Everything You Need to Know About Compatible Ink Cartridges

Inkjet printers are great for high-resolution tasks, but they require frequent cartridge replacement. The prices for the original supplies are outrageous — sometimes, a full pack may cost as much as the machine!

Understandably, consumers  seek more affordable options. The market of compatible and remanufactured cartridges caters to their needs. Are these alternatives any good, and can they damage your printer or void the warranty? 

The price difference is impressive. For example, the Smart Ink store offers compatible cartridges with HP OfficeJet 3836 ink for only $55.99, which lets you make substantial savings. These products are designed and produced by an independent supplier, but the quality of printing is similar to the original standards. So, how exactly does this industry work?

Why Are OEM Products So Outrageously Expensive?

If you compare the prices for basic inkjet printers and cartridges, you will notice that the consumable supplies may cost almost as much as the equipment. This approach has been used for decades, and printer manufacturers are not the pioneers. For example, razor handles can be cheap as chips, but you have to replace the blades frequently. 

This could be good for the business, but consumers feel cheated. The official explanation refers to the colossal investment in R&D. Yet, customers do not and should not care about these costs. So, how can you save on new ink?

Compatible Cartridges

As the term suggests, these products are designed to fit specific models of printers. Every cartridge is designed and built from scratch. At the same time, their producers (third-party manufacturers) do not invest so heavily in research and development, which explains the attractive price range. Despite compatibility, these products have unique design features that make them original.

Neither compatible nor remanufactured cartridges can be classified as counterfeit goods. Big brands have no power over the aftermarket. However, they release firmware updates that instruct their machines to reject non-original supplies. Disable these updates, and feel free to install any cartridges you want.

What Does Remanufacturing Involve? 

Remanufacturing is, in essence, printer recycling. The providers bring empty original cartridges back to life by refilling them, replacing parts if necessary and fixing any technical issues. As a result, you can get an original product with fresh ink at an attractive price.

In the past, consumers would take their products to refill outlets. This was time-consuming and inconvenient. Instead of visiting the service provider and waiting for them to complete the work, order a remanufactured product online with free shipping. You can enjoy the same quality of printing without the hassle. 

Can I Refill Cartridges Myself? 

Refilling must be done by professionals. You can find plenty of DIY guides and YouTube tutorials, but the probability of error makes the risk unjustified. For example, if you draw ink into the syringe too fast, this will create air gaps that will block the cartridge. Secondly, this is a messy job. Finally, you must be very careful to fill the cartridge to its near capacity, not full capacity, to prevent leakage.

Can These Products Damage My Printer?

Cartridges from shady manufacturers may damage your equipment. Any industry has honest and unscrupulous providers. To stay safe, research your options and check the background of the stores. 

Products from reputable providers will work seamlessly. The latest version of the chip ensures instant recognition, despite any firmware updates from the printer brand. Neither compatible nor remanufactured cartridges will null your printer warranty. The manufacturer has no right to deny service if you do not use their original supplies. 

How to Choose a Store

The demand for aftermarket cartridges is high. Unfortunately, this industry has its “bad apples”, but you can easily avoid them by using common sense and a little research. Look for the following signs of excellence:

  • Certified quality of manufactured and compatible products (compliance with standards like CE, ISO 9001, ISO 14000, Reach, or STMC).
  • An extensive warranty (for example, 2-year money-back guarantee covering any defects and transportation damage)
  • Ink level tracking, so you know when it is time to get a replacement (available for some models)
  • Testing of every product before shipping
  • Free shipping
  • Sustainable production practices (recyclable cartridges).

How to Replace a Cartridge

Inkjet cartridges have sensitive electronic elements that should not be touched. Do not mix products from different suppliers, as your printer may not recognize them correctly. Use only high-quality ink — it will not only ensure excellent printing but also extend the lifespan of your machine. Follow these steps to replace cartridges properly:

  1. Remove the protective cap from your new cartridge.
  2. Pull out the protective tape.
  3. Insert the product into the corresponding slot in your machine (typically, the left slot for the colour cartridge and the right slot for the black one), pushing it forward until it locks into place.

If you touch the chip or the ink nozzles, you may spoil the electrical connections, cause clogs or ink failure. Never remove the copper-colored contacts.


Printers may fail to recognize compatible cartridges for different reasons. These issues can be resolved fairly easily. Here is your checklist:

  • Make sure the cartridges are in the right slots. Lift your cartridge cover and double-check the position (the cartridges must be clicked in). 
  • Make sure the chips are clean, so the printer can read the information.
  • If a recent firmware update has enabled cartridge protection, turn it off.
  • Check that the protective strips have been removed.
  • If the issue is caused by an internal memory failure, you need to reset your machine.

To Sum Up

Remanufactured and compatible cartridges are cost-effective alternatives to OEM products. In the long run, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on your model. These products are legal, and no printer brand can prohibit their use.

They do not void printer warranty, either. Choose a third-party store carefully to get the best value for money. Research the background of the supplier and to check user feedback on websites like TrustPilot.