How to Renew Ink Ribbons in a Printer

Written by mike andrews
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How to Renew Ink Ribbons in a Printer
Reinking printer ribbons. (india ink bottle image by Stephen Jacoby from

How many times have you had an important project to finish only to learn that your printer ribbon was out of ink? You drop what you're working on and race to the computer store before it closes, hoping desperately that the store will carry the exact ribbon cartridge you need and still have one in stock. Avoid the stress and frustration of dead printer ribbons---as well as saving money on new ones---by renewing the ribbons you have at home.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Bottle of ink pad re-inker with a rollerball top
  • Old ribbon
  • WD-40
  • Old newspapers
  • Old phone book (optional)

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  1. 1

    Reclaim the existing ink left in the ribbon.

    When a ribbon first becomes too faint to use, a lot of ink is actually left in it---it's simply dried up inside the fabric of the ribbon. You can quickly and easily reclaim all that dried ink by manually turning the ribbon spools to expose the ribbon bit by bit and spraying a spot of WD-40 onto the ribbon every 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Simply wait for the WD-40 to saturate the ribbon, and your printer prints like new.

  2. 2

    Once you've exhausted the original ink in the ribbon, stack your old newspapers into a pile, or find an old telephone book and remove the front cover, to use as a re-inking base. Put a few old newspapers around the stack to absorb any stray ink.

  3. 3

    Pull on the ribbon to unspool a length 6 to 10 inches long, and lay the exposed ribbon flat on top of the newspapers or phone book. Note that some printer ribbons must be taken apart to freely turn the spools. If your printer ribbon needs to be opened up, simply pry along the seam on the sides of the ribbon cartridge with a knife blade or a thin, flathead screwdriver.

  4. 4

    Run the rollerball at the mouth of the ink pad refill bottle lightly and quickly over the exposed ribbon, being careful not to oversaturate it. (Excess ink will be absorbed by the newspapers or telephone book.)

  5. 5

    Re-spool the exposed ribbon on the other side of the ribbon cartridge, and expose the next length to be re-inked. Repeat this process until the entire ribbon has been treated.

Tips and warnings

  • If you can't find a bottle of inkpad ink with a roller ball at the top, you can use the ink from a regular ink bottle, applying the ink to the ribbon with cotton swabs, but note that this can be a messy process.
  • Paint thinner or nail polish remover is a great solvent to clean the ink from your fingers!
  • Don't saturate the ribbon at any one point. If you can see ink pooling on the ribbon's fabric, you've probably used too much. Dab excess ink from the ribbon before use to prevent dripping, splatter and sloppy or deformed print.

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