The cost of printing ink rose by anywhere from 4 to 30 percent per page, depending on the ink, between 2009 and 2012, according to PCWorld. With prices steadily climbing, the temptation to use a cartridge that doesn't fit your printer -- but is cheaper -- can be overwhelming. In general, though, using a cartridge that isn't designed to fit into your printer isn't a good idea. Unlike generic cartridges that are designed for your printer, the wrong cartridge will probably stop your printer from printing.
You Can't Put a Round Peg in a Square Hole
Ink cartridges for different printer models are shaped differently; this is true even if the printers are the same brand, in many cases. Attempting to put a cartridge into a printer that isn't designed for it can damage the ink cartridge itself or, worse, damage the printer. If the ink cartridge doesn't smoothly move into the opening and click into place, don't force it in. You'll only damage your hardware.
This Cartridge Is Half Full, Right?
Many printer models have a feature that tells you how full the ink cartridge is. Using a cartridge that isn't designed for your printer may prevent the feature from working correctly. Even cartridges designed for your printer that don't come from the manufacturer may cause the feature to malfunction. If you aren't using an OEM cartridge, consider resetting the chip manually before using a generic one so that you're not constantly receiving messages saying that you're out of ink.
This Ink Is Not Like That Ink
Ink composition varies between brands. Even ink designed from one printer for the manufacturer may not have the same ingredients as an ink designed for the same printer from a generic ink producer. You may experience different results with the wrong ink cartridge, even if you can get it to work with your printer -- colors, sharpness and the fade of the prints may be affected. Some inks may also clog or damage parts of your printer, since the printer wasn't designed to handle that type of ink. Your printer warranty may not cover damage that occurs when you use the incorrect ink cartridge.
Now I Can't Print at All
In the worst case scenario, your printer could refuse to function even if you manage to fit in the wrong cartridge. Most printers are designed to alert the user to potential problems, and a cartridge that doesn't fit right is definitely a problem. Read the feedback screen on your printer to gauge whether the printer is experiencing an error due to an incorrect ink cartridge. If it is, you'll have to replace it to use the printer again.
- PCWorld: Ink-flation: Printer Cartridge Prices Are Climbing Quickly
- PCWorld: Cheap Ink -- Will It Cost You?
- HP Customer Support: 'Incorrect Print Cartridge' Error Message Appears on the Control Panel Display
- HP: Black Printer Ink Material Safety Data Sheet
- Hitachi: Printing Ink Material Safety Data Sheets
- Epson: Replacing Printer Cartridges
- Photo Credit Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images