Friday, June 15, 2012

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 :) 

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


  1. 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.

  2. Learned a few things and had some questions confirmed - very helpful, thanks!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.  So diluting the ink will also dilute the biocides.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. That's a testament to the good sealing of your Safari! ;) 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!

  10. 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 :) 

  11. 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! 

  12. 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.

  13. 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 don’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,

  14. KTC is a very unique ink, one who's good side you want to stay on ;) 

  15. 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. 

  16. 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. 

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

  18. Same here - that's my usual method of cleaning pens, for yeeeears and years :-) It helped that I would very rarely switch inks in the same pen, I guess :) 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!

  19. 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?" :) 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 :) 

  20. 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.

  21. 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!


  22. 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!


Don't miss anything! Subscribe to our Weekly Email Newsletter!

Disqus for Goulet Pens Blog