Are generic printer cartridges worth the risk?

Joseph V October 30, 2013
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Hi all,

Recently I had posted regarding a Brother HL5470DW that was jamming for double-sided printing, shortly after I replaced my original Brother toner cartridge with a replacement

I received a number of great suggestions, one of which was to clean the inside of the printer out. While I tried this, noticing excessive toner all over, I was not trained (or did not research in time) to figure out how to clean the printer thoroughly – the double sided prints continued to come out ‘crumpled’.

So, realizing the printer was less than a year old on only on it’s first (generic) replacement cartridge, I exercised the warranty. The printer was fixed, I was informed it needed to be cleaned out, and the bill would have been $70 if the printer was no longer under warranty. The printer new was only $180.

The tech people offered the advice that generic (e.g. non-Brother) cartridges are often good 9 out of 10 times.

I’m now wondering whether I should continue to use generic printer cartridges any longer.

Has anyone had similar experiences, or suggestions on whether it is possible to easily clean out the printer if I should end up with another ‘leaky’ cartridge at some point?


  1. Oron J
    October 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    The advise you got was spot on. Most compatible cartridges are good and cause no problem, but unfortunately, not all. Some companies have quality control every bit as good as Brother's, and some don't. Years ago, we found at my workplace (a University) that the compatible cartridges from one of our main suppliers would leak around 50% of the time, which was clearly unacceptable. Other cartridges, also non-OEM, never gave us any trouble at all.
    I can therefore make a few suggestions:
    1. If you use compatible cartridges, check their reputation first.
    2. Consider using a cartridge refill kit. It's both cheap (VERY cheap) and allows you to reuse an existing cartridge without opening it (there are some clever ways to get the toner in there, go and look it up!) and this would mean you're using a cartridge which you know to be good and trustworthy.
    3. If you need to clean a printer, you should use 1) a vacuum cleaner with a fine nozzle 2) a cloth in the areas you can reach with your hand and 3) laser printer cleaning sheets which you "print" through your printer, and they pick up toner and dust as they go through the paper path.

    Finally, crumpling problems are more often caused by the duplexer than by the cartridge.

    • Bruce E
      October 31, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Besides the duplexer, a dirty fuser will frequently cause crumpling and/or paper jam issues.

      If using a vacuum to clean a laser printer, make sure it does not have too much suction as it can easily remove corona wires (older laser printers) and similar small parts. I once had to replace a paper sensor that was sucked out of a client's HP LaserJet 4 when they decided to vacuum out the printer after a refilled cart suffered a "spillage event" using a standard household vacuum.

  2. Jim C
    October 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    With Brother printers , replacing the toner cartridge when toner low indicator lights just involves exchanging empty toner reservoir with a full one. Photosensitive drum etc isn't replaced as in other brand's cartridges such as H/P. Replacing the whole cartridge in a Brother printer costs about $150.00 US and must be done when it reaches preset page limit. In my opinion, may as well buy a new printer as no one seems to make generic replacements. Crumpled paper only when double sided printing indicates a problem with the duplexing unit such as a jammed scrap of paper or contaminated roller that would be repaired by cleaning..

  3. Hovsep A
    October 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

    A good quality compatible generic cartridge will not damage your printer because the ink is the same quality as a genuine. Some printers will refuse to work with generic cartridges. Some cartridges made by HP, Canon...employs chips ( to recognise and read the data to determine ink level) in their cartridge some expires other not so that printer picks it up as genuine cartridge. Now if the chip expires you cant refill the cartridge because the printer think that there is no ink inside. You have to be careful since some firmware updates can render your old compatible cartridges useless because they change how the chips are checked. If supplier compatible cartridges are inferior nature, people would cease to buy them, and the supplier will close the shop. Before buying compatible cartridges check the supplier reputation. if you are able to do a chemical analysis of the ink from a compatible cartridge, you should see very little difference in its composition compared to the genuine ink.