Fax Toner

Q: How does fax toner work? What should I look for in fax toner? Where can I buy fax toner cheap?

Fax toner is a micro-fine powder of black carbon and polymers. When a document is scanned by a fax machine, an image of the document forms on electrostatically charged areas of a drum. Toner particles adhere to these charged areas; are transferred to paper; and are fused to the paper by heat and pressure.

Toner once came in jugs and was poured into a reservoir in the fax machine. That was messy — and unprofitable so manufacturers replaced jugs with proprietary cartridges for which they can charge exorbitant prices. Some of the additional profit that fax manufacturers earn from new cartridges is spent telling buyers that far less expensive refilled cartridges will leak and ruin their fax machines and void their warranties.

When buying fax toner, you should look for phrases like “OEM”; “original equipment manufacturer” and “genuine (manufacturer’s name) toner“. Fax machines are designed to work best with the manufacturer’s own special combination of carbon and polymers; another formula may not adhere to the paper as well as the OEM’s.

Whether a cartridge has been used before is irrelevant, but it does matter how much care the refiller has taken to properly fill and seal the cartridge. Search online for the refiller’s name and see what previous customers say about that company.

Many fax toner cartridge refillers will give you credit or even cash for your used cartridges. Some will take only cartridges that have been used just once, while others will also accept catridges that have been refilled several times. The more times a cartridge is refilled, the more likely it is to leak. You may want to stick with a refiller who accepts only “used once” cartridges in trade-ins.

Refilled fax toner cartridges are widely available online and on eBay. They can also be had at well-known office supplies retailers (much to the consternation of cartridge manufacturers). Some retail outlets will even take in your spent cartridge, refill it, and have it ready for pick-up the same day.

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