Fax Cartridge

Q: What is in a fax cartridge? Why are there so many different fax cartridges? Where can I find a fax cartridge for my fax machine?

A fax cartridge contains just fax toner, a fine powder of black carbon mixed with “specially formulated” polymers to help it adhere to paper better. A fax cartridge also has a mechanism called a hopper that feeds toner to the fax machine as needed; there are a few moving parts in the hopper and some springs. But essentially, a fax cartridge is just a box that holds toner.

It will be a distinctively shaped box that fits only a limited number of fax machines from one manufacturer.

New fax cartridges can cost over $100. Recycled, refurbished, or refilled fax cartridges are also available, and much less expensive than new ones. No matter which “R” word is used, pretty much the same thing is done to make a used, empty fax cartridge marketable again.

The seller cracks the seal on the fax cartridges fill-hole, pours in fresh toner, and re-seals the cartridge. If the seller is really conscientious, he or she also checks the few springs and moving parts on the hopper to make sure they’re working and replaces parts that should be replaced. That’s “refurbishing.” Of course, you have no way of knowing if a “refurbished” cartridge has actually had parts replaced, and no law regulates the use of the word “refurbished”; it can simply mean, “re-filled” with toner.

Fax machine OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will void your warranty if they catch you using re-filled cartridges. They claim that re-filled cartridges can damage a fax machine by leaking; by rubbing worn parts the wrong way against their perfect parts; and by just being not theirs.

However, millions of re-filled fax cartridges are used each year without problems. When there is a problem, it’s usually leaking toner, which is powder. You’ve probably seen toner powder on a fax machine that was working just fine. Clean it off. Find a more conscientious supplier of re-filled fax cartridges.

Do you have a question about faxing? Send me your fax question.