How long does Sublimation Ink Last?

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People researching sublimation printing often have a lot of questions about the special inks. What’s in them, what brand is best, and where should I buy them? In this article, we’re going to talk about the longevity of the ink. Simply put, we’re going to answer “How long does sublimation ink last?”

We’ll break the answer into a few different parts, based on different stages in the lifecycle of the ink.

How long does unopened sublimation ink last?

If you have an unopened bottle or a sealed cartridge of sublimation ink, the shelf life is about 2 years. We reached out to both Sawgrass and Epson to confirm how long sealed ink lasts and they were happy to respond.

Sawgrass: “Our inks have a two year shelf life.”

screenshot of a facebook chat with sawgrass confirming their ink has a two year shelf life

Epson’s sublimation ink – T49M – also has a two-year shelf life, confirmed by Epson support.

The shelf life of the ink is dependent on the temperature it is being stored at. Unopened, close to 70 degrees, it is around 2 years.

Epson support.

What about third party sublimation inks? Sublimating with converted inkjet printers (like Epson EcoTanks or Workforce printers) has been popular with crafters and small businesses for many years because of the low startup costs and low cost of third party ink. How long do third party sublimation inks last?

Cosmos Ink

Cosmos Ink sells its own brand of sublimation ink specifically formulated for converted Epson printers. The ink comes in sealed bottles, not cartridges. According to Cosmos Ink support, “[the] recommended shelf life is 9 – 12 months provided it is kept in a cool, dark, dry place.”

Also interesting to note, Cosmos ink’s shelf life is the same no matter if the bottle is sealed or opened.

Hiipoo Sublimation Ink

Hiipoo ink is a popular 3rd party sublimation ink widely available on Amazon. According to their support team, sealed bottles can be stored for up to two years, and open bottles will remain stable for one year.

screenshot of an email with hiipoo sublimation ink support, confirming their ink has a shelf life of two years.

Cobra Sublimation Ink

We also reached out to Cobra Ink to ask them how long their sublimation ink for Epson EcoTank conversions lasts. Happily, a sealed bottle will last about 18 months, and an unsealed bottle has a shelf life of one year.

How long does Sawgrass ink last after it’s opened?

This is an important question to ask when considering your sublimation setup. While different sublimation inks have different shelf lives when the package is sealed, how long do you have after the package is opened?

With Sawgrass inks, once the cartridge is loaded in the sublimation printer, the clock is running on the expiry. Each cartridge has an expiry date printed on it, and if you are unable to use the ink up before that date, you might run into problems.

Most experienced users agree, that you can go a few weeks or months past the expiry date on a Sawgrass cartridge and not suffer any noticeable effects on your printing. But, continuing to print with expired ink has the following risks:

  • the sublimation dye particles can start to separate out from the viscous carrier liquid and clup together
  • the ink can dry up in the printer

If either or both of these things happen with your expired sublimation ink, it can lead to clogged print heads and ink lines. If these problems aren’t remedied and the ink isn’t replaced, your printer is at risk.

How long does Epson Ink last after it’s opened?

We also asked Epson support about the expiry date of opened T49M ink for sublimation. They responded that open ink bottles should last about a month, but also, “As long as you keep your tanks sealed, [inks loaded into the tank] should last until their expiration date.”

What can you do to ensure the best results from your sublimation printer and ink?

The best way to maintain your sublimation printer is to use it! Regular printing is the best way to keep the nozzle heads and ink lines clear and the ink running freely.

If you have a Sawgrass printer, it will run its own maintenance cycles every day or so. These cycles are minor but they do require a small amount of ink, and they require the printer to be powered on at all times.

If you have an Epson printer, either a purpose-built sublimation printer or a converted Ecotank or Workforce printer, you should also run a nozzle check and be performing basic printhead cleanings at least once a week.

Printers that don’t get regular cleanings can start producing subpar results. If you start seeing banding, white, lines or dark lines in your printouts or on your projects after they’ve been in the heat press, it’s time to run some routine maintenance.

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