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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!