Inkjet documents can have poor to excellent archival durability, depending on the quality of the inks and paper used. If low-quality paper is used, it can yellow and degrade due to residual acid in the untreated pulp; in the worst case, old prints can literally crumble into small particles when handled. High-quality inkjet prints on acid-free paper can last as long as typewritten or handwritten documents on the same paper.
Because the ink used in many low-cost consumer inkjets is water-soluble, care must be taken with inkjet-printed documents to avoid even the smallest drop of moisture, which can cause severe "blurring" or "running". In extreme cases, even sweaty fingertips during hot humid weather could cause low-quality inks to smear. Similarly, water-based highlighter markers can blur inkjet-printed documents and discolor the highlighter's tip. The lifetime of inkjet prints produced using aqueous inks is generally shorter (although UV-resistant inks are available) than those produced with solvent-based inkjets; however, so-called "archival inks" have been produced for use in aqueous-based machines which offer extended life.
In addition to smearing, gradual fading of many inks can be a problem over time. Print lifetime is highly dependent on the quality and formulation of the ink. The earliest inkjet printers, intended for home and small office applications, used dye-based inks. Even the best dye-based inks are not as durable as pigment-based inks, which are now available for many inkjet printers. Many inkjet printers now utilize pigment based inks which are highly water resistant: at least the black ink is often pigment-based. Resin or silicone protected photopaper is widely available at low cost, introducing complete water and mechanical rub resistance for dye and pigment inks. The photopaper itself must be designed for pigment or for dye inks, as pigment particles are too large to be able to penetrate through dye-only photopaper protection layer.
The highest-quality inkjet prints are often called "giclée" prints, to distinguish them from less-durable and lower-cost prints. However, the use of the term is no guarantee of quality, and the inks and paper used must be carefully investigated before an archivist can rely on their long-term durability.
Most home inkjet printers are going to use water soluble ink that will run if it gets wet. So keep that in mind.