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Is Printer Ink Toxic? Does Ink Harm Your Skin?

By Simon Williams
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February 28, 2021

The 21st century is the age of information and seeking alternatives to harsh chemicals. Although, when it comes to printer ink and other essential items such as cleaning products, specially-formulated ingredients are essential to the process. Knowing that metal, minerals and dye go into the making of printer cartridges a common question that is asked - is printer ink toxic? Further to this, many people also ask does printer ink harm your skin in the event of a spill or a smudge?

At CartridgesDirect, our mission is to close the loop on printer cartridge waste ensuring that our environments, people and waterways are safe. Here is what you need to know regarding how is printer ink made, and whether printer ink is toxic alongside the impact on human skin.
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Firstly, how is printer ink made?

There are many ingredients that go into making liquid and solid inks, as well as consistent testing to ensure that the output is at a quality that meets customer demand. While each major brand name has its own approach to printer ink, you can expect to find pigment, binder, ethylene glycol, opacifiers, alcohol, water drying agents, solvents and other ingredients in high rotation for most printer ink manufacturers.

Each of these ingredients is used in a particular order to achieve different colours and consistencies, in addition to being heat-resistant and fast-drying. Given that ink is intended to be used for one thing (just like bleach and laundry powder), these laboratories are satisfied with the user application of these chemicals. Now let’s understand if they are in fact toxic.
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Is printer ink toxic?

Printer ink is not toxic to touch, although it goes without saying that it should not be inhaled. Water, alcohol and ethylene glycol are the core ingredients of all inkjet printer inks, with additives mixed in to create different strengths and consistencies. Based on these ingredients, liquid printer ink is not toxic to the touch. The occasional spill when changing cartridges should not cause any alarm, and usually, the deep ink stain looks a lot worse than it is.

So, what about if you have a laser printer that takes toner instead of liquid ink? Toner contains heavier duty ingredients and so it can be more harmful if consumed or inhaled, although to touch it will not be toxic to your skin. A broken printer with a malfunctioning toner might expose dangerous fumes, so take this into consideration if you are responsible for the maintenance of the printer. Fortunately, laser printers are more commonly found in office environments so these risks are not always exposed within a home.
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I have spilt ink on my skin, what should I do?

Just because printer ink is not toxic does not mean that these chemicals and dyes can be easily removed from your skin. If you find yourself tasked with replacing your black or colour ink cartridges and encounter a spill, do not panic. Try to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth so that you do not inhale or accidentally consume any of the ink. Due to the makeup of the ink, water and soap are not going to lift the ink from your hands. You are going to need something heavy like alcohol, bleach and even hairspray in some instances.

Tea tree oil can also be a powerful agent if you get the dilution right so know that this is an option if your child has encountered the spill and you don’t want to use powerful agents on their hands. Try and keep some of these cleaning options around the office of printer space as home so you don’t need to travel fair with your inky hands. Generally speaking, if you have a cut or abrasion on your hand when your hands become inked, there should be no issue. However, should irritation persist after you have cleaned your hands and removed the ink, you may wish to apply a bepanthem cream or seek medical advice.

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At CartridgesDirect, our team is armed with the knowledge to avoid any unnecessary risks when it comes to your printer ink and printer technology. You can read our previous blogs to learn more about the different types of printers and inks available, or you can contact us to find out more.

Comments

Jo Evans wrote:

Hi! I am looking into purchasing an ink tank printer for a new home business. Are they compatible with soy or vegetable-based inks? Thanks, Jo

On 6/4/2021 1:40 PM

Simon Williams replied:

Hi Jo, wish I knew to be honest. At this point, I haven't heard of any of the manufacturers doing anything like this for their printers but I'm sure there would be some aftermarket companies doing this, whom I don't know but let me do some digging and if I find anything I'll let you know.

On 6/4/2021 7:15 PM