back to article Epson says ink pad saturation behind 'end of service life' warning on inkjet printers

Epson has clarified the dread "end of service life" inkjet printer warning with an updated support page directing users to its Maintenance Reset Utility after critics complained about repairability. At issue are ink sponges within the printer that soak up ink that gets squirted out during processes such as cleaning cycles. …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    Just buy a second hand Brother laser printer and be done with this inkjet racket.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Brother

      How are lasers at printing photos these days? It's very rare that I want anything else on paper.

      1. Piro Silver badge

        Re: Brother

        If you want quality photo prints, you're best off ordering them from somewhere that'll guarantee a good print every time, without having to maintain an inkjet.

        I use bonusprint, but others are no doubt available. The price is so reasonable that there's no point doing it yourself, getting hit or miss results, potentially having to cut the paper, etc.

        For everything else, a laser is a trusty beast that'll let you print the odd thing off now and then.

        1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

          Re: Brother

          Yeah, I use a local independent printer. When she retires I'm not keen on explaining my legal but not always accepted subjects.

          For the odd thing now and then I go to the library. (My town still has one!)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brother

            Is the equivalent of photocopying yer bum acceptable in libraries now?

            1. David 132 Silver badge

              Re: Brother

              Obligatory XKCD (may be NSFW)...

          2. MyffyW Silver badge

            Re: Brother

            You mean you didn't delete those pictures? Blushes

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: You mean you didn't delete those pictures? Blushes

              Anyone who was familiar with Canon's TypeStar typewriters should be aware that the ink-film cartridges used on these devices would yield a complete record of whatever was typed while that cartridge was in use, if pulled apart.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Brother

          Unless you use pro-level labs - which can be quite expensive:

          * They might not print from RAW processed images, or at lest TIFFs but require JPEGs that reduce quality

          * They might not print on the paper you like

          * You might not control the output sharpening process and output colour (or B/W) profiles

          * If you don't like the result, you can't tweak some parameters and make a new print immediately

          "Hit or miss" happens if you don't have a proper printing workflow - including calibrated hardware and profiles. Depending on the image size and aspect required, you might still need to cut the final image - unless you only need most standard formats.

          That said, newer photo printers like the Canon ImagePROGRAF have maintenance cartridges that are replaceable by the user as well.

        3. demon driver

          Re: Brother

          Photo services have their merit but are no replacement for self printing. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and both have their place. There are valid reasons to use an inkjet, photo printing is one, and then a laser is no substitute. A laser also is no substitute if you frequently need high-quality printouts, regardless of contents, larger than letter/A4, and have no wish to break the bank and build an extension.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brother

            Real pro-photo print services will always print with a better quality, range of papers, substrate and sizes that anything that you can do with a personal printer. The only problem is finding the pro-photo print service with the right professionals and equipment to deserve the pro prefix and the price you will pay for final copy.

            1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

              Re: Brother

              On the other hand, 99.99% of photographers don't need anything like that quality, whatever they think.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Brother

            "Photo services have their merit but are no replacement for self printing"

            They beat the pants off 4 or 6 color printing onto plain paper

            1. rfrazier

              Re: Brother

              One might splurge and print photographs onto photography paper rather than plain paper.

              Also, about needs.

              ----- cut here -----

              KING LEAR

              O, reason not the need: our basest beggars

              Are in the poorest thing superfluous:

              Allow not nature more than nature needs,

              Man's life's as cheap as beast's

              ----- cut here -----

              Best wishes,


      2. JulieM

        Re: Brother

        The printout can be ever so slightly on the dark side; but it's completely free of banding, and I can more easily live with increasing the brightness a bit to print a picture than I can live with banding.

      3. Maventi

        Re: Brother

        After over a decade of inkjet shenanigans I bought a HP LaserJet Pro for day to day colour prints, and a Canon Selphy dye-sub printer for the occasional photos. Both have spent several years doing exactly what they say on the box and giving no grief at all.

