing the programming on new models, so that customers
are forced to buy only over-priced Epson" carts!
I am surprised that you state you FILLED an Epson cart,
which is one of the most difficult carts to fill ( I have
hundreds of printers), and yet you don't know about the programmable
chip on the side of the cart...
I use advice from several Epson user sites, and cut out
a section of useless plastic on the top of the cart,
and cover the melted access hole with black electrical
tape, which restores the cart back to the original
micro-channel air ducting. Leaving a big, ugly gaping
hole in the top, as all webistes I have seen, tell users
to do, in view of how fast the ink dries rock hard, is
stupid, to say the least.
Search dogpile.com or yahoo's search engine to find
EPSON INK REFILL website pages, and there are some excellent
resources, with pictures.
Generally, anyone I know who has been inadvertently
duped into purchasing one of the new Epson programmable
ink cart machines, eventually throws it in the garbage
in frustration. Sales people are either ignorant, or
devious, in not telling customers that they are buying a
product that self-destructs, and wastes ink, and is
extremely fragile. Even the EPSON instructions have pages
of warnings of "do not touch " this, "do not do that"
Caution - you must Immediately replace cart, etc. etc.
and these warnings are SERIOUS. Most people don't even read
the pages of fine print.
I will never purchase an Epson programmable chip printer
(printer scanner) etc. again, and will tell everyone
who asks to avoid them like the plague.
As long as you replaced the carts IMMEDIATELY after re-filling, and parked the heads properly, your machine
is probably not dead ... YET. Every minute you wait with
out printing a page, causes the print heads, EVEN PARKED,
to dry out - the pad that they sit on "helps" to seal out
air, but is connected to a vaccum pump that sucks ink
out every time the unit is turned on, AND, the fiberous
material the heads rest on gets saturated with gooey ink,
that eventually hardens by itself, no matter what you do !
The vaccuum system used to
"clean" the Epson printer heads is connected to the ENTIRE
print head... this means that, for example, if Yellow and
RED print head holes are clogged, the vaccuum does not
change its location or pressure, so that the "clean" process
sucks twice as much ink out of the BLACK and BLUE ( Since
the yellow and red are clogged ) and has little effect on the
desired purpose of actually "cleaning" the clogged print holes. This explains why some cartridges can be almost empty
and others almost full, while the "estimated" ink levels
show all colours are equal. The vaccuum process on the new machines
only works when there is no problem in the first place, and
wastes huge amounts of ink...
The assembly, the heads, and the design is inherently
self-destructing, without a great deal of difficult
cleaning and maintenance, which is totally beyond most
If you really want to keep the machine, have TWO sets of
ink carts, - one set always full. Tape the bottom hole
of the full, spare set, after filling (clean it first),
with black electrical tape to seal the nozzle from dirt and air.
Put electrical tape over the air hole you created to fill it.
When the carts show the EMPTY warning, and the machine
halts dead, quickly install the new, re-progrmmed, filled
ink carts, and then print a test page, etc.
Re-fill, and re-program ALL the inks carts you just removed
(not just the one that first reported it was "empty" ),
and tape over the holes, and set aside. Weigh the "empty"
carts before and after filling - you will find, surprisingly,
that even though the ink status monitor shows 3 carts at
25% empty, some will be practically full, while others are
truly almost dead empty... (which is dangerously close to
sucking in air and destroying the print head !!!! )
You "can" keep one of these machines up and running
efficiently and COST EFFECTIVELY, but it is a pain in the
butt, and messy, -- The only "OK" thing about these
printers is that they actually DO deliver a reasonable
quality print when they actually "work" properly.
Going out and purchasing cases of new, EPSON brand
ink carts would bankrupt most users, and would be
ridiculous beyond words in an office environment, where
hundreds of pages are printed a day. I have seen many EPSON
printers with RED and YELLOW ink passages dried rock hard
-- with brand new full ink Red and Yellow carts on top --
because in an office environment, hundreds of black and
white TEXT pages are printed, and Epson uses BLUE and BLACK
to make the black printing, but NOT the Red and Yellow,
which dry out solid - in a brand new machine, which is
in use everyday, and parked properly, with brand new
EPSON carts, which have to be purchased regularly, to
keep the Black and White pages going, EVEN THOUGH the
old Red and Yellow carts are absolutely FULL, - since the
the printer has no idea how much ink is really being used-
just that the carriage is going back and forth, and
it "estimates" that the red and yellow are, eventually
empty, even though the ink tubes and print head are
rock solid with ink, and the New, FULL, Epson Carts, are
never used. -- they can't be used, since the tubes are
I hope this advice helps to keep your machine going a
bit longer. You need a great deal of luck. You need to spend an
hour ot two on the web researching how to fill the carts
properly, and how the inside technology of the manifold
air/liquid compartments work, and how to HANDLE the
carts carefully, etc.
