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Help Me! My Toner Cartridge Is Leaking!

02/11/2011 by Alex Paransky  

You just cleared a paper jam and spent a good 20 minutes just fussing with your laser printer.  Finally, you are done and you put everything back together.  When trying to print a page you observe something that was not there before.  Down the page, you see drops of toner or vertical lines.  Not good!

Before going any further, if you are reading this article because a new toner you just put into your printer is leaking, then STOP!  Call the seller of your toner unit and request to exchange or return the product.  If you purchased your toner from a local store or on the Internet (you have read our Buying Ink or Toner Printer Cartridges on the Internet, right?) you should have no problems with returning your defective toner unit back to where it came from.  There is no reason why a brand new toner cartridge should be leaking in your printer when you have just installed it.

This article is targeted at toner cartridges with an integrated drum unit.  Most HP and Canon cartridges fit this description as well as some Xerox, Samsung and Dell cartridges.  Here is a picture of an HP 15A cartridge with an integrated drum.

The most common reason why cartridges start to exhibit this type of printer defect has to do with a piece of paper stuck between the drum and the retaining blade.  

As your cartridge prints toner is transfered from the drum onto the paper.  Any remaining toner is swept into the waste bin using the wiper blade.  The retaining blade seals the waste bin against the drum so that the toner does not escape.  During a paper jam, a piece of paper or some dust could get stuck between the drum and the retaining blade.  This intruder element causes the retaining blade not to seal against the drum thus allowing toner to escape onto the paper as the drum turns during printing.  

To see if you are experiencing this defect, turn the cartridge over on its back and pull back the drum shutter (if there is one).  

As you can see from the above image an area of the drum is dirty with toner.  Here is a closer look at that area.

Notice a small piece of paper is stuck between the drum and the retaining blade.  In this particular case, the paper is obviously visible, however, in some cases, you may just see some toner dust accumulating around a certain area of the drum which would correspond to the area on paper where leakage is occurring.

The trick is to either remove this piece of paper or push it into the waste bin without further damage to the retaining blade or scratches on the drum.  The simplest way is to use a corner of a paper post card or a regular paper.  Post card works better as it is heavier than regular 20lb paper and is easier to work with.

Insert the corner of the post card between the drum and the retaining blade like this.

Using the corner of the post card try to ether grab and pull the piece of paper out or push it into the waste bin.  Do not use any material harder than a post card, such as a knife as the hardness of the metal will scratch the drum permanently damaging it, or possibly cut the retaining blade creating more issues and leakage.  

You could also use a tip of a wooden tooth pick for this task.  

Once you have removed the offending piece of paper or pushed into the waste bin do not attempt to clean or wipe the drum with anything.  The drum will naturally clean its self off any residual toner as it starts to print.  

Depending on how soon you have detected the leakage there could be some toner left in your printer.  This would result the back of the page having some toner blotches as it travels through the paper path.  You may want to look inside the cavity of the printer where the toner goes and wipe up any spilled toner using a dry lint free cloth.  Alternatively, you can use a toner vacuum to vacuum out your printer.

This is one of the most common defects that we see with laser toner cartridges.