Printer Cartridges are to Razor Blades….

as printers are to razors

Am I right?  Am I the only one who thinks it’s insane to spend more on printer cartridges than you did on the printer to begin with?  It reminds me of every time I have to buy razor blades.  Why on earth does it cost about $8 for a razor but almost $30 for a 10-pack of replacement blades?  C’mon people, does a molded piece of plastic with a few embedded blades reallycosts that much to produce?  Likewise, replacement cartridges for printers typically cost as much, if not more, than the printer itself.  Case in point:  my printer.

I spent about $45 on this printer, which does it all:  copy, scan, print.  It’s even wireless!  All that, and it was only $45.  That’s impressive.  But for some reason, a combo pack of replacement cartridges (one black and one tri-color) sets me back about $30, and that’s one of the cheaper ones!  Is the technology in that little cartridge so advanced that it costs that much to produce?  I think not.

Our family of six uses this one printer for printing everything from recipes to homework, photos to boarding passes, etc.  You name it, we print it.  Mind you, we’re not wasteful about it.  I have “reminded” the kids many times about the fact that ink and paper aren’t free, so they have been thoroughly coached on how to conserve both (Do you really need to print that last page?  Can we print it in black?  Does it have to be printed on a clean sheet of paper?  Or can we use the back of another?) etc.  You get the point.  I don’t even want to get into what all those used cartridges do to our landfills.

Yes, I know cartridges can be refilled, reused and recycled. I’ve been there and done that. Many times. Refilling does work. But only once or twice. I haven’t had a lot of luck getting a printer cartridge to work a third time. There’s some discussion about whether HP cartridges come with a built-in expiration date, after which the cartridge will refuse to work, but that’s another post. Besides that, I get tired of having to refill my cartridges EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. they start running out of ink, which, in our house, is about every month and a half or so. It’s messy messy messy. And no one can print until mom takes care of it. Ugh.

So what’s a girl to do? Well, after a bit of research, I decided to give CISS a try.  Have you heard of this?  CISS stands for Continuous Ink Supply System.  Sounds good already, doesn’t it?  So I purchased a kit, which at $115 wasn’t cheap, mind you, but if it worked, it would pay for itself.

Here’s how it works:  in a CISS, the regular ink cartridges get replaced with a set of new ones that have little tubes attached to the ink refill holes.

Those tubes run along the inside of your printer to the outside, where they are connected to four ink tanks, one for each color.

The ink tanks hold a LOT of ink.  Let’s talk about that for a minute.  (Fair warning: I’m a math geek, so if you’re not interested in the numbers, skip ahead to the next paragraph!) A regular color ink cartridge can hold anywhere from 3-14 ml of each color, depending on the make of cartridge. The ink tanks in a CISS can hold up to 60 ml of color in EACH tank.  My particular cartridges (hp 60) will hold 6 ml of each of the three colors in the tri-color cartridge, while the black cartridges hold 10 ml.  So the three external ink tanks already hold 10x the amount of ink than the tri-color cartridge.  And let’s ignore the fact that when one color in a cartridge runs out, you have to replace the whole cartridge, whether the other two are empty or not. Not so with a CISS.  When you start getting low on one color, you just refill that one tank.  And let’s talk about the black, which in my house gets used the most.  I’m guessing it probably does for you too.  The black ink tank holds 6x the amount of black in the cartridge.  Not to mention that the CISS comes with the cartridges pre-filled. So with one CISS kit purchase, it’s like getting 10+1 color cartridges and 6+1 black cartridges. Let’s do the math, shall we?  We’ll be fair and say that we buy 7 combo packs for $30 each, plus an additional 4 color  cartridges at $18 each.  That’s a total of $282.  Are you getting this??  TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-TWO DOLLARS!  So $115 for a CISS is sounding pretty good  now, isn’t it?  At least, it did to me.

So in March of 2011, I ordered a CISS from  (There are other websites out there that carry them, but that’s the one I went with.)  The kit came quickly and shipping was free.  It came with everything needed to install the CISS, including very, VERY detailed instructions.  They are SO detailed that I am certain my dear 91 year old grandmother could do it if she were so inclined.  In no time at all, our printer was up and running.  The only issue I ran into was where the tubes came out of the printer.  For a long time, this was what it looked like:

But I got tired of the door popping open every now and then, and having tape across the front of the printer. And let’s face it: it just didn’t look cool. So I finally took my Dremel and drilled a little hole in the side of the printer for the tubes to run through. Problem solved.

And I am happy to say that I didn’t have to worry about the ink for a loooong time.  In October 2011 (7 months later), I looked at the tanks and noticed they were starting to get a little low, so I placed an order for some refill bottles of ink, just to make sure I had some when it was time to refill. Which I finally did in December. Are you reading this?! I didn’t have to worry about ink for 9 months! WOW!! Now THAT’s what I’m talking about!! And here it is, September of 2012, and I’ve only had to refill the tanks one other time. Hear me: TWO refills in a YEAR AND A HALF. Can I hear an ‘Amen!’?

So the next time you find yourself grumbling about the cost of ink cartridges, do a little research on CISS and see if you think it would be right for you too. There’s a good article here that discusses the pros and cons. As for me, I will never go back to buying ink cartridges again. Now if only I could find a CRSS….Continuous Razor Supply System. Any ideas??

Have any of you tried a CISS? What was your experience? Do you want to marry yours like I do mine? ;)

Thanks so much for stopping by!



P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I have not been compensated or reimbursed in any way whatsoever by the products or websites mentioned in this post. I am not and have not been related or affiliated with anyone in the aforementioned products or websites. Are you kidding? I’m a brand new blogger. Not there yet. :) I just really, really, REALLY like my CISS.

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