The inkjet and laser printers that most businesses use every day are easy to take for granted. However, they are actually very complicated machines that move at extremely high speeds, feeding very thin sheets of paper through printing assemblies that place millions of microscopic dots on them in a matter of just a few seconds. Printing processes are actually very sensitive and one of the biggest outside factors that can impact their ultimate quality is the humidity in which they print.
Regardless of the type of printer you are using, humidity affects paper. While paper is naturally very dry, with many papers intended for the digital printers used in businesses containing just four to five percent moisture, air that is too dry can further dry out the paper, making it prone to static electricity, which can cause it to jam. High humidity, on the other hand, dampens the paper, which also causes jams as well as diminished print quality.
Inkjet printers work by spraying very small droplets of liquid ink onto a piece of paper. When there is more moisture in the air, the ink dries less quickly, which makes it much more prone to smudging. While the ink waits to dry, it can also spread on the paper, causing the final printout to be less crisp. Operating with too little humidity can cause ink clogs, as the air attempts to suck the moisture out of the ink, leaving solids behind in the print head.
Laser printers and xerographic copiers have a different set of issues that stem from their fusers, which use heat to melt toner particles onto paper. Paper designed for laser printers is typically dryer than regular paper, since wet paper releases moisture as it passes through the hot fuser. When you have high humidity levels, the dry paper absorbs more moisture, increasing the chance that the water in it will boil unevenly as it goes through the fuser, creating wrinkles. At the same time, the toner will not stick to the paper as well when it is wet.
The first step in understanding if you have a moisture problem is to measure the amount of moisture in the air with a hygrometer. If your air is drier than 40 percent humidity or more moist than 60 percent humidity, consider installing a humidifier or dehumidifier in the area around your printer. You can also take steps to keep your paper safe from the environment. Store it off the ground in an area that is at a similar temperature to where you keep your printer. Because many paper wrappers contain moisture blocking coatings, storing your paper in its ream wrapper until you need to print on it can also help a great deal.