Like any well-tuned machine, fountain pens need periodic cleaning to keep them performing their best. This article will cover the basics of fountain pen cleaning, as well as some advanced techniques for experienced users.
- Why Clean a Fountain Pen?
- When Should I Clean a Fountain Pen?
- How to do a Basic Cleaning of a Fountain Pen
- How to Flush a Fountain Pen
- Fountain Pen Cleaning Accessories
- Advanced Cleaning Techniques
- Specific Fountain Pen Cleaning Techniques
- How to Use Fountain Pen Cleaning Solutions
- General Tips and Tricks
- Fountain Pen and Feed Removability
- More Resources
A fountain pen works through capillary action. This is a physical phenomenon in which a liquid uses surface tension to draw itself along a narrow tube. In a fountain pen, ink flows down a channel in the feed and the nib slit to the writing surface.
Over time, dust, paper fibers, and flakes of dried ink can build up in the nib and feed, disrupting the capillary action and causing the pen to write poorly. Symptoms of a pen in need of cleaning include slow or inconsistent ink flow, scratchiness, and skipping.
Fountain pens should be cleaned every 4 to 8 weeks, even if they are still writing well. Fountain pens should also be cleaned whenever you are changing from one ink to another. This ensures that inks do not mix within the pen, which prevents muddy colors and the possibility of inks reacting to each other poorly.
Refer to the chart below for a quick summary of when you should clean your fountain pen.
|When to do a Basic Cleaning||If your pen is writing well and you will not be changing inks|
|When to Flush Your Fountain Pen||If your pen is writing poorly or if you will be changing inks|
|When to Clean the Nib Section||If your pen was filled with a high maintenance ink or if you want to clean your pen thoroughly|
If your pen is writing well and you will not be changing inks, a basic cleaning should be sufficient.
If your pen is writing poorly or if you want to change inks, we recommend flushing the pen to give it a more thorough cleaning. "Flushing" simply means forcing water through the nib section until it is clean.
If the pen has a converter or built-in filling system, use the following instructions:
If the pen does not have a converter or built-in filling system, a fountain pen cleaning accessory is an indispensable addition. A cleaning accessory is a syringe or pipette that attaches to the pen like a converter, allowing you to flush the pen properly. It’s also handy for those who like to clean a handful of pens at once. A syringe or pipette holds more water than a converter, so it’s less time consuming to flush a pen using a cleaning accessory.
A fountain pen cleaning kit usually includes a specialized syringe, pipette, or cartridge-like attachment. Be sure to check carefully and make sure the kit and pen are compatible. Below, we show how to use the Platinum Fountain Pen Ink Cleaner Kit with a Kaweco Sport.
|Kaweco Cleaning Syringe||Most pens that accept international short size cartridges|
|Platinum Fountain Pen Ink Cleaner Kit - European Model||Most pens that accept international short size cartridges|
|Platinum Fountain Pen Ink Cleaner Kit - Japanese Model||Platinum fountain pens only|
|Point Fountain Pen Cleaning Kit||Most pens that accept international short size cartridges|
|Sailor Fountain Pen Maintenance Kit||Sailor fountain pens only|
You may be able to create an improvised cleaning syringe by cutting off the end of an empty ink cartridge and fitting it to a syringe. Install the cartridge-syringe assembly into the nib section and use it to flush the pen. Note that the fit between the cartridge and syringe must be airtight for this to work.
You can create a similar cleaning accessory with a pipette by trimming the open end of the pipette to the width of a cartridge. Then, flush the pen.
With some fountain pens, the nib section can be further disassembled, allowing an even more thorough cleaning. This is particularly useful when the pen has been filled with a high maintenance ink, like glitter, iron gall, or pigment-based inks. Be extremely careful when taking the nib section apart, and do not try to force the nib out if it feels stuck. Doing this may void any manufacturer's warranty your pen might have, and if you aren't careful, this can quickly turn your pen cleaning into a pen ruining. Be sure to detach the cartridge or converter before attempting to remove the nib and feed.
See the section on Fountain Pen Nib and Feed Removability below to see if your fountain pen has a nib and feed that can be removed for cleaning.
Some converters—like the LAMY Z 28 and Schmidt K5—can be disassembled, allowing you to clean ink or water that has become stuck behind the piston.
Some fountain pens have an inner cap that fits snugly into the base of the main cap. While this part helps prevent a nib from drying out, ink can get stuck between the walls of the main cap and the inner cap. You can remove some inner caps with a little ingenuity. Note that some inner caps are attached securely to the main cap and are not removable.
Some Pelikan fountain pens come in a transparent body known as a demonstrator. Ink and water may get trapped in the grip section, which can be unsightly. There is a simple way to clean the section by using a syringe.
