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Off Brand Clone Toner Cartridges - What Are They and The Dangers They Skip to main content

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Off Brand Clone Toner Cartridges - What Are They and The Dangers They Bring

Wed Mar 06, 2019 | Lasers Resource

Your copier ran out of toner again, time to go buy a new one. You get to the store and find all the options for your device. One has the logo of your copier on it and one has a logo you’ve never seen before. The new company’s cartridge is a few bucks less than the name brand one so you think you will give it a try, save some bucks and be the office hero for the day. Well, don’t get ahead of yourself there. There can actually be some dangers with these clone toner cartridges.

How do Clone Cartridges Differ?

Before we get into the issues these clone cartridges can cause, its best to know how they are different than the name brand products.

The biggest difference between original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and a clone toner cartridge is who builds it. OEM cartridges are constructed by the same people who put all the effort into building the actual copier.

Clone toner cartridges are made by a team of reverse engineers that buy the OEM to dissect it and learn to make it themselves. This can cause a lot of issues for your printer or copier as well as for your budget.

The Dangers of Clone Toner Cartridges

Dangers? That seems pretty extreme, right? Are there really dangers or is the copier and toner company just trying to sell us their products?

Well, although “dangers” is a big word, there are some risks you can run into while using a clone toner cartridge in your copier.

Image Quality

image quality

OEMs work on developing not only the machines (printers and copiers) but the toner that gets used in them. Clone toner cartridge manufactures…. don’t.  They still use old, very rough and misshaped toner particles that often act like a kid and color outside of the lines. This results in not only poor image quality but can also cause text to look fuzzy, blurry or out of focus. A typical “You get what you pay for” situation.

Image quality doesn’t seem too terrible if you’re just printing some office memos from time to time, but the list goes on.

Fewer pages

fewer pages

Because the cartridges were designed for perfect balls of toner, and the clone toner particles are anything but, you actually get to print fewer pages. It literally cannot hold enough toner to print the pages that the cartridge is rated for. They most likely sold it as printing the full amount too. This causes you to have to buy more cartridges and costs you more money in the long run.



Along with clone cartridges, one way they make remanufactured cartridges is by literally cutting off one end of a real toner cartridge, filling it with their cheap toner and then reattaching the end of the cartridge. So, leaks can apply to both.  More common than you might think, these ends don’t get attached correctly or the break, and then the toner leaks into the machine.

Picture opening the copier to be meted by a poof of black dust that covers you, the carpet and everything else.  That is also all over the inside of your copier. The copier that operates by moving tiny wheels around to push paper through is now jammed up with basically sand. And if any paper did somehow make it through it will bring in a full sheet of what can best be described as early 90s' big random shaped or today's “abstract art”. 

This is a complete hassle to clean up, can stain and is a waste of a toner cartridge that you paid money for.

Device Ware

device wear

Even without a leak, clone toner can still go rogue in your printer or copier, causing a build-up and over time, a service issue. These build ups can wear down the rollers, the fuser and many other parts of your copier. This can make you spend double to triple in replacement parts for your copier than the money you saved with buying the cheap toner.

I’ve used this before but think about a premium sports car – you wouldn’t put regular unleaded in when it asks for premium and expect it to work right and not wear down over time.

Issues with Intellectual Property (IP)

Intellectual property issues are no joke. And the big boys like HP, Canon, Xerox and the rest are not happy with the clone cartridge world. The many legal battles aside even, it is fundamentally wrong. It would be the same as counterfeiters taking your product, remaking it in the cheapest way possible and selling it for way less than yours. All why ignoring patents and laws to do so.

Here is a link to a document HP developed talking about the differences between clone, remanufactured and OEM cartridges

HP - the truth about clone toner cartridges

Clone toner cartridges are basically the bootleg DVD shop at your local shady mall. Sure, you get the same movie in the end, but it is a camera recording of a movie screen that has people walking and talk over the audio and the image looks dark and is always tilted slightly to the left. If you’re happy with that kind of quality, then all the power to you. If you don’t mind springing for the real stuff (and most times saving money in the long run) then it’s time to look at OEM toner from your copiers actual manufacturer.


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