6 Suggestions For Looking After Your Fountain Pen

There has been a big rise in the demand for fountain pens in recent years. As anyone who has bought and used a fountain will know, they are fantastic writing instruments that can improve your handwriting, and will give you plenty of pleasure and enjoyment as you discover new pens and inks. However, unlike many everyday pens a fountain pen will require a little extra care so here is our guide to looking after your fountain pen, to keep it in the best condition.

We have asked Mishka to give her top tips to looking after your pen, to ensure it remains in tip-top condition

1. Keep Writing!

The best way to keep a pen in good condition is actually to use it. Leaving a pen unused means the ink can, and will, dry out. Avoid this by keeping the ink flowing by writing. And of course, by writing you will be using it which is also a good thing.

There is no set time-limit on this. Different pens and inks will dry out at different times and it can also depend on the conditions. However most pens will be fine if used every few days, maybe even just once a week. Beyond that you may find the ink starts to dry out.

2. Cap it!

It is highly likely that your fountain pen will have a cap – very few have retractable nibs. The cap is there for two main reasons. Firstly it protects the nib from getting damaged, and secondly it helps stop the pen from drying out very quickly. Make use of the cap and keep the pen capped at all times when not writing. Again, how long you can leave a pen uncapped will depend on so many factors so th best advice is to cap it whenever you can remember to.

3. Flush A Dry Pen

Sometimes looking after your fountain pen can require a bit more work. If your pen has dried up then you may be able to get it going again with a bit of encouragement – maybe even just moistening the nib with some ink or even water will be enough.

If the pen refuses to write then you just need to flush the pen out, and this will solve almost all dried-pen issues. This is done by removing the cartridge or converter and running cold or lukewarm water through the pen until the water runs clear from the nib. Dry with a paper towel (kitchen roll, but not loo paper which can shed fibres). Repeat if ink still flows.

4. Flush A Pen Between Inks

Part of the pleasure of using a fountain pen is being able to discover new inks. Changing from one colour of ink to another can pose obvious problems (there is a changeover period), but inks are not always the same and it is best to avoid mixing different inks. For this reason we would recommend a quick flush of the pen before starting with a new ink.

It is also a good idea to clean the converter if you are using one. Note that you shouldn’t use hot water for this as it may damage the feed which has some very fine parts to it.

5. Clean A Pen

There is never any harm in giving your pen a good clean, especially if you are switching inks. Flushing it (see above) is fine, but you can also use a dedicated cleaning solution for this purpose. There are plenty available including ones from Herbin and Diamine. Just rinse the pen as described above, and then fill a converter with a small amount of cleaning solution and write with this until the pen writes clear.

Stubborn pens may need a bit more work, so you can always soak the front part in a small amount of cleaning solution for a few minutes and it should work its magic.

6. Store It Right

Even the most dedicated pen-user will find that they might not use a pen for a while. Avoid making it worse by storing your pens correctly, so that if you do need to flush them they will clean easily. Always store a pen horizontally, or if you do store it vertically make sure it is nib-up (so that ink doesn’t gather in the nib and feed). Store them in a dry place as well, as this will help avoid problems.

Of course, if you can clean the pen before you store it then so much the better – a clean pen can be inked and ready to go in no time. That said, not all of us know we won’t use a pen until its too late and the pen has dried up. Just go back over these tips and that dried up old fountain pen should spring back into life.

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  1. Keep Writing? Really. So many pens and so little time!

    As for #3: When my red pen stops working (I’m a teacher – and I will not think about the stuff on kids books!) I occasionally lick the end of my finger and then run the underside of the nib across it. Gross? Perhaps, but reduces the chance of pens being borrowed! Effective – mostly!

    1. Yes! That’s exactly what I do now to give the flow a little nudge.

      I used to use my tongue directly on the nib but then I would be discoloured for a while… better to use the thumb as the middle-man 🙂

  2. Thanks for the tips, Mishka! Can you also use J. Herbin cleaner for pen caps? I’ve got a Platinum demonstrator that had some of their carbon ink in the cap – water doesn’t dissolve that stuff! Don’t want to damage the acrylic though. It’s also stained the nib a bit too (should have wiped it clean more …) – is it ok to soak the nib and feed in it? Time limit? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sue!

      I had really stubborn plastic feed which I soaked over night and it worked. We’ll test Platinum and get back to you 🙂

      1. Thanks so much, that’s really kind of you! Will wait to hear before I give it a go …

        1. Hi Sue,

          All good – nice and shiny 🙂 I had a pen which got stained by permanent ink – the stain is not gone, but it is way better now 🙂

          1. Great stuff! Cleaned the carbon ink out of the Platinum cap perfectly – many thanks!

  3. Why is it a bad idea to mix inks?! I rather love the colour variation that occurs when I change colours or swap over cartridges…
    I usually use a small amount of cleaning fluid with slightly more water (1/4) to clean my pens, also soaked the whole front end of a pen to get it working again, and this solution has worked so far.

    This is really helpful, thanks. I’ll share it with the folks on the fountain pen ecourse I’m doing 🙂

  4. @Sandra–Mixing inks can occasionally cause weird chemical reactions that can damage the pen. More often, though, you’ll get a color that won’t “behave”…it is too watery for the pen or gunks it up. This is usually just an annoyance, though, and there’s little way to tell what will happen beforehand. Fountain Pen Network has some good forums on ink mixing if you don’t know it.

  5. Now we all know that the best way to remove gunked up ink from the unreachable parts (ink delivery and pen caps) is to use an ultrasonic cleaner. We also all know that ultrasonic cleaners are hard to come by outside of the laboratory. What most people don’t know is that we can all make a U/S cleaner at home using a bowl of water and an electric toothbrush. Just put the offending part into a small bowl of warm water (or other cleaning fluid of your choice), turn on the electric toothbrush and dip the head (the toothbrush, not yours) into the water and see the gunk coming out of all those nooks and crannies. Voila, a U/S cleaner in your own bathroom at no extra cost. Disclaimer alert! I suggest you try it on a financially or otherwise emotionally worthless pen before subjecting your cherished vintage writing instrument to a laboratory experiment of this nature! Mishka, maybe you can test it out and give us your infomed opinion.

      1. Hi Mishka,
        Have you tested this out yet, your informed opinion would be appreciated, maybe with a photo of the gunk exiting a clogged pen?

        1. Hi Chris,

          I have tried normal Oral B toothbrush – it would not compare to sonic cleaner. I do not own sonic toothbrush, but I know it does create quite a lot of water movement…

  6. I think the most important tip is the 6 one. Besides those information, If you don’t use the pen, wash it with water to eliminate all of the ink inside.

  7. Writing with fountain pens take quite a bit more finesse, then other writing tools and this is something that can be learned. Fountain pen writing technique is more about using angles, gliding strokes, paying attention to ink flow and using the correct paper when applicable.

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