    2. Rich 2

      Re: Brother

      Totally agree. I stopped buying into the inkjet scam decades ago; the ink is stupidly expensive and the printers are outrageously unreliable - regardless of make.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Brother

        If you can still get it, the HP Instant Ink programme is genuinely very good value; as long as the printer doesn't give up. I'm still on a grandfathered 'free 15 pages a month' plan, which is all I'm likely to ever need. On the very rare occasions I need a couple of pages more it usually costs me not more than €1, and if I need a lot more (like 1000 pages) I'll go to a copy shop.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Brother

          Guessing the downvotes are from people who don't know what the Instant Ink programme is? Can't see a reason apart from that to downvote free ink forever, it doesn't get cheaper than free ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          1. General Purpose Silver badge

            Re: Brother

            The downvotes may be from people who know that HP stopped giving free Instant Ink with new printers in 2020.

            They had announced they were ending free Instant Ink completely but eventually agreed to honour previous commitments and continue it for the existing printers of customers already on the program.

          2. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Brother

            The downvotes are because the punters here know that HP will remote-brick the printer if you ever stop paying for the Instant Ink, including the cart that's in the printer already. And remote updating firmware that bricks the device if it finds 3rd party or non-OEM carts in the printer. And other stupid stunts.

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Brother

              Absolute shite. I've been off and on the plan a couple of times now, when I had carts of my own I wanted to use up; including an off-brand set I bought for less than 8 euros.

              No clue where you're getting that from; I suggest you stop spreading FUD.

      2. General Purpose Silver badge

        Re: Brother

        Inkjet cartridges are ridiculously expensive. Epson's Ecotank bottles seem a much better medium/longterm deal (the printers are more expensive) - unless of course the sponges fill up too soon anyway.

        1. elkster88
          Thumb Up

          Re: Brother

          I have an Epson ET-3760 Ecotank and it's brilliant. Saved $100 by not getting the top of the range model with touch screen and fax (!) capability. Still working off the ink bottles it came with. Scanner with ADF, seems to work as well as expected. Previously had a Canon multifunction unit which worked OK but gobbled ink cartridges like a gobbling thing. And of course would refuse to print in B&W if any of the color cartridges were empty.

          I also have a Brother HL-5250DN laser which is going strong after a handful of toner cartridge replacements with no hint of print quality loss.

          And even though the Epson is not marketed as a photo printer, it does a very nice job printing photos on semi-gloss photo paper. Good to know that the ink sponges are user-replaceable and there's a utility to reset the maintenance counter.

        2. Snowy Silver badge

          Re: Brother

          In the UK the Epson Ecotank printers can be purchased quite cheapy Aldi last year and this year had them on special buy and the price is very nice.

      3. usbac

        Re: Brother

        The same here. I live in a dry desert climate, and inkjet cartridges dry out in a month or two. At one point I went to buy two cartridges (black and color), and they wanted about $70 for the two.

        At that point I bought a new Dell color laser printer (back when Dell made/rebranded printers). I paid $210 for the printer including shipping. That was about 7 years ago, and 3 of the 4 toners are the originals. I can buy replacement toners for $11 now. Photo quality isn't too bad.

        If I want high quality, I send the pictures to Costco (they use an optical/photographic process). They will print them for about 1/10 the cost of the paper and ink to print them at home, and the quality is better. One local place has a very high-end inkjet photo printer, but I think the prints are terrible.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: and inkjet cartridges dry out in a month or two.

          Yeah but look on the bright side: your sponges will never saturate.


          There is another option besides InkJet and Laser for photos, and that is Dye Sublimation. I don't know why this technology hasn't caught on more.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            "I don't know why this technology hasn't caught on more"

            Because it is very expensive for anything larger than 13x18cm prints.

          2. Maventi

            Re: and inkjet cartridges dry out in a month or two.

            Dye sub rocks! Very happy with the Canon Selphy.

      4. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Brother

        Inkjets are the work of the devil

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brother

      "Just buy a second hand Brother laser printer and be done with this inkjet racket."

      Buy a new Brother printer and get some warranty as well !!!

      P.S. If you watch the local 'PC Shops' or internet they are periodically available for 'cheap' prices.

      Brother is still one of the Brands that does not play these sorts of games re: Toner etc

    4. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Brother

      Just buy a second hand Brother laser printer and be done with this inkjet racket.

      If you buy a new Brother laser make sure to google how to reset the low toner warning on that too. :D

      For occasional use though, can't agree more, bought a colour laser about 8 years ago, still on the original toner set, was a complete overkill purchase, but I expect it to last me many many more years yet.

