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Is Printer Ink Toxic?

is printer ink toxic

It’s easy to spill printer ink on yourself while changing cartridges, but it can also be easy to clean up if you know the right ingredients. Still, after rubbing away the stubborn ink stains from your hands or clothing, you may wonder what exactly printer ink is made from. Is it safe to get on your skin? What if some gets on your child or pet? What if your child or pet eats it? Is printer ink toxic? We have answers to all of these questions and more. 

To begin, let’s take a look at what printer ink is made from.  

What is Printer Ink Made From? 

Most liquid printer inks contain the same basic ingredients: Water, ethylene glycol, and alcohol. Based on these ingredients we can already answer the question “Is printer ink toxic?” The answer is NO in the case of liquid ink. The basic ingredients of liquid printer ink are not toxic, although consuming them can make you sick. The answer is a little different for laser printers, which use toner instead of ink. 

Laser printers, which are commonly used in office buildings, don’t use liquid ink. Instead, these printers use a fine powder material called toner, which is melted onto paper. Toner contains ingredients that can be dangerous if you are exposed to them in large quantities. In small quantities, they can be irritating if you get them in your eyes or mouth. But under normal circumstances, when you are using a functional laser printer as intended, there’s nothing to worry about. If, however, a toner cartridge in your office’s printer is damaged, be careful not to inhale too much of its fumes. Broken toner cartridges sometimes release carbon black, a chemical used to create black toner that can be toxic when ingested.

If you are printing from home, you’re likely using liquid ink, so the above-mentioned dangers associated with toner do not apply. But if you work in an office building and you use the printers there, just be aware of their toner’s toxicity in case of an accident. 

The ingredients we’ve highlighted so far are not found in every printer, so it’s best to research which ingredients your own printer ink contains. You can do this by visiting your printer brand’s website. All printer manufacturers publish Material Safety Data Sheets for their products, which list the ingredients used to create their ink.

Is Printer Ink Toxic?

Printer ink is generally safe to use. It is not safe to drink, inhale, or get in your eyes, but these are obviously unusual examples of printer ink accidents. Still, the question “Is printer ink toxic?” is worth asking. 

Simply put, liquid printer ink is about as safe as ordinary dish soap. You wouldn’t want to drink, inhale, or get dish soap in your eyes, just like printer ink. And spilling it onto your skin is harmless, so long as you wash it off soon after a spill (if you don’t, you may experience slight skin irritation). Exposure to printer ink, in basically any capacity, will not result in life-threatening conditions. 

Toner, used in laser printers, is also non-toxic. Like liquid ink, you should avoid getting toner in your mouth or eyes, but it is generally safe for intended uses. During the laser printing process, when the toner is melted onto the paper, ultra-fine toxic particles can be released. These particles are considered “volatile organic-chemical” substances (VOCs) and can be harmful when exposed to in large doses. The release of VOCs during laser printing is far too minimal to cause harm, so you don’t need to worry about VOCs when your laser printer is functioning properly.

Considering the low toxicity of both liquid ink and toner, the answer to the question “Is printer ink toxic?” is still NO… But with a caveat: In unusual cases, such as when printer ink is consumed, inhaled, or exposed to the eye area, it can cause illness or irritation. It contains chemicals that are intended to stain paper, not you, so always use printer ink as intended. 

If you experience issues with your laser printer, such as a broken cartridge, beware of toxic fumes which might release from the toner. If the toxicity of liquid ink is comparable to dish soap, the fumes released from toner are comparable to paint fumes. Nothing to worry about unless inhaled excessively.

How to Avoid Ink Accidents

It’s useful to know which ingredients are contained in your printer ink, and whether or not your printer ink is toxic. Additionally, it’s also useful to know how to avoid ink accidents altogether. Here are some quick tips for minimizing your chance of experiencing printer ink accidents:

  • Make sure the area where you keep your printer and cartridges is well ventilated. Quality air circulation will prevent any toxic fumes or dust released during the printing process from building up.

  • Store your cartridges safely. Avoid stacking them on top of each other so that they don’t fall and break. If you have more ink or toner cartridges than you need, consider selling them online.

  • Don’t dispose of used cartridges in your trash can. Not only do you risk filling your trash can (and the surrounding area) with toxic fumes, you also ensure that those fumes will be released into landfills later on. To avoid this, check with your printer manufacturer about their recycling program. Printer manufacturers will typically collect used cartridges for free.

  • Wear latex gloves when changing or refilling printer cartridges to avoid getting ink on your skin. If you spill ink on your gloves, you can simply remove them and throw them away.

Those are just several easy ways you can avoid ink accidents when using your printer. Let us know if you think of any more!

The Verdict

Both liquid ink and toner are non-toxic, and they are manufactured under strict safety guidelines to ensure their ingredients remain non-toxic. When used as intended, printer ink is safe. Consuming, inhaling, or getting ink in your eyes may cause illness or irritation. Once again, if you want to know which ingredients your printer ink contains, visit the brand’s website. All printer manufacturers publish Material Safety Data Sheets for their products, which list the ingredients used to create their ink. 

If you would like to sell your unused ink or toner cartridges for cash, visit our home page!