The LAMY 2000 features a seamless design that looks like it cannot be disassembled. However, you can remove the nib and feed from the pen in order to give the pen a thorough cleaning. Note that, like other LAMY pens, the nib and feed cannot be separated from each other.
Sometimes water isn’t enough to clean out a pen completely. Several companies make cleaning solutions specifically designed for fountain pens. Use a commercial cleaning solution by following these steps:
- Step 1: Rinse and flush or soak the nib section of the pen with plain water using instructions from the Basic Cleaning or Flushing sections.
- Step 2: Prepare the cleaning solution, following any instructions listed on its packaging. To make the solution last longer, transfer a few milliliters to a smaller bottle or empty ink vial and save the rest for future cleanings.
- Step 3: Soak the nib section in the cleaning solution per the instructions. If the pen has a converter or built-in filling system, use it to pull the cleaning solution into the nib section. Note: In our experience, there shouldn’t be any harm in letting your pen soak for longer than the manufacturer’s recommended time.
- Step 4: Rinse and flush or soak the nib section with plain water. Any cleaning solution left in the pen may interfere with ink flow.
- Step 5: Dry the nib section and reassemble the pen.
You can clean your pens using common household cleaners. Never use rubbing alcohol or acetone to clean your pens. Exposing pens to these substances can irreversibly damage the pen. Instead, use one of these solutions:
- Dishwashing Soap: Mix a small amount of dishwashing soap with water.
- Ammonia: For very tough clogs or inks that are particularly hard to clean, you can use a 10-to-1 mixture of water and ammonia. Do not use ammonia to clean aluminum, brass, or copper pen components, since ammonia can corrode these metals.
- Bleach: If all else fails, you can try cleaning the pen with a very diluted (approximately 20-to-1 ratio) mixture of water and bleach. Bleach can be damaging to some pen components, so it should only be used as a last resort. Do not soak pen parts in a bleach mixture for long periods of time. Never use ammonia and bleach together, as they will react to form toxic vapors.
- If your tap water is hard (has a high mineral content), it may leave behind mineral deposits in the feed or barrel when the water evaporates. This can cause flow problems. We recommend using distilled or softened water when cleaning your fountain pens.
- Use only cold or room temperature water when cleaning a fountain pen. Hot water may warp or damage some components.
- If you are performing a basic cleaning of your fountain pen and want to save the ink in the cartridge or converter, use a piece of tape to seal the opening of the cartridge or converter to keep it from drying out.
- Iron gall, pigmented, and shimmering inks clearly labeled for fountain pen use are not harmful to pens. However, if you will not be using a pen filled with one of these inks for a week or longer, we recommend flushing the pen.
- For fountain pens that have ink stains in the barrel or converter, Sailor Shikiori Doyou may be able to remove the stains. Clean the pen as normal, then fill the pen with the ink. Leave the pen overnight, then flush the ink from the pen and clean again. This won’t always work, but it may be a lifesaver for stained demonstrator pens.
We have compiled a list of every fountain pen available at JetPens and tested if the nib and feed are removable. Here's how to read the "Nib Removable?" column:
- "Yes, friction fit": This means the pen does not have a nib collar and the nib and feed can be pulled directly from the grip section.
- "Yes, nib collar": This means the pen has a nib collar. We recommend removing the nib collar from the grip section by unscrewing it, but you can also pull the nib and feed out of the grip section.
- "Yes, inserted": This means the nib must be removed from the grip section in the direction of the barrel.
- "Yes, twist fit": This means the pen does not have a nib collar bu the nib and feed must be turned as they are pulled out of the grip section.
- "No": This means the pen does not have a removable nib and feed, and we do not recommend attempting to do so.
Note that we are not able to test the nib and feed removability for pens that we do not have on our website.
With regular care and cleaning, a fountain pen can last a lifetime and keep on writing just as well as when it was new. Do you have any thoughts or questions about fountain pen maintenance? Leave a comment and let us know!
|Product Type||Product Name||Add to Cart|
|Fountain Pen Cleaning Kits||Kaweco Cleaning Syringe||Add to Cart|
|Platinum Fountain Pen Ink Cleaner Kit - European Model||Add to Cart|
|Platinum Fountain Pen Ink Cleaner Kit - Japanese Model||Add to Cart|
|Point Fountain Pen Cleaning Kit||Add to Cart|
|Sailor Fountain Pen Maintenance Kit||Add to Cart|
|Product Type||Product Name||Add to Cart|
|Fountain Pen Cleaning Solutions||Platinum Fountain Pen Ink Cleaner Kits||Add Items to Cart|
|Rohrer & Klingner Reiniger Fountain Pen Cleaner||Add to Cart|
|Speedball Pen Cleaner||Add to Cart|