Gel pens are pretty great, but they become difficult, if not impossible, to use when they get clogged. But do you really just have to throw them away and buy a new one when something like that happens? Is there any way to unclog a gel pen?
Thankfully, there are actually a number of methods and techniques you can turn to if you want to try and unclog a gel pen. Some are easier than others, and these methods aren’t always guaranteed to work, but it’s usually not a terribly difficult thing to do.
Of course, we’ll talk about these various techniques and methods in this article. It’ll be up to you to decide which one you want to give a shot of based on how badly your gel pen is clogged.
Why Do Gel Pens Clog?
Generally speaking, gel pens clog because air gets into the cartridge, which dries out the ink and often creates blockages that stop it from flowing freely. Storing them in positions other than upright often causes problems as well.
So if you want to avoid this problem entirely, you should store your gel pens upright and always have the cap on them when not in use. But if you’ve already hit the point where the pen is clogged, your main concern is restoring the viscosity of the ink inside the pen.
That said, what can you do?
A Quick Warm Water Bath
Since dried ink is usually the biggest reason for a gel pen to get clogged, finding a way to liquefy that dried ink so it can flow freely again is usually the path you want to take. The easiest way to do this is via a warm water bath. Hot water will warm the gel and help break down solid buildups.
Of course, you have to be careful about doing this. First, you’ll want to break down your pen so you can get your hands on the gel capsule itself. You must ensure that there are no cracks in the gel capsule because if warm water manages to get in, the ink will be ruined. But if there are no breaches, everything is fine.
You don’t need the water from the bath to be boiling, just hot. You also don’t need the gel capsule to bathe for very long: just 30 to 90 seconds should be enough in most cases. Stop to check every once in a while if you feel like you need to.
Vigorous Shaking to Dispel Air Bubbles
It might sound a little silly, but believe it or not, simply shaking your gel pen vigorously can be enough to unclog it in some scenarios. In fact, since this is by far the easiest option available to you, we’d recommend always trying this before doing anything more drastic.
Sometimes, an ink clog isn’t tough enough to withstand all of the force you can exert, breaking it apart and clearing up the blockage. Other times, the blockage is actually just air bubbles in the gel capsule, preventing ink from moving past them.
In either case, a good shaking can sometimes be enough to solve your problem, and it’s quick and easy to do, so you may as well try it regardless of your situation.
Physically Removing a Tip Blockage
A clogged gel pen isn’t always blocked in the gel capsule. Sometimes the ink has dried at the actual tip of your gel pen, and that’s why the ink can’t get out. You might need some particularly thin and narrow implements to get the job done. A safety pin is an ideal option.
It’s narrow and sharp enough to fit into the tip of your gel pen quite easily, making it the ideal tool. If you have a particularly tough blockage to get rid of, you’ll probably have to work it around and really dig out the dried ink. The sharpened tip of a safety pin really helps with that as well.
Either way, you shouldn’t have any problem clearing a physical blockage in the tip of the gel pen in that situation.
Try to Blow Away the Obstruction
Yes, it sounds odd, but if all else fails, you may have to blow into the pen tip in order to try and clear a blockage with your breath. Whether or not this works usually depends on where the blockage is, but if the pieces fall into place, it’s a simple matter of choosing one end of the pen and blowing.
Just make sure you blow out, instead of sucking in. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to get ink in your mouth. It wouldn’t be harmful as long as you managed to spit it out, but it sure wouldn’t be very pleasant, that’s for sure!
Dip the Pen Tip in Alcohol or Acetone
If you have a dried ink blockage in the tip of your gel pen that is so sturdy and stubborn that you can’t poke through it with something like a safety pin, you may have to resort to chemical warfare. Acetone and rubbing alcohol are some of the best options since they are amazing solvents. They also dissolve pretty quickly, which is also nice.
Generally speaking, you should only have to soak the tip of your pen in one of these substances for about thirty seconds. That said, if that doesn’t work, there’s no real harm in allowing your gel pen to soak overnight in either solution.
Getting a clogged gel pen is really annoying, but there are a number of things you can do about it. The easiest solution is just to shake the pen vigorously for a bit and hope that clears the problem. You can also soak the gel capsule in warm water for a bit.
If you have a clog in the tip of the pen, you can use a safety pin to try and clear it out, or you can soak the tip in acetone or rubbing alcohol to try and dissolve it that way. One of these methods should definitely work!