FP101- Pen Cleaning and Maintenance

Proper fountain pen maintenance is a very important, yet often overlooked aspect to getting the most enjoyment from your pens. I set out to create this particular video to help new and experienced fountain pen fans alike to get the most out of their pens, and to give my personal thoughts about pen cleaning to the community. It’s long, longer than I originally set out to create. It’s all good stuff, though, and it covers a lot.

Here’s what I cover in this video:

  • Why you need to clean your pens (0:53)
  • How often you should clean them (2:40)
  • Pigmented/Carbon inks (3:46)
  • Choosing proper inks for use in fountain pens (5:07)
  • Storing unused pens (6:43)
  • Demonstration of how to clean out a pen from start to finish (7:25)

Of course everything I have here is my generalized opinion, you should always refer to the instructions provided by your specific manufacturer when considering the cleaning process for a given pen. That said, the guidelines I lay out in this video will be acceptable and universal for almost all fountain pens, so take the info and use it however you most feel comfortable ๐Ÿ™‚ 

I’d love to hear what you think! Post any questions in the comments below. See the other Fountain Pen 101 videos here.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

2017-10-11T13:45:51+00:00 June 15th, 2012|Fountain Pen 101|34 Comments
  • Thank you, very cool. Do you know how to fight or prevent slime happening in J.Herbin ink? I read it was an issue, but it still happening to me, because I like to dilute it.

  • Lindsay

    Learned a few things and had some questions confirmed – very helpful, thanks!

  • Great! Glad to help : )

  • The slime issue in J. Herbin is a manufacturing issue, it's not super-prevalent, but it still happens here and there. It's part of their 'all natural' ingredients….not the best biocides…so if you want, shoot me at email (brian at gouletpens dot com) and I'll give you the contact info for Exaclair.

  • Brian,

    I just found a Lamy Safari that I had filled with Platinum Carbon about three months ago, and then lost track of. I'm pleased to say that it washed right out and doesn't seem to be any worse for wear. I'd still recommend being careful with pigmented inks – but, happily, it doesn't seem to be irreparable.

  • Lbhajdu

    The thing with biocides is they have to be above certain concentrations to kill off the funguses and bacteria and prevent there colonies from multiplying.ย  So diluting the ink will also dilute the biocides.

    I donโ€™t know what biocides J.Herbin uses, it could be virtually anything. I am pretty sure the Sailor Jentle inks use phenol. Itโ€™s a pretty distinctive smell hard to confuse with other things. Though toxic itโ€™s not carcinogenic, but most manufacturers have now found less smelly substances.

  • Thank you for info, so do you think If I'll add drop of phenol to my diluted ink it will kill the mold but won't change the ink? And where to get it? It said it may burn skin.

  • Hi Brian,

    I thought the fountain pen cleaning video was great and I will start to do that with all of my pens. I recently purchase the Noodlers Konrad Rollerball. Can you give some insight about often we are supposed to clean this pen out? What I did recently was to pull the tip/feed out and flushed the barrel with water. I'm afraid to wash the tip with water because of the fiber wick leading to the rollerball.

    Just an FYI, I have it inked with Noodler's black and have no intention of changing inks at this point in time.

  • I think you're giving good advice here. However, often fountain pens are much more lenient. Before I started to collect fountain pens, I always had just one or two fountain pens (e.g. a Lamy Accent and cheaper Parkers) and I used them purely as writing instruments that I didn't bother too much about. The only maintenance I did, was a brief flush of tap water over the nib now and then and of course, changing cartridges. I used these pens for years without any adverse effects.

    Now I have more pens, and a lot more inks, a more stringent cleaning regime is in order.

  • That's a testament to the good sealing of your Safari! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yeah, the time a pen can hold ink without drying out varies wildly from model to model, so that's why I generalized (on the fairly conservative side) in the video. I have many pens that I leave inked up unused for months at a time, some start up just fine, others are a pain to clean out after that!

  • David, the rollerball is sort of a different situation, the wick on this pen doesn't need quite the same maintenance as a fountain pen feed because they work a little differently. As long as your pen is writing well, then just keep on using it (especially if with the same ink). If is starts to write dry, then you can pull the wick out and soak it in water with 10% bleach in it overnight, and that'll clean it out (just make sure to rinse it well before putting it back in the pen to use it). Or you can just yank the wick out and use the tip without it….or you can replace the who tip for that matter, they're cheap ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

  • Yes, you can certainly choose to neglect your pens more than I recommend here in the video, even I don't keep as strict a regimen as I recommend! The pen will usually dictate your cleaning schedule. The main point of this video is really to show how to clean it, and just to put cleaning a pen on everyone's radar…you'd be amazed the number of fountain pen users that weren't aware that pens ever needed cleaning at all!ย 

  • Indeed – the worst experience I've had was in an eyedropper-converted Platinum Preppy with Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng. That required a complete tear down and reassembly.

  • To state that none of the compounds in this ink will react without even knowing what any of them are cannot be known and is best determined experimentally anyway.

    Phenol is a white powder in its natural form. I donโ€™t have any reference books stating ideal concentrations (grams/ml) so again this could be determined experimentally. Though I respect artists have different ways of doing things, measuring systems …

    You may want to research as I say it has an unpleasant smell, you may be able to find something better (more commonly available, less smelly) perhaps a food preservative.

    Most of this is common sense + trial and error (99% perspiration).