Some of the NO-Name, non-Epson carts are cheaper, and
MUCH easier to fill, but there are to date, no web instructions
on how to re-fill the clone carts. They also have the
"new and improved" Epson feature of killing your print
every time with a message that you must acknowledge,
stating that you are NOT USING A GENUINE EPSON ink cart,
and print quality may suffer - do you wish to continue?
This deliberate halting of normal print makes using
clones very time consuming, and difficult - which, is of
course, exactly what the Corporate Epson executives
want to do in the first place !! To get around this, you
can take the original green chips off the original
Epson carts, and put them on the new, easy to fill,
clone carts, and the printer will never know the difference.
If you REALLY want to make the units easy, you can rip apart the
printer, and remove the green circuit board from the
printhead, with the gold contacts, remove the thin plastic
electrical cable that plugs into the print head ink cart
sensors, and place the cable on the top of the printer.
By placing the chips on the cart reader on the TOP of the
machine, the stupid "estimator" program will think that
the carts in the print head are connected, and give
warnings on the completely non-working chips on top of the
printer. You can then quickly re-program the accessible,
top mounted chips, and only replace ink carts that are
actually getting low ( you can weigh them), in half the
time and effort. However, since the carts do not hold
very much ink in the FIRST PLACE, you will still be forced
to refill on a frequent basis.
If I ever get the time I have a few other mechanical and programming
ideas to try to see if I could continually re-program
the ink cart chips on top of the unit automatically,
and use micro plastic tubes to permanently fill the carts
on the moving printhead, using huge bottles of ink, mounted
on the back of the machine. The Epson carts have an anti-
overfill, anti-drip pressure operated diaphram fill
mechanism which would work under such a scheme, but would
be too difficult for the average home or office user
to build and install...
Generally, for all the ridiculous expense and time and
problems encountered with this Epson line of printer
( and printer /scanner) I would simply buy something
else, and avoid the problems. Sony got greedy and deliberately put
viruses on new-instore music CDs, and Epson, in my opinion
got greedy and invented this printer from hello...
Both companies are shooting themselves in the foot, and
making people AVOID their products....
Again, good luck. Please do your homework on the web,
and observe all cautions and warnings. This is one case
where every piece of fine print REALLY applies!
robin graves Feb17th 2006
Been there, seen it, done it.
It is not an answer to my question... It is a full thesis on the subject of EPSON CX4600 printer issue. Thank you, Robin. You've saved few hours of my precious time and about $100 expenses for new ink cratriges. As of now both of my CX4600 are in the trash. I WILL NEVER BUY EPSON GARBIGE AGAIN!!!
Now, after all this, please do not get discouraged - I have no idea what shape your printer is in, or how long it was left to dry out,
or how "dried" the heads are... you could be lucky and have a simpler problem that may fix itself.
1/ make certain that the ink cart is the correct one - I listed the number at the top here
2/ the gold contacts on the chip MUST be clean - check that the chip on the cart has shiny contacts - clean with a damp, slightly soapy cloth and dry
3/ re- insert the cart. You should get SOME kind of error message - it should state " XX XX X X X X " and this error message is not trivial - please post it to get more help without everyone guessing !
As to your question about buying another ink cart just to check,
I would highly advise against this unless you have checked everything else, and can get black ink out the printhead using
the wet blotter paper first. If black ink is actually comming out the printhead , then you are doing great. If you can touch the printhead and get a full bar of black ink across the head, then you are probably ok. It is at this specific point that I find 99% of the problem - not the top of the print assembly, inches away.
No store ever that I have heard of will take back an opened ink cart ! In California at frys or in New York or CompUSA or Business Depot/Staples, Best Buy, Future Shop, etc. etc. I have never heard of opened ink returns ! ! Sometimes Business Depot/ Staples will give you a little pile of printer paper if you give them a cart - but the price listed for your cart is $33.xx plus tax, and to get a $2.95 pad of used recycled paper for $30 seems a bit of a waste.
There is a LOT of information in the posting above, which may have ideas that you can use. If these fail, post your actions, and I will check back..
With the information in the above ANSWERS, you will have a good idea of assessing whether you want to try refilling or not.
Posting more information would have allowed people to give you better, more pointed answers.
hope this information helps