fountain pen cleaning tips drying pens

Cleaning Tips That Will Help Keep Your Fountain Pens Writing Great

John BosleyHow To 6 Comments

Since I’ve started my Ink of the Week project, I have been cleaning a lot more pens than usual. Using a different ink in five pens each week leads to quite a few pens that need to be cleaned and I try to stay on top of it so I don’t fall too far behind. Each time I do another round of cleaning I find myself using a few techniques that seem to greatly speed up the process. Today I want to share those with you. While I can’t promise all of them will be new to you, hopefully at least one of them can help speed up your pen cleaning in the future.

Cleaning Your Fountain Pen

To start, maybe we should discuss why you should clean your fountain pen. If you haven’t already read it, I have a fairly extensive article about pen cleaning that you might find helpful. To summarize it, cleaning your fountain pen not only helps get the old ink color out, but also clears any dry ink reside that can hinder or even block ink from flowing from your pen onto paper. By regularly cleaning your fountain pens, you can ensure that they are always in their best working condition.

Pen Cleaning Tips

While the basics of fountain pen cleaning are not very complicated, there are always a few pens that seem to be more challenging to clean than others. Here are some tips that I have found that will help make cleaning your pens as easy as possible.

Get Yourself A Bulb Syringe

One item that I use on almost every single pen that I clean is a 2-ounce bulb syringe. I also have a 1-ounce bulb syringe that occasionally gets used, but if I had to choose one size it would definitely be the 2-oz version. What makes this item so useful? It offers much more control over water flow and volume than a faucet, which allows for easier cleaning. It also fits into small places, giving you the ability to clean inside of caps or pen barrels without getting water on the exterior of the pen.

fountain pen cleaning tips bulb syringe

Here are two bulb syringes, 1-ounce (L) and 2-ounce (R)

One of the main things I use my bulb syringe for is to force water through nibs. If you have a nib that is fixed in a section, simply insert the tip of the syringe into the back of the section and squeeze water through it. If you have a pen with a removable nib and section, even better! Now you have a nib nozzle. I like to squeeze water through the nib/section combo to clear out most of the ink, then remove the nib and soak it in some water. After it has soaked for a bit, I rinse out the section, screw the nib back into it and repeat the first step (put the nib and section on the bulb and squeeze water through it). You can also clean multiple nibs at the same time if they all fit the same section.

fountain pen cleaning tips pen section

You can force ink through the nib by putting a pen section on the bulb

fountain pen cleaning tips

You can clean multiple nibs if they fit the same section

Another thing that I always use my bulb syringe for is cleaning out converters. For this, I put a syringe tip on the end of my bulb syringe, which allows me to squirt water directly into the converter. While it is possible to clean a converter by repeatedly filling and emptying it with clean water, I find forcing water into it is much faster. This also works for used ink cartridges where you don’t have the option to suck water into them like you do with a converter.

fountain pen cleaning tips bulb with syringe tip

The syringe tip fits best on the 1-ounce bulb

fountain pen cleaning tips converter cleaning

The syringe tip allows me to clean inside of converters and cartridges.

Remove Extra Water With A Paper Towel

As a final check to make sure my pens are completely clean, I like to touch the hopefully-clean nib to a piece of paper towel. This will pull any water that is in the nib out into the paper towel. If any color comes with the water, you’ll know your pen isn’t completely clean. If you see color should you go back and clean or soak your nib a while longer? It depends on how much and what the color is. If you want your next fill to be as pure as possible, keep on cleaning, but if it is a light or neutral color and there isn’t very much of it, chances are it won’t even affect your next fill.

fountain pen cleaning tips paper towel

Once you think your pen is clean, let a paper towel suck out any remaining water.

Another reason I do this to every pen that I clean is to make sure all of the water is out of my pens. I’m not so worried about having dry pens. I know that the water will evaporate quickly enough. My main concern is that, when the water evaporates, small amounts of mineral buildup may occur thanks to the minerals that are found in tap water. Removing the water should remove most of those minerals. If you want to completely avoid this potential issue, you can use distilled water when you clean your pens (or at least do a final rinse with it).

