Maintaining your fountain pens in a decent condition doesn't require you to be a pen technician, it simply needs you to apply some tender love and care by keeping your pens clean after prolonged periods of usage. The key is to always apply a gentle touch when handling your pen and its various elements.
A fountain pen is a keepsake, so why not keep it that way?
It is important that your fountain pen doesn't remain idle for extended periods of time so that the nib can remain malleable and the ink doesn't dry up in the feed. If life has other plans, however, you should invest time in applying a simple maintenance regime as part of your pen rotation, or if you are still on your first fountain pen, at least a few times a year.
Flush out the ink
The most important part of your fountain pen is the nib. It sits on an ink feed and collector, which takes the ink from a source such as a cartridge, converter or barrel and stores the ink waiting for you to apply pressure on the nib to release the ink onto paper. Over time, if the ink doesn't flow it will dry up and the residue left behind can restrict further ink flow in the future.
This is a problem that can be exasperated if you are using pigmented inks. This is why I prefer water-based inks such as PILOT's Iroshizuku inks, as they are engineered to avoid leaving behind residue.
Find a safe place to conduct your maintenance, preferably near a sink or where you have easy access to paper towels or wipes. My preference is the laundry, but I have also used the kitchen. Avoid using tissues as their flimsy nature can leave remnants behind on the feed or the slit.
iroshizuku Fountain Pen Ink Bottle - 50ml
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Flushing out a cartridge
To flush out the old ink, simply unscrew the nib and feed from the barrel often referred to as the 'neck'. If you are using a cartridge, remove it from the feed tube. Depending on the amount of ink left in the cartridge, I will either throw it out or seal it with some cling wrap for reuse once I'm finished cleaning.
Take the neck and hold it nib pointing down, under cold or tepid water. Despite what your instincts tell you, avoid using hot water. Hot water is the enemy of the fountain pen and can cause irreparable damage to the feed and seals that protect your fingers from serious ink leakage. Let the water run until you are satisfied that the running water is clear and all ink traces have been flushed out.
Flushing out a converter
If you are using a converter, remove the neck from the barrel and keep the converter on the feed. Flush out the ink, either back into the ink bottle or carefully down a sink. Then find a small container such as an old cup or glass and fill it with cold or tepid water. Remember: no hot water!
Draw water from the cup and flush repeatedly until you are drawing and flushing clean water. You may have to empty and refill the cup several times before you get to that point. For piston and vacuum filler pens, you can also apply the converter approach but be careful not to dislodge the neck from the barrel.
Soaking the nib
Once you have completed the flushing process, it doesn't hurt to soak the neck in cold or tepid water for at least a few hours or as I prefer, overnight, so that you can loosen any remaining ink particles from the feed's desperate hold.
Using pen flush solution or dishwashing liquid
You can buy a premade pen flush solution from leading fountain pen retailers to use in place of water, which is useful if you are cleaning a pen that has been out of use for over a year. However, PILOT recommends mixing a drop of dishwashing liquid with warm water as best practice. I also use a bulb syringe so that I can gently squeeze air through the grip helping remove excess moisture and residue. If you don't have access to a bulb syringe, gently shake the pen a few times, (always gently!) over a safe surface or sink. Both items are relatively inexpensive to buy. For discerning users, you can also use distilled water instead of tap water.
Wipe down the nib
The final step is to wipe down the neck with a cloth or paper towel to remove any remaining moisture. There is no need to panic if you refill your pen with a different colour and find that you left behind traces of the old colour. It will flush out after a few uses and who knows, you may even create a new and wonderful colour combination in the process.
A few other maintenance tips to consider
Don't forget to clean out the inside of the cap. Naturally, ink has a habit of ending up in there. All you need is a few q-tips to soak up the wet ink and to run the cap under cold or tepid water to get rid of the rest. A soft polish cloth is also useful for cleaning the outside of the cap and the rest of the body too.
When retiring your fountain pens, a pen case or pouch is ideal to keep them out of trouble and if possible, store them nib facing upwards so that the ink and any other moisture doesn't dry in the feed. It should drop back into your ink storage. When traveling by air, avoid using converters where possible. I opt for cartridges and I keep them detached from the feed during air travel.
Pensemble 3 Pen Case
With room for three fountain pens and two sleeves for any important notes, it will keep your pens looking just as beautiful as the day you bought them.Buy Now
You can learn more about PILOT’s wide range of fountain pens and inks by exploring their Pen Finder. Check out my my previous blogpost on The Anatomy of A Fountain Pen – How to Choose the ‘Right’ Nib.
Next in this series
Refilling Your PILOT Capless Fountain Pen
With a unique retractable nib mechanism, changing ink colours in your fountain pen has never been this easy! Explore different inks with the Rotary Converter (CON-40) or refill on-the-go with a PILOT Ink Cartridge.Continue Reading
Paul has been obsessed with writing instruments for over 30 years. In this time, he has bought, sold, found, lost, ruined and written about every aspect of collecting pens and pencils. While he doesn't like to play favourites, he is the first to admit that Japanese writing instruments hold a soft spot in his crowded heart, with his favourite being the next when he buys.