Remixing old riso ink

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since my last blog post, but now it is time. This one is going to be on the issue that messed up my black drum for a good while – I first got it serviced for about a month ago.

Essentially the story started with ordering 2 tubes of black ink from eBay which turned out to be way too old – in one of them shaking the tube produced a happy sloshing sound. The other one made no sound, so I thought it was all right to use. As it turned out, I was wrong. The ink in that one had separated just as well, and enough water managed to seep out to clog the ink pump and get behind the drum screen before I discovered it.

However, this meant that I had two tubes of old ink for experimenting and I remembered that someone in the Facebook riso group had successfully remixed old ink so it could be used for printing (will try to find a reference to the post later). They had used electric drill and paint mixer and added some distilled water. In case you are wondering what an electric paint mixer looks like, there are many versions:

drill mixer comp

I don’t have an electric drill at home, so I took the low-tech approach of straining the ink to regain the original or near-original consistency. The first challenge was to figure out how to open the ink tube and after some examination I did figure it out (in case it’s absolutely obvious for some, no need to judge). I used a can opener and a pair of tongs from my Ikea tool box.

can opener comp

Firstly one needs to pry off the black ring. Then proceed to pull out the lid slowly.

opening comp

As you can see the ink has become a thick gunk. For the next step, I recommend covering your immediate surroundings with as much plastic as possible and arming yourself with a pair of good rubber gloves, as it’s going to get MESSY.

I covered a one-liter empty yoghurt bowl with a loose gauze cloth, fastened it with a couple of clips at the edges and scraped/poured the ink onto the gauze cloth. It couldn’t be there all at once as it didn’t seep through fast enough, so I squeezed some through into the bowl and filled then more onto the gauze. Once the all the ink had been strained through the gauze, I took a second yogurt bowl, a new piece of gauze and repeated the whole gooey process once more, poured it back into the ink tube and mixed through with a stick.

straining comp

As you can see from the middle photo, straining leaves the ink with the consistency of a latex paint, which I believe is still too liquid. (I couldn’t test at first as the drum was messed up and I didn’t want to test later when it had been fixed, in case it would mess it up again. So take it as a theoretical experiment.)

The importance of rubber gloves cannot be stressed enough as riso ink is unbelievably difficult to clean off. (Mine crumbled a bit during the straining). This was the result after a mixture of dishwashing liquid, Ajax and white spirit. It took about a week to wear off completely.


The final part of closing the ink tube again is tricky in its own way. As the lid is designed to fit very tightly (for obvious reasons), every failed attempt chips the edges a bit and makes it harder to fit in. After about ten failed attempts, I discovered that the method that works is somewhat contrary to logic.


riso ink tube closing

Slide one side of the cover quite deep into the tube and then press down the other side. It shouldn’t go in too deep either, because that creates pressure between the air under the lid and the ink, so it’ll start pressing out from the opening on the other end.


All in all, I reckon that the electric drill mixer or straining and a round with the mixer in the end could get the ink back to usable consistency. Straining only leaves it too liquid and doesn’t provide the slight foaminess it needs to have.

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