Can Sublimation Ink Go Bad (Reasons & Preventions)

Can Sublimation Ink Go Bad? (Reasons & Preventions)

Making cool designs with a sublimation printer is awesome!

The ink lets you print on all kinds of stuff like shirts, mugs, and phone cases. The colors come out so bright and vivid.

But have you ever wondered – can the special ink go bad? Does it last forever in the printer? What if you don’t use it for a while?

In this article, we will explore ‘Can sublimation ink go bad’. We’ll look at how long the ink lasts both in and out of your printer. You’ll learn the signs that your ink is expired.

We’ll also go over why sublimation ink goes bad and how to store it correctly. There are handy tips to make your ink last as long as possible.

Read on to get all the details about sublimation ink and how to keep it fresh!

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Can Sublimation Ink Go Bad?

The short answer is yes, sublimation ink can expire and degrade in quality if not stored properly.

The shelf life of sublimation ink depends on whether it’s unopened or installed in your printer.

Can Sublimation Ink Go Bad

Unopened sublimation ink generally lasts 1-2 years from the production date if stored correctly. Always check the manufacturer’s label for the recommended shelf life.

Once opened, you should use sublimation ink within 6 months before it starts to degrade in quality from air exposure.

For installed ink cartridges, the lifespan is much shorter, around 3-6 months. The constant heating and cooling in the printer causes the ink to break down faster.

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So in summary:

  • Unopened ink: 1-2 years
  • Opened ink: 6 months
  • Installed ink: 3-6 months

Be sure to write the date you opened the ink on the bottles or cartridges. This allows you to easily keep track of the age of opened ink.

How Do You Know If Sublimation Ink Has Gone Bad?

Over time, sublimation ink can start to separate, clog printers, lose its vibrancy, and create poor print quality.

Here are the signs your sublimation ink has expired:

  • Fading or dull prints – The colors look washed out or muted. As the pigments degrade, they lose their ability to produce saturated, vibrant hues.
  • Color shifting – The hues don’t match previous prints. When ink sits for too long, the dye chemistry changes and alters the final printed color.
  • Banding – Horizontal streaks or lines appear in the print. Expired ink can struggle to flow smoothly and consistently, causing gaps and banding issues.
  • Clogged nozzles – Nozzle check reveals missing dots of ink. Contaminants make the ink thicker while sediment from separated pigments creates blockages.
  • Ink separation – Pigments separate from the liquid carrier, leaving residue. Separation occurs when particles lose suspension and settle on the bottom.
  • Thickened ink – The ink takes on a thicker, glue-like consistency. As moisture evaporates and components oxidize, it becomes more viscous.
  • Expired date – The ink is used well past the printed expiration date. Chemical additives that help stabilize the ink lose effectiveness beyond the expiration date.

If you notice any of these issues, it likely means the ink has degraded and needs to be replaced. Be on the lookout for subtle changes in quality before they become bigger problems.

Reasons Sublimation Ink Goes Bad

There are a few key factors that cause sublimation ink to expire and lose print quality:

1. Air Exposure


Once opened, sublimation ink reacts with oxygen in the air. Oxygen accelerates the breakdown of the chemical bonds in the ink over time.

This can cause the ink to thicken, clog printers, lose color vibrancy, or completely solidify if left for very long periods.

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2. Heat Exposure

Excess heat can break down the chemical composition of sublimation ink. The sustained high temperatures inside printers slowly degrade the dyes and carrier fluids.

Temperatures above 77°F rapidly accelerate the deterioration process. Avoid storing ink in hot rooms or garages that reach over 90°F in summer months.

3. Sunlight

The UV rays in sunlight can damage the molecular structure of dye particles in sublimation ink.

This photodegradation from UV exposure causes the pigments to fade, discolor, and lose vibrancy.

3 Bacteria Contamination

The water content in sublimation ink makes it prone to bacteria growth when exposed to air. Pseudomonas species are common contaminants.

Some ink formulations use preservatives to prevent bacteria from proliferating. But over 6+ months, bacteria can still grow and produce byproducts that destabilize the ink chemistry and degrade print quality.

4. Chemical Breakdown

Even when correctly stored, the dye particles and solvents in sublimation ink slowly degrade over time. The proprietary chemical constituents have an intended lifespan.

Eventually, the color pigments and dispersants lose effectiveness and the ink no longer prints optimally.

How to Prevent Sublimation Ink From Going Bad

There are many easy ways to stop your sublimation ink from spoiling or going bad too early.

Follow these tips to make your ink last longer:

  • Store unopened ink in a cool, dark place. Keep it around 70°F if you can. Don’t keep it somewhere that gets really hot or cold.
  • Use ink soon after opening it. Try to use all opened ink within 6 months. Write down the date you opened the bottle so you know how old it is. Leaving the ink open exposes it to air which makes it go bad faster.
  • Keep ink out of direct sunlight. The sun’s UV rays break down the ink slowly. Keep bottles in dark-colored containers or drawers so the light can’t hit it.
  • Don’t let your printer overheat. Use your printer in a room that doesn’t get above 80°F. The heat in the machine also ruins the ink cartridges over time.
  • Seal bottles tightly after using. Screw lids on tight so air can’t sneak in and cause oxidation. Oxygen makes ink expire quicker.
  • Store cartridges upright. Keep ink cartridges standing straight up and down. This prevents leaks or clogs that can happen if left sideways.
  • Clean any tools before refilling. Don’t let old ink mix into the new bottles. Wipe down funnels or syringes to avoid contamination.
  • Pay attention to expiration dates. Don’t use very old ink. The chemicals break down after the expiration date printed on the package.
  • Gently mix ink before printing. If the ink has separated, mix it by gently rolling the bottle. Don’t shake it to avoid bubbles.
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Taking good care of sublimation ink keeps it working great for longer. Follow these steps and your ink will stay fresh for all your printing projects.

Watch the below video to know how to fix your sublimation ink:

Frequently asked questions

Below are a few frequently asked questions:

How long does sublimation ink last in the printer?

Ink installed in your printer has a shorter lifespan of around 3-6 months. The repeated heating and cooling of the printhead slowly breaks down the ink components over time.
Regularly replacing cartridges every 3-6 months helps maintain print quality.

Does sublimation ink dry out if not used?

Yes, sublimation ink can dry out and clog printers if left for extended periods without use.
Exposure to air causes the carrier liquid to evaporate. Storing tightly sealed and routinely printed helps use the ink before oxidation and drying occur.

Why is my sublimation ink not working?

If the ink isn’t producing vibrant colors or is causing clogs, it likely has expired. Old ink beyond 6 months from opening or 3-6 months installed in a printer may not print optimally.
Replacing degraded ink with a fresh supply often solves performance issues.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it – everything you need to know about sublimation ink and how it can go bad.

We talked about how opened ink lasts about 6 months. After that, it starts to fade, clog, and not print as nicely. Installed ink lasts 3-6 months before the heat ruins it.

Now you know why sublimation ink goes bad from air, heat, sunlight, germs, and chemicals breaking down. You also learned tips to keep it working great like sealing bottles and watching dates.

Let us know if you have any other questions. What was the most helpful thing you learned? Do you have your own tips for great-quality prints? Share your ideas and comments below!

Bella Williams

I'm Bella, a mom of 3 cuties. With 7 years of sublimation experience, my blog focuses on all things sublimation and printing. Join me for tips, tutorials, and inspiration to enhance your sublimation journey. Let's create and thrive together!
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