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How to Refill Toner Cartridges

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General Instructions

When refilling toner cartridges, we distinguish between two levels of service:
  1. Refilling - Refilling of toner (and developer also with some cartridges) is similar to adding gasoline (petrol) to or changing the oil in a car. It is not a difficult process. You can use the general refilling instructions shown below.

  2. Refurbishing - Refurbishing is similar to changing the spark plugs and tuning up a car engine. It is more effort than most people want to make and is not cost-effective unless you plan to refill dozens of cartridges per month. Although we have refurbishing instructions for many cartridges, we do not recommend it unless you

Troubleshooting

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Refilling

When refilling, please note three precautions:
  1. Toner can make a mess. Work in a area free of breezes over an open newspaper which can catch spills.
  2. Toner can burn. Do not work near an open flame.
  3. Toner can be irritating if breathed. Avoid breathing in the toner as you would any dust.
There are three basic types of cartridges.
  1. Canister - a tube which holds toner.
  2. Drum - a more complex cartridge with gears and a gelatinous coated drum.
  3. Toner and Developer - Similar to the Drum cartridge, but uses both toner and developer.

Canister Cartridges

This very simple toner cartridge is little more than a long tube which contain toner. Refilling is simple as follows:
  1. Go to an area where you can make a mess and spread some newspaper for a work area.
  2. Taking the cartridge, look for a plug. This is usually on the end of the cartridge.
  3. If you find the plug, remove the plug.
  4. If you don't find the plug, find a location which is not in the paper path. (The paper path is usually molded as a very smooth plastic surface which keeps the paper from catching on the cartridge.) Melt a hole here using a soldering iron or wood-burning tool. TIP: Melting a hole is cleaner and doesn't require vacuuming any residue. If you decide to drill a hole, it is very important to remove any shavings from the inside of the cartridge, as these can damage the OPC drum and create permanent print defects.
  5. If you had to drill a hole, vacuum out the residue from inside the cartridge.
  6. Get a funnel or make a paper funnel cone from a piece of paper.
  7. Shake up the bottle of toner. Then, remove the lid. Pour entire bottle into the cartridge. You may wish to use a piece of paper, rolled into a cone shape as a funnel.
  8. Seal the hole with the plug, or use duct tape or black electrical tape to seal a hole which you have made.
  9. Fold up the newspaper carefully to contain the toner that has spilled. Throw away.
  10. You may refill canister cartridges many times.

Drum Cartridges

Read these entire instructions before beginning to work.

Yes, we really mean for you to read ALL of the instructions before you begin to work.

These more complex cartridges are commonly found in most laser printers. A "pretty" gelatinous drum is a key part of the cartridge. This drum's coating may be red, blue, or green. The drum is often covered by a plastic flap or shutter. (This drum is referred to by professionals as the "OPC" drum - "OPC" = "Organic Photo-Conductor".)

Most of these cartridges have a Toner Hopper side and a Waste Hopper side. To determine which is which:

  1. Find the "pretty" drum.
  2. Pretend that this drum runs down the center of the cartridge.
  3. Lay the cartridge so that the drum runs from left to right in front of you.
  4. Now, we'll call the side of the cartridge closest to you the "Near" side. The side farthest from you will be called the "Far" side. (Catchy, eh?)
  5. Either the "Near" side or the "Far" side is larger than the other. Figure out which is largest.
  6. The largest side is the Toner Hopper. The smaller side is the Waste Hopper.
  7. On some cartridges, the drum is on the end of the cartridge -- there isn't a Waste Hopper.

Did I mention you should read all of these instructions before you begin to work?

Caution: Keep the drum away from bright light and do not touch! Bright light and touching the drum can cause a deterioration in copy quality.

To refill this cartridge, follow the steps below:

  1. Go to an area where you can make a mess and spread some newspaper for a work area.
  2. Locate the "pretty" drum. Do Not Touch the Drum! The drum is probably under a plastic flap or shutter.
  3. Look on the cartridge. On one end of the Toner Hopper, you will likely find a translucent white plug. Some plugs may be different in color. On some cartridges the plug is hidden behind the gear box. Remove the plug if possible. (Remember to read the entire instructions before beginning work!)
  4. If you could not find the plug or remove it easily, you may make a hole in the Toner Hopper part of the cartridge. A good size is between 1/2" and 1" (1-2 cm). Melt a hole here using a soldering iron or wood-burning tool. TIP: Melting a hole is cleaner and doesn't require vacuuming any residue. If you decide to drill a hole, it is very important to remove any shavings from the inside of the cartridge, as these can damage the OPC drum and create permanent print defects. (A good size is between 1/2" and 1" (1-2 cm). Be sure that the hole is not in the paper path so it does not snag papers as they go by. TIP: A good place for the hole is on the top of the Toner Hopper where the instructions or specifications are molded into the plastic. The exact location isn't important.
  5. If you drilled or sawed a hole, please vacuum out the shavings.

  6. During normal operation, toner moves from the Toner Hopper past the drum onto the paper. Some excess toner moves further and ends up accumulating in the Waste side. (Some cartridges don't have a separate Waste area.) This must be vacuumed out before we refill the cartridge, or we will soon find lumps of toner falling onto the copies which we print.

  7. Vacuum out the cartridge. Be careful not to touch the drum. Any vacuum with a hose attachment will work. (A HEPA filter-equipped vacuum will be a bit cleaner.)
  8. Run the vacuum hose along the "pretty" drum. Do not touch the Drum! There are narrow cracks along either side of the drum from which excess toner can be vacuumed.
  9. Vaccum out the rest of the cartridge through the fill hole.
  10. Shake up the toner bottle. Remove the lid and pour the toner into the cartridge. Use the entire bottle of toner. You may wish to use a piece of paper, rolled into a cone shape as a funnel.
  11. Seal the hole with the plug, or use duct tape or black electrical tape to seal a hole which you have made.
  12. Fold up the newspaper carefully to contain the toner that has spilled. Throw away.
  13. You may refill drum cartridges two or three times before the drum begins to deteriorate. Then you will need to refurbish the cartridge by replacing the drum, or have a professional refurbisher work on the cartridge.
  14. Chips: Some cartridges require the replacement of a small circuit board, or "chip". In some cases, these chips contain a counter which must be replaced for the functioning of the cartridges. In other cases, the counter simply is connected to a display which reads "low toner", yet the cartridge continues to function fine otherwise. Replacement of chips is usually very simple.
  15. New chips are provided with double-backed tape. The new chip is placed over the original chip and securely pressed into place. Be careful not to touch the chip components with your fingers -- hold onto the edges only. Othewise, static charge damage can occur to the chip.

Toner and Developer Cartridges

These cartridges are primarily a Sharp design, but are most commonly found in small Xerox cartridges.

These cartridges are very similar to the Drum Cartridges just discussed above with a minor difference: There are two plugs.

You should replace both toner and developer at the same time.

The developer plug may be inside the cartridge. Thus, you may need to open these cartridges up. Detailed instructions on this procedure are linked here.


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Updated June 2, 2005