Don’t Forget Your Cap

Once you have your nib clean and your converters flushed, there’s one more thing you still need to do. Don’t forget to clean out your cap! Pen caps can get a lot of ink inside of them. While not usually an issue, I have experienced mysterious color-changing inks before where they start writing the wrong color and eventually shift to whatever color the pen is filled with. Once I figured out this was caused by a dirty pen cap, I started rinsing out my caps when I clean my pens and have not had that issue since. For most of my pens I just hold the cap under running water, but for a few of my pens with caps that I don’t want to hold under a running faucet I use a bulb syringe (see above) to squirt water inside of them.

fountain pen cleaning tips inky cap

Don’t forget your cap when cleaning your pens

Best Practices

Most of these should go without saying, but it’s still good to have a reminder from time to time:

  • Clean your pens as soon as possible. The longer your pens sit empty, the more of a chance the remaining ink has to dry. Once dry, you’ll have a lot more work ahead of you.
  • Get yourself an ultrasonic cleaner. They help with dry or stubborn inks that refuse to completely come out of your pens.
  • Don’t save pens until you have a lot to clean. It may make sense to do a bunch of cleaning at once, but if you wait too long it can get overwhelming. I personally try to clean out a pen as soon as it runs out of ink, regardless of if I have any others to clean or not.
fountain pen cleaning tips too many pens

Letting your pens stack up between cleanings is a great way to not clean your pens

Conclusions

Cleaning your fountain pens is not the most enjoyable part of using them, but it is necessary. Regular cleaning can not only keep your pens writing great, but can also make your life easier. By not waiting until you have a big pile of pens with dry ink in them, your cleaning sessions will be faster and less challenging. That means you can spend more time writing and less time cleaning. I hope you found a tip or two that you can use in the future. Happy cleaning!

Comments 6

  1. I like to use a cut off ink cartridge to clean Pilot pens. I stick regular of the cartridge into the nib section. The other end of the cartridge has been cut off, such that a syringe fits in it. Then I put water through the section using the syringe. Instead of the cut off syringe, you can now get precisely machined cleaning tools from Schon Dsgn for various popular pen brands like Pilot, Sailor, and Jowo nibs. These act exactly like the cut off ink cartridge, but they are a lot nicer and fit more precisely.

    https://www.schondsgn.com/collections/fountain-pens/products/luer-syringe-pen-cleaning-tool-system

    1. Post
      Author

      I really like the cut off cartridge idea, Terri! I had never thought of that, but will definitely give it a try. I was also wondering how long until someone started machining parts for cleaning pens. Good to know the exist!

  2. The suggestion to use a bulb syringe to clean the converters is really helpful.
    My experience with Lamy converters is that a lot of them, seem to let ink flow behind the piston inside the converter. I find the only way to get all the ink out is to submerge the whole converter in water and flushing water in and out while the converter is submerged. Have you had this experience with Lamy converters ? If yes, do you use the same method ?

    1. Post
      Author

      Glad you found it helpful, Tanja! I have had ink seep behind the piston in Lamy converters before. I have tried submerging them, but have had better success disassembling them and cleaning them that way. There are some videos out there that show how to do it if you’re interested.

  3. Thank you for your reply!
    I wait for the paper sample day by day 🙂

    But I didn’t receive any email about shipping.
    Could you check one more time?

    Hayun

  4. I’ve just read your 2019 article on grey paint, so as I couldn’t comment there I’ll leave my comment here…

    I’ve finally found a good article on one of my favourite colours that I use every day, thank you.
    In my search for very light greys, I recently discovered one that I’m using with very satisfactory results. It’s called Pebble Stone and belongs to the Pastell range manufactured in Germany by Octopus which, as well as producing various inks under its own brand, also produces for a wide variety of other pen manufacturers.
    Other greys I use a lot are Venuvstas Fumo di Londra, Lamy Crystal Agate and Montblanc Cool grey, but my preference is increasingly for very light greys, so I think I’ll have to start looking in Japan.
    Your suggestions would be much appreciated.
    Best regards.

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