      Mind you, parents did the same, then had a desire for decent photo printers. The A3 Epson they got is annoyingly lovely print wise.

      1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        Re: Brother

        If you buy a new Brother laser make sure to google how to reset the low toner warning on that too.

        Yeah, mine complained a lot when I put in a 3rd party toner cartridge.

        A quick visit to YouTube yielded the trick of moving the DRM chip from the starter cart to the new one, along with the magic menu incantations to reset the page counter. It has been printing happily on $18 3rd-party toner ever since.

        PS to any printer manufacturer employees who might read this: f-ck your DRM, and your 500-1000% markup on supplies, and your page counters that disable supply cartridges which are not empty. If you underprice the hardware, that's your problem. Not mine.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just Epson...

    Lets not just bash Epson for this. It is also an HP trick. Their cheaper printers do this ink cleaning in such a way it is almost impossible to repair without industrial cleaning product. So much gunky ink is just dropped in the side of these.

    I bet this heat has also killed many printers by drying up all the ink tubes.

    I second the laser printer comment. And if I need a photo printed, I send that out to a professional shop...

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Not just Epson...

      Oh gods yes.

      I remember when I was still doing the field repair tech getting a ticket to bring an OfficeJet into the shop for service. I was very glad I put the thing on a sheet of cardboard in the bed of my truck, because the cleaning area had overflowed with ink and had gotten pretty much everywhere inside the damned thing, and was leaking out around the bottom seams.

  3. Mishak Silver badge

    Why isn't it user replaceable?

    Like the toner waste on my laser?

    Seeing the mess the old ones used to make when the sponge was full, I can understand a "not working until changed" feature - but it should be easily user replaceable and resettable.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Why isn't it user replaceable?

      I had a Ricoh Gel-Jet* printer with a simple user replaceable tank so it's definitely possible, just possibly not at the sub-£50 price point people expect to pay.

      *High quality waterproof prints but expensive to run, now replaced by a colour laser.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Why isn't it user replaceable?

      Because it adds a little more cost to the printer design, and makes the printer last longer. Canon is making printers with a replaceable "maintenance cartridge", see for example:

    3. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Why isn't it user replaceable?

      Dear Mr printer designer, I suggest a procedure called "Change the sponge": remove one screw, drop a plastic tray containing saturated sponge, place tray in self-seal plastic bag and bin it. Place new tray containing new sponge in the obvious location, replace screw.

      Perhaps they consider arduous work of this nature to be a very difficult procedure that the average user would probably need specialist Epson training to perform?

      1. mark l 2 Silver badge

        Re: Why isn't it user replaceable?

        This has been going on for at least 14 years from my reckoning. As I have an Epson CX3600 which I think was released in 2008 and this went into 'service mode' last year and I had to use the maintenance utility to reset the replace sponge error as it would refuse to do anything. And it was especially annoying as due to the age of the printer the utility wouldn't detect the printer when install on Windows 10 so i had to connect it to a spare PC and install of XP just to run the utility and reset the counter.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Self answering question

      It's doing what it was designed to do. For those that want more words, the "non-replaceable" pads are a fig leaf for triggering planned obsolescence that avoids the fact that by other means this would be illegal. It was designed this way so they would have a leg to stand on in court when they got sued yet again. The make millions per year during every day they can tie this up in court, and there are no penalties to them for doing so. And paralysis and gridlock in the courts means it will take from three years to a decade to work through the system. And the worst they risk is a fine that is less then the money they made on the scam.

      Why would they stop?

    5. Captain_Cretin

      Re: Why isn't it user replaceable?

      Epson do, or did, printers with replaceable tanks; I replaced the one in my WP-4535 a couple of months ago.

      It took all of 5 minutes, unlike a MUCH younger HP printer where the "Removable" covers hiding the tank, disintegrated - and since these covers were actually the main plastic parts of the shell - rendered the entire printer NFU.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Been a thing for at least 4 years

    This has been going on for at least 4 years. I had an Epson printer as my last inkjet before this happened to me, and I bought a Brother laser printer. The reset utility didn't work for me.

