Shake that Converter!

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If you’ve ever used a fountain pen with a cartridge converter, you know sometimes they can be a bit of a pain to clean thoroughly. You flush and flush and flush but the water still isn’t clear! Well, maybe you just need to shake things up a bit. A brief yet confident shaking of your converter filled with water will get ink out of the ‘hidden spots’ inside your converter to give you a more thorough cleaning.

I recommend doing it with the converter outside of the pen, so you don’t accidentally go flinging your pen across the room. That would be bad. You can do this with any type of converter and it’ll likely help.

It works especially well in tandem with the use of a bulb syringe to flush your pen, which I show in this video.

You can also see how to completely take apart a converter for a thorough cleaning, especially if ink gets behind the piston seal, in this video.

Have you tried shaking your converter before?

2017-10-11T03:07:27+00:00 March 17th, 2011|Tips & Tricks|20 Comments
  • I always shake my converters!

  • Anon

    "….so you don't accidentally go flinging your pen across the room. That would be bad."

    Understatement! ;-P

    Sometimes (especially if the converter is old or doesn't fit perfectly) you may find some dried ink deposits around the outside of the very tip. To clean this you need a "brain stick", I'm told people call them cotton buds, but round here, brain sticks. Even better is the "safety brain stick" – this has a fatter body with a little tip (see image). Get the brain stick wet and simply hold it against the top of the converter, apply gentle pressure and twist a few times. Bye bye gunk.

    A safety brain stick also catches the annoying bit of ink that sticks in the neck of the converter. They also tend to have fewer loose fibres than standard brain sticks which is good – you do need to check for any loose fibres if you clean with anything that might leave them.

    (I've not seen any images uploaded on Brian's blog so thought I'd give it a go.)


    Another good way to clean it is to use a syringe (I have one to refill cartridges) and that shoots water into the converter enough to get it clean. You can also then suck out the rest of the water that is in there to keep it dry.

  • A tool that I use in the shop all the time to clean pens is a Water-Pik. But I use it in a large parts washer-tub to keep the spray controlled. This is a wonderful way to clean pens, but careful using this at home, as it can spray inky water everywhere!

  • JD

    I use those methods too: shake, bulb flller. I also made myself a "Ron Zorn" pen spinner… a modified salad spinner. If I'm putting a converter away I spin it a couple times. Yeah, uh huh, that's what I do.

  • Me too! It's so easy to do, it should just be a part of the cleaning routine.

  • I can't say I've heard of 'brain sticks' before, but it sounds interesting. Do you have a link or a picture of them?

  • That is a great point. If you happen to have a syringe, that's a great way to go.

  • Haha! Aren't Water-piks typically for cleaning your teeth? Are these the things you're talking about?

  • Salad spinner, interesting! I think I heard of this a while back but forgot about it. Maybe I can put my salad spinner to use, finally! I'll have to steal it when Rachel's not looking 😉

  • Haha, it'd get more use as a pen spinner than a salad spinner in our house. :-p

  • Hehe…I love you 🙂

  • Noah

    I'm such a fountain pen newbie! I spent nearly 40 minutes last night trying to get my Waterman pen & converter clean. Sheesh!

    Thanks for the helpful tips!

  • Ryan

    I shake my piston-fill pens as well. It seems that some inks don't need it, but it's always worth it to be thorough.

  • Noah, now you know! 😉 You're welcome!

  • Some inks are certainly worse than others in this respect. Piston-fill pens are essentially the same concept as a converter, but the piston is built in to the pen. Do a little shimmy-shake on a piston-fill pen will give you the same benefit, you just really have to make sure you have a good grip or the pen will go flying, and that's not good for anyone!

  • RheaC

    They are found in the cosmetics area of the grocery store – ask Rachel, she'll probably know what they are. Women use them for applying eye shadow. They are like super hard Q-tips – not very fuzzy! One end is very pointed and the other end is flat rounded.

  • I use a similar method but instead of shaking it I just flick it with my finger and that's enough to shake that stubborn ink from wherever it's hiding.

  • Tina Hammonds

    Using a syringe has proven the easiest and quickest for me – I close the converter down with only about a quarter inch or less "open" for the water to go in and flush away with the syringe – in seconds the water runs clear and it is clean and ready to go. Just fling out the extra water and fill!

  • That works too! Syringes just rock, there's so many uses for them with fountain pens.