How Often Should You Clean a Fountain Pen?

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Do you find that your fountain pen is scratchy? Perhaps the ink flow is slow or inconsistent? These issues can happen if you’ve not cleaned your fountain pen for a while. 

The trouble is that many people don’t realize you’re supposed to clean a fountain pen

Don’t worry, though; we’ll take you through everything you need to know in this post, including how often you need to clean a fountain pen. 

How often should you clean a fountain pen?

Ultimately, it comes down to the type of pen you have and/or the condition it’s in. Here’s a general guide we like to follow:

  • Between refills – When changing ink, although a quick flush is advised
  • Once a quarter – Any pen that is inked up, irrespective of type, ink, or use
  • Once a month – The majority of pens if you want to ensure they write smooth
  • Once a week – Pens that dry out often, vintage pens, and thick inks

The majority of fountain pen lovers appear to clean their pens somewhere between once a week and once a month. 

In between ink refills, I flush as well. Although it is advised, you don’t have to do this if you use the same ink. It is beneficial, though, as it will facilitate ink flow while guarding against ink contamination.

Some good rules of thumb to follow when caring for your fountain pen

  • Clean your fountain pen often if you use inks that have special properties, such as glitter
  • Clean your fountain pen more regularly if you experience issues like a dry start or skipping 
  • Clean your fountain pen between refills, particularly if you’re changing inks
  • The majority of pen enthusiasts will clean their pens a minimum of once per month 
  • If you don’t experience any issues at all, you should still clean your pen at least every quarter

What will happen if you don’t clean your pen?

If you don’t clean a fountain pen, two things can happen:

  • There will be build-up on the nib
  • The feed will clog

These two things will still materialize even if you simply use your fountain pen in a medical lab or a similar setting. 

Your feed becomes clogged with a variety of things. You name it – ink pigment buildup, paper fragments, dust, metal shavings – it all gets in there. 

Keeping the feed clean, moist, and flowing is the best defence against those things. Such build-up will be present in both the grip region and the nib. 

All of this will result in a string of terrible incidents:

  • Bacteria will grow and form mold and slime inside your ink 
  • Your ink bottles will become contaminated, which causes the ink to go bad
  • You will have an unpleasant writing experience
  • Your nib will feel scratchy
  • Your pen won’t start immediately – only after priming
  • Your pen will begin skipping 

Some pens require less cleaning than others

Depending on how well the pen works, some pens may need less cleaning. You can preserve the ink in a pen for many years without cleaning it if it doesn’t dry out and isn’t used frequently.

The Slide and Seal mechanism of Platinum has been mentioned by several people in this regard (which is used on their more expensive 3776 Century model). You can expect it to keep your nib and feed moist for several years.

Whether you use your fountain pens all of the time or not, pens that dry out rapidly need to be cleaned periodically. 

And, you should regularly clean the pens that you use a lot. During writing, pens gather dirt and other debris; if this debris is allowed to accumulate inside the feed, issues will eventually arise.

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How to clean your fountain pen

Here are the 12 steps you need to follow when cleaning a fountain pen:

  1. Start by removing the converter or cartridge from the inside of your pen.
  2. Use cold tap water to flush through the gripping and nib section of the pen. Don’t utilize any solvents when cleaning your pen, as this can cause permanent damage to the nib. 
  3. If your pen has an in-built converter, it’s a good idea to flush the nib by drawing cold water up via the nib and forcing the water out. 
  4. After you have done the above steps, blow air through the nib gently to clear all liquid away.
  5. Use a paper towel or soft cloth to dry the nib and gripping section.
  6. If you think the steps provided above have not been successful, you can repeat them, or you can simply move on to the next steps. 
  7. If you feel there is more dried ink in your nib, which is clogging while you write, we advise carefully removing the nib part of your pen and putting it into a glass of clean water. You should leave it to soak overnight. 
  8. At the bottom of a glass, place a sheet of kitchen roll, where the nib should rest. Let the water fully cover the nib.
  9. The next morning, use tepid water to gently rinse the nib. Repeat this process until the water runs clear. 
  10. As before, blow into the nib gently to get rid of the excess water. 
  11. You should then use a paper towel or soft cloth to dry the gripping and nib section.
  12. You’re now ready to place a new ink converter or ink cartridge into the front end. 

When you should clean your fountain pen more regularly 

There are some pens you should clean every one or two weeks. Examples include:

  • Pens you don’t use regularly 
  • Demonstrator fountain pens that you want to look clean
  • Thick inks with lots of pigments or other particles, such as glitter
  • Vintage pens

Issues can be avoided by cleaning your fountain pen. Maintaining cleanliness in your nib, feed, and ink reservoir can stop any build-up and guarantee that you won’t need to pull out the heavy guns later.

This is crucial for pens that could be more delicate, such as vintage pens

Keep clean the elements you don’t want to hose down at a later date. 

The issue with build-up is that while it’s fairly simple to remove at first, it becomes progressively more challenging to do so.

You will, therefore, need to use a stronger solution, such as an ammonia solution. In most circumstances, this will be okay. However, you couldn’t use this with the likes of vintage pens, which could partially dissolve if you’re unfortunate.

If you can easily clean your fountain pen with just water once a month, why wait until you have to take that chance?

Pens that you don’t use frequently have a tendency to dry out faster. Over time, the buildup will become more challenging to remove if you repeatedly let the pen dry up. 

Keep your fountain pen clean to enjoy the best possible writing experience 

So there you have it: everything you need to know about how often to clean a fountain pen. To ensure your pen lasts for as long as possible and delivers an amazing writing experience, you need to clean it on a regular basis. Follow the advice we’ve provided above and you can’t go too wrong! 


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