    I love the snide comment from Epson about a "local certified technician" - my nearest one is 422.56 miles away according to their locator.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Been a thing for at least 4 years

      Wasn't a problem over a decade ago. My ancient Epson printer is fine - on cheap third party ink cartridges.

      Epson tech has clearly "advanced" since I last bought a printer.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Been a thing for at least 4 years

        So? The same is true of HP LaserJets, which were built in a different age. Supplies of decent old pre-DRM computer kit is drying up.

        Heck, I still have an Epson MX-80, and it doesn't mind 3rd party ink.

        Doesn't help the guy now that's trying to avoid getting screwed when buying a printer.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Been a thing for at least 4 years

          My daughter had a work-supplied HP printer for her home office a while ago. I came to the conclusion that the badge on my older model HP laser was more solidly built than that.

          1. YetAnotherXyzzy

            Re: Been a thing for at least 4 years

            Because I was familiar with HP's old but still trusty laser printers, I bought a new one, and thought I was protecting myself by getting a business grade rather than a consumer grade model. It's as poorly built as the cheapest junk you can find at the discount stores, and is only marginally more reliable. I'm almost looking forward to the day it dies so I can replace it with something not-HP.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Been a thing for at least 4 years

            HP has not built a low-end printer in many years. Those are all just disposable plastic crap cobbled together from various third-party (mostly Chinese) manufacturers -- scanner from one company, print engine from another, etc. -- with an HP sticker slapped on the front. Add the model number to the download page for the 8GB printer driver and job done.

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Been a thing for at least 4 years

          LJ5 here. Got it for free, as it had a bad fuser assy and stripped gears. Both easily replaced, new toner cart and $15 network interface card and it's printing like new. I'll never use another inkjet. I don't print often enough to keep the ink from gumming up.

          Old Laserjets are available refurb. HP tried to bork them by changing their generic PCL5 driver to throw errors, but the old one is available here and works just fine.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not helped by reduced printing needs

    I generally "need" to print once every 2-3 months. At that rate, the ink has dried up Every Single Time.

    Quite a few colleagues in the IT department have suggested a second hand laser (ideally Brother).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not helped by reduced printing needs

      > I generally "need" to print once every 2-3 months. At that rate, the ink has dried up Every Single Time.

      This is such a headache. I recommended an expensive Epson business ink jet to two clients. Both of these died a few months after warranty for these exact reason. Throwing out printers with such low mileage on them is a horrendous waste of resources.

      Laser all the way now. Never has the dried up ink problem.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not helped by reduced printing needs

      Literally the best argument for a laser. BTW they are a little chonky but the Xerox Phaser color lasers give adequate color photo capability, and the toner is shelf stable for long periods of time. 3rd party supplies also avail.

      If you still / need pristine photo grade prints once in a blue moon, just go to a walk in photo center. Or back it up with a dye sublimation printer if that makes sense for your shop. It's supplies cost more but are more shelf stable for longer stretches between print runs.

  6. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Danger Dollarbill Robbing-Scum

    Epson's original support post advised getting the printer serviced at an Authorized Customer Care Center, but warned: "It may be more economical to purchase a new Epson product."

    Why would I do that after being forced into scrapping a otherwise functional machine

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: "It may be more economical to purchase a new Epson product."

      "It may be more economical to purchase a new [anything but] Epson product."


    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Danger Dollarbill Robbing-Scum

      It's a frickin' *sponge*!

      I cannot for the life of me figure out why it requires an Authorised Customer Care Center to pull it out and put a new one in. Nor can I understand why a new one should cost more than a few pennies.

      But, then, again, that's not the point, is it? $$$$

  7. Steve Lionel

    I've had two Epson inkjet printers where the sponges became saturated, causing smearing of ink on prints. I would periodically take paper towels and soak up ink from the sponge, which resolved the problem for a while. Like others here, I have given up on inkjets and bought a Brother color laser printer, with which I am delighted. When I want to print photos, which I do rarely, I send them out.

  8. Wanting more

    Canon too and in a 10 year old printer

    My 10 year old Canon inkjet printer died last year. So I took it apart as you do, hoping to find stepper motors, precision ground bars etc. No stepper motors any more, just normal motors and end limit switches.

