It’s a very good idea to buy inkjet inks and papers that can make your documents
and photo prints last. But what’s the best way to preserve for future
reference those documents you’ve already printed — which may not always have been
produced with the highest-quality supplies?
In this space last week,
I wrote about some of the questions businesses need to ask themselves when
buying printer consumables: Will cheap, third-party inks damage our printers?
Are low-cost supplies truly a bargain?
Most businesses have already printed a large number of documents and photos. The preservation of those printouts may be just as important to you as
the shekels you shell out to produce future ones.
Reprinting Versus Preserving Your Documents
Oddly enough, the printouts you produce today may last longer than the hard
drive that holds your digital documents and images.
Although no one seems to
think the hard disk in their personal computer will ever die, today’s hard disks
can become useless in surprisingly few years. For example, IBM estimates a
service life of 3.4 years for its 2.5-inch Travelstar drive, according to a
report by CALCE
(Computer Aided Life Cycle Engineering Electronic Products and Systems Center at
the University of Maryland).
If your strategy to preserve your faded documents and photographs is simply to print
new copies someday, you’ll be out of luck if the drive that holds your originals
suddenly crashes and you have no backup. Usable data can often be recovered from
crashed disks, but consultants who specialize in this process can cost hundreds or thousands
of dollars. A well-planned backup policy is much cheaper.
Preservation of documents that are in your own hands isn’t your only problem,
however. You probably print documents and photos in order to send them to
clients, colleagues, and friends. If your printouts turn orange (due to the cyan
ink fading) or greenish (from the magenta ink fading), the recipients of your
hard copies aren’t likely to get back to you for replacements.
Everyone’s seen one-year-old fax paper with printing that’s faded so much as to be
virtually unreadable. I occasionally even see dot-matrix printouts from some retail cash
registers that I can hardly read the minute I’ve left the store.
Documents produced by today’s inkjet printers aren’t nearly as bad as that. But
there are a few preservation steps you should be aware of.
The Enemies Of Document Preservation
a manufacturer of photo albums, describes six factors that can damage or fade inkjet printouts:
• High temperatures.
• High humidity.
• Ozone and other atmospheric pollutants.
• Exposure to water.
• Sunlight, florescent lighting, and incandescent lighting.
• Abrasion, as when rough materials rub against printouts.
Not surprisingly, Creative Memories recommends that photographs be kept in
albums with nonacidic backing papers covered with nondamaging plastic sheets —
the kind of albums it makes. These albums and other storage containers for
inkjet-produced documents should be kept away from overheated attics and damp basements.
PDF document entitled “A Consumer Guide to Traditional and Digital Print
Putting Your Printed Collection On Ice
Wilhelm Imaging Research is a company that’s noted for its extensive testing of
inkjet inks and papers. For maximum preservation of important documents and
photographs, Wilhelm actually recommends that the materials be frozen solid.
Sub-freezing temperatures, far from damaging these hard copies, preserves their
lifespans as much as 1,000 times, according to Wilhelm. For example, Kodak
Ektachrome Professional films, widely used in the 1970s, will suffer
slightly noticeable fading (10 percent) in only five years at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. But
when frozen at -4 degrees F., this amount of fading won’t occur for 2,100
years, Wilhelm says in a PDF
Companies in the business of preserving printed materials, such as the Art
Institute of Chicago and the Corbis-Bettman Archive (with its 13 million
photographs), have taken this technique to heart. The archive actually moved its
entire New York City collection underground in 2001 — to Iron Mountain in
western Pennsylvania, as described in a Washington Post Magazine
The materials now rest in sub-zero suspended animation, after many of them are
digitally scanned for ease of access.
Preserving Your Own Hard Copies
You can’t expect to lengthen the life of your own documents and photos by
packing them away, say, in your own refrigerator or freezer. Those spaces are
too damp. Using quality papers and inks, and storing documents in reasonably
cool, dry, and dark places, should be enough to provide 100-year stability for
But which of the myriad inks and papers on the market today are worthy of your
Next week, I’ll describe products from both the major manufacturers and small,
independent producers — and what the latest tests show about their respective