    Feeling a little embarrass steeling the thread away from Brine,
    Leve

  • KTC is a very unique ink, one who's good side you want to stay on ๐Ÿ˜‰ย 

  • I don't suspect Herbin is using phenol, it seems to me that their proactively all-natural stance wouldn't constitute it. But honestly, this is where we're getting into proprietary formulations and the like, and so your guess is as good as mine.ย 

  • I don't know where you can get it regularly, I've heard of folks using a product called Steril-ink, though I've never used it myself and don't carry it.ย 

  • Yeah, I think if you're getting into custom biocide formulations you'd better anticipate you'll need to do some experimentation!

  • Plume145

    Same here – that's my usual method of cleaning pens, for yeeeears and years ๐Ÿ™‚ It helped that I would very rarely switch inks in the same pen, I guess ๐Ÿ™‚ Now I'm going to be using a bigger range of inks and switching more often, I'll probably step it up to the bulb syringe trick (thanks for that!)

    @ Brian: thanks for the perspective on how a lot of people don't know you need to clean a pen! You probably saved me from a case of foot-in-mouth disease there, because there are some things about FPs that I'm so used to I would be likely to make assumptions about another person knowing and act accordingly, then be stuck in an awkward situation when I found out that it was not at all obvious like I thought!

  • It's just like anything else, the basics are easy to overlook. That's why when you call customer service about a computer or tv, the first thing they'll usually ask is "do you have it plugged in?", followed by "is the power turned on?" ๐Ÿ™‚ There's so much 'new' stuff going on for most people with fountain pens, that it's easy to overlook some of the most fundamental things like maintaining a pen, but that's exactly why I'm doing these videos ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

  • Erwin Lai

    Would you recommend to clean the fountain pen parts with a ultrasonic cleaner? I did that when I decided not to use a fountain pen for a while, besides rinsing the parts with water thoroughly. I would disconnect the converter, put the disassembled pen in the ultrasonic cleaner for a few minutes (normally it would stop in three minutes by default).

    I am not sure whether it is necessary or whether it is good or bad to a fountain pen. But after I clean it this way and have it dried out completely, the pen is going to be stored away for months at least. I would like to hear your opinion about this. Thanks.

    • soniasimone

      A lot of folks do this with vintage pens that have decades of old ink caked in them after not being cleaned before storage. I think it’s probably overkill for a pen that’s not totally gunked up — if your pen is normally clean when you store it, IMO it should be fine.

  • Erwin Lai

    Would you recommend to clean the fountain pen parts with a ultrasonic cleaner? I did that when I decided not to use a fountain pen for a while, besides rinsing the parts with water thoroughly. I would disconnect the converter, put the disassembled pen in the ultrasonic cleaner for a few minutes (normally it would stop in three minutes by default).

    I am not sure whether it is necessary or whether it is good or bad to a fountain pen. But after I clean it this way and have it dried out completely, the pen is going to be stored away for months at least. I would like to hear your opinion about this. Thanks.

  • Michael Marcal

    Hey Brian,
    Just wanted to tell you how useful these videos have been to me. The topic of cleaning my pens has been a source of angst for me. So thank you for your advice.
    Needless to say I’ll be returning to your website and products more!

    Mike

  • Michael Marcal

    Hey Brian,
    Just wanted to tell you how useful these videos have been to me. The topic of cleaning my pens has been a source of angst for me. So thank you for your advice.
    Needless to say I'll be returning to your website and products more!

    Mike

  • Hi Brian. I'm having some issues re-inking my pens that I have converter cartridges in. They don't seem to be filling up with any ink at all. Is this a cartridge problem or do I just need to clean my pens? Thanks for the help and the amazing website!

  • Tom Chicago

    I am really happy to have found these videos and a community of FP enthusiasts. I came across a pretty old bottle of Sheaffer’s Skrip 52. Permanent Royal Blue. It is a beautiful color, but I wonder about how “permanent” it really is. I’m assuming it is ok to use in my Ahab, but I wanted another opinion. I don’t want to gunk up and damage the pen. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

  • M Jones

    Found your site through ” The Pen Addict” podcast. Your videos are great for a beginner like me. Thanks for creating!

  • Marianne Drevna

    Is there any case in which you’d want to take the whole pen apart and clean with soap and water? I do this when I change inks and especially colors. Overkill or not?

  • Sabrael Carroll

    What about drying? I often use a Q-tip to wipe out the back of the nib where the converter connects, and to make sure my converters are dry.

  • Donna True

    Can you rinse out the cap of your pen? Or, are there some pens whose caps should not be rinsed? I had a situation where maybe I had dropped the pen (capped), and then when the ink ran out, I changed ink colors. During the time I was writing with the new ink color, suddenly I had blue ink on my fingers – while there was red ink in the pen. After a few seconds of “Whaaaa?” I realized there must have been some blue ink in the pen cap. I rinsed it quickly and then left it overnight to dry (having also cleaned the whole pen). This seemed to do the trick with that pen… But, I hadn’t seen this issue addressed, and wondered what Brian would do…

    • Mae-Mae Han

      Yeah, as long as it’s not made of wood (or some other material that would be ruined by water), it’s fine to just rinse it out.

  • Jenny Anderson

    I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but after cleaning I can’t seem so get my Ahab to dry completely. I put it in a cup with toilet paper over night (nib down). Should I be taking it apart, and taking the nib off? I think I’m definitely going to get some of your cleaner because I also still see color in the barrel even if it comes out clear on the paper towel. Also, you have a wonderful company! I have a tremor so have been learning to write more whole arm which led to fountain pens and y’all have such a welcoming feeling.

  • Kat

    You don’t mention drying your pen after cleaning. Is that something you recommend or not really necessary?