There is something sweetly pleasurable about writing with a fountain pen. Whether is it a love letter or a thank you note, thoughts written with a fountain pen flow freely and effortlessly.
However, it does take some effort on your part to maintain a fountain pen. Dust, fibers from the paper and dried ink can build up in the feeder of the nib (where the ink comes out) and obstruct the flow of the ink. It leads to scratchy writing and sketchy words.
Since good quality fountain pens don’t come cheap, it’s important to take care of them by cleaning them regularly.
Ideally, a fountain pen should be cleaned once every month or two for optimum performance. Pens should also be cleaned before changing inks. If you are unsure about how to clean a fountain pen the right way, you’ve come to the right place.
If your fountain pen needs regular cleaning, you can use the basic method. If that doesn’t help, deep clean a fountain pen with vinegar. And if your pen was stored away and not used for a long time, you can dissolve the dried ink and make your fountain pen functional again using a DIY cleaner.
- Method 1: Basic Cleaning
- Method 2: Deep Cleaning with Vinegar
- Method 3: Dissolve Dry Ink with a DIY Cleaner
Method 1: Basic Cleaning
This is the cleaning process you need to follow every 4 to 8 weeks to keep the pen in good working condition. Basic cleaning with water will dislodge all the dust, fibers and dried ink that can disrupt the smooth flow of ink through the nib feeder.
Step 1. Take apart the fountain pen
- Remove the cap of the pen.
- Unscrew the pen to separate the nib section from the barrel.
- If the pen has a cartridge, remove it from the nib section as well.
Step 2. Rinse the nib section with water
- Hold the nib section upside down and pour water through the end with the wide opening. You can also hold it directly under the tap. Use room temperature water only.
- Keep pouring water through it for at least 20 seconds, or until all the ink comes out and clear water starts running through the nib.
- Place the nib section in a cup of lukewarm water for 10 minutes. This will help dissolve any ink clumps.
- Rinse the other parts of the pen as well to remove any ink stains.
Step 3. Rest the nib on a paper towel to soak up water
- Push a wadded paper towel into the bottom of a glass.
- Gently dab the nib on the paper towel to allow it to soak up any dripping water.
- Leave the nib upside down on the paper towel for at least 20 minutes to drain out all the water.
Step 4. Reassemble the fountain pen & it’s ready to use
- Reassemble all the parts of the fountain pen.
- Fill up the ink in the cartridge.
- Use a paper towel to wipe the pen barrel and cap as well as the nib section to make it shine like new.
Method 2: Deep Cleaning with Vinegar
If plain water is not cutting it, you can use white vinegar and liquid dish soap to clean a fountain pen thoroughly. The acid in the vinegar will help dissolve all the debris and flakes of ink. In fact, you can use white vinegar can for multiple cleaning purposes around your home.
The dish soap used in this method will help clean up any ink stains on the outer body of your fountain pen.
Things you’ll need:
- White vinegar – enough to soak the pen parts
- Dawn liquid dish soap – ¼ teaspoon
- Water – ¼ cup
- Microfiber cloth
Step 1. Rinse the nib section under running water
- Take apart the fountain pen by unscrewing the nib section.
- Remove the ink cartridge as well.
- Hold the nib section upside down and pour water into the end with the wide opening.
- Keep pouring water through it until all the ink has been flushed out.
- Rinse the other parts of the pen as well.
Step 2. Clean the outer parts with a soap solution
- Put a ¼ teaspoon of Dawn liquid dish soap in a container.
- Add ¼ cup of water to the soap and mix it well.
- Soak a corner of a microfiber towel in the soap solution.
- Use it to wipe off the ink stains from the outer parts of the pen. Tougher stains may require some elbow grease, but they will eventually come off.
Step 3. Soak the pen parts in white vinegar
- Fill up a glass with white vinegar.
- Drop the nib section in the vinegar.
- Drop in the other parts as well.
- Let them soak in the vinegar for 1 hour to dislodge the gunk.
Step 4. Rinse the parts with water & wipe them dry
- Remove the pen parts from the vinegar.
- Rinse them thoroughly under running water.
- Use the microfiber cloth to wipe them dry.
Step 5. Reassemble the pen & it’s ready to use
- Fill up the ink cartridge and put it back into the ink section.
- Screw the barrel and nib section back together.
- Your pen should be as good as new and ready to use.
Method 3: Dissolve Dry Ink with a DIY Cleaner
If your fountain pen was stored away for a long time and fails to work even after repeated cleaning attempts, try fixing it with an ammonia-based DIY cleaner. The ammonia works well in dissolving old and flaked ink. The DIY cleaner also uses liquid dish soap to add suds for cleaning a fountain pen.
Caution: Since ammonia is a potent chemical, it can erode certain metals. Do not use this cleaner if your pen parts are made of aluminum, brass or copper.
Things you’ll need:
- Ammonia – 1 tablespoon
- Dawn liquid dish soap – 5 to 8 drops
- Water – 9 tablespoons
Step 1. Prepare the cleaning solution
- Pour 1 tablespoon of ammonia into a container.
- Add 5 to 8 drops of Dawn dish soap. You can use any other liquid soap as well.
- Add 9 tablespoons of water. It is essential to maintain this ratio since a higher concentration of ammonia can damage certain parts of the pen.
- Mix everything well.
Step 2. Clean the pen parts with the DIY cleaner & rinse with water
- Take apart the fountain pen.
- Hold the nib section upside down over a bowl and pour the DIY cleaner through it. Keep pouring it in until all the ink is removed.
- Clean the barrel and the cap with the cleaner as well.
- Thoroughly rinse all the pen parts under running water. Make sure there is no residue left.
- Wipe the parts dry with a soft towel and reassemble the pen for use.
- If you still have ink in the cartridge when you take apart your pen, you can seal the opening of the cartridge with transparent tape. Just remember to remove the tape before putting the cartridge back in pen.
- Never use rubbing alcohol to clean a fountain pen.
- If you accidentally got an ink stain on your skin, rub the inside of a banana peel over it. You can also scrub your skin with salt and vinegar if a banana peel doesn’t help.
- Hopefully, you won’t need them, but if you do, check out our hacks to remove ink stains from carpets and clothing.