    But was disgusted to find a big nappy in the bottom of the printer that was saturated with most of my expensive ink. Obviously the head cleaning that the printer seemed to do every time I turned it on was sucking ink into it.

    Have now switched to a laser printer (Xerox B215) which can't do pretty photos, but so far I think this one toner cartridge should last me a few years as I'm a light user and probably only print <500 pages a year. I've had it a year now and toner still says 97% .

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Canon too and in a 10 year old printer

      The sponge usually has also the task to keep the head nozzle wet, because if they dry too much they do clog. Part of the ink is always used for that.

  9. Alanex

    Never Again

    I used to always buy Epson. I had Canon and HP but the quality wasn’t as good in my opinion.

    My first inkjet was an Epson Stylus Colour II and I had no issues with it at all. I only got rid of it because I couldn’t buy ink for it any more.

    My last inkjet printer was an Epson Stylus Photo PX700W. A good printer initially but when I stopped using it as much I started to get issues with pint quality. 3rd party inks seemed ok but on occasion the printer would reject them.

    I don’t understand the problem of not being able to print in monochrome because a colour ink was empty?? I can understand that printing in colour might also require black but monochrome SHOULDN’T require any of the colours!!

    The final straw is when I could no longer use the scanner unit because the ink was out. Seriously? So I now have a large piece of plastic junk that I can’t even use as a scanner unless I buy ink which doesn’t work because the printer hasn’t been used and has now dried up and probably needs a new print head. So I need to waste money on ink I can’t use just to use the scanner?

    No. I now have a Brother latter printer with scanner unit.

  10. Gene Cash Silver badge


    The best advertisement for Brother laser printers.

  11. Adam Trickett

    Laser is the way to go...

    Over 20 years ago I got an Epson Stylus Color 740 (I think) Worked fine for years without any problem. I didn't use it often and when I need it, the carts were often dry. Then one day it leaked black and was for ever prone to smearing after that (I suspect it wasn't able to clean itself properly anymore). I used it less and less, than one day it made a lot of noise and stopped printing altogether.

    Swapped it for a mono laser (Samsung - now HP) which has been fine ever since. I never really needed colour printing anyway - though when it worked it was very good, but reliability is far more useful than features you can't use...

    My mother-in-law has a Brother all-in-one and that's a horribly unreliable ink-jet. I wouldn't touch ink-jet technology again...

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "It may be more economical for us to purchase a new Epson product."

    I think that's what they meant.

  13. David 45

    Wash away your sins.

    After finding out what the mystery ambiguous message actually meant (naughty Epson for not being straight about it), I just dismantled the printer, thoroughly washed the pad (a bit messy but worth it), used a free third-party re-setter (might have been: but that's a bit old now), re-installed the pad and away I went again. Easy peasy.

  14. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Planned obsolescence

    ... should be illegal.

  15. Alan 19

    Wic Reset

    My XP-830 is still going strong. There is the WIC Reset utility that monitors Epson counters (I'm at 73%) , and you can pay a few $ for a zero counter resetting code, from Youtube often has vidz on how to swap out the ink tanks. Spare Epson ‘porous pad’ tanks probably absorb up to 100ml of wasted ink – or £200 worth of ink, if not more.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To all the people going "well, just send the prints to an outside shop":

    Some will look at the content and either go "NOPE NOPE NOPE" on copyright, or "LOL NO" because they are graphic pictures (if you get my drift) and they don't want the liability from dealing with either, or having to report it to the authorities because of some moral law about such things.

    That's one reason why I still have a photo printer in house, because I'll occasionally print out artsy things that might run afoul of morality laws...

    1. milliemoo83

      John Spartan

      "things that might run afoul of morality laws..."

      You are fined one credit for violating the morality statute.

      1. rfrazier

        Re: John Spartan

        Since I'm on a quotation jag in this thread, here's one that spoke to me ever since I first read it as an undergraduate some 40+ years ago. Indeed, it might be that it also shaped my career and life.

        ----- cut here -----

        Immanuel Kant

        Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.

        ----- cut here -----

        Best wishes,


  17. IHateEpson

    I have a Mac. Would this strategy work?

    Is it possible to install the Epson printer on a PC, reset the print counter using the known workaround, and then reinstall it on your Mac?

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