What to Do if Your Fountain Pen Dries Up?

One of the greatest joys of writing with a fountain pen is the understanding that, if your pen runs out of ink, you can simply refill it and keep writing. But from time to time, the seemingly worst happens and your pen dries up. Although it may seem like the end of the world, you can salvage your fountain pen and get back into writing condition.

Before you can restore a dried-out fountain pen, you’ll first need to flush any ink from the feed and clean out the nib. Once all sections of the pen are clean and dry, you can then attempt to refill your pen. If it still will not write, you may have to take it to a repair shop to have the nib and feed inspected.

In this guide, we’ll carefully walk you through the exact process of restoring a dried-up fountain pen. We’ll explain why your pen may have dried up and share a few tips that can help prevent it from happening again. If you’re ready to start writing again, let’s begin.

Why Fountain Pens Dry Up

Fountain pens rely on a small reservoir of ink to write. This reservoir is typically located in the barrel of the pen and connects to the nib via a small feed. The feed is what regulates the flow of ink to the nib and is what allows you to write for extended periods of time without having to refill your pen.

Unfortunately, though, if you go long periods without using your fountain pen, it may stop writing. On first inspection, it may seem as if your pen still has ink but after a second check, you’ll find that some of the ink has dried up, creating a clog in the feed. Until you remove the clog, your pen will not be able to write.

The main reason why your pen dried up is that you left it sitting for too long. Ink is made of water and pigment and, over time, the water will evaporate, leaving behind a thicker, gooey ink that can clog up your pen. This is why it’s important to use your fountain pen on a regular basis and to clean it properly when you’re done writing.

How to Unclog a Dried-Up Fountain Pen

Before you can use your fountain pen again, you’ll first need to clean it out by flushing the feed. We recommend laying some newspaper around the area to catch any loose ink that may splatter during the flushing process. This step can get a bit messy if you’re not careful.

If you’re using a cartridge or converter pen, start by unscrewing the barrel and removing the ink cartridge. Gently pour some warm water through the feed of the pen, allowing it to run into the nib and flush away any hardened or gummy ink.

If you’re using a piston pen, you can do the same by drawing warm water into the pen using the piston. Let the water sit for around ten seconds before dispelling it back into the sink. Continue this process until the water runs clear and shake any excess water and ink onto a paper towel.

If ink has dried within the nib, you may also have to remove the nib and clean it separately. Use a small paintbrush and warm water to gently scrub away any dried ink. Be careful to not press too hard, though, as excessive force can bend and misalign your nib.

After flushing and cleaning all parts of your pen, let them dry completely. Refilling your pen while it’s still waterlogged can cause parts to rust and turn your ink into a runny mess.

How to Keep a Fountain Pen from Drying Out

In a perfect world, you’d never have to worry about your pens drying out. You could leave them on the shelf for months at a time, come back, and have them work like no time passed at all. Unfortunately, though, heat, humidity, and general lack of use can all cause the ink in a fountain pen to dry up before its time.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to prevent your pens from drying out, though. Use these tricks to keep your pens alive longer than normal and you’ll be writing as much as you want:

  • Lay Your Pens Flat – If you know you won’t be using your fountain pen for some time, you’ll need to store it properly to keep the nib and feed wet with ink. Never store a fountain pen with the cap facing straight up. Instead, lay them horizontally flat with the cap facing slightly downward. This position will press ink into the feed and nib, keeping them hydrated.  
  • Store Your Pens in a Container – If you don’t already own a pen box, we recommend investing in some sort of pen container. It could be as simple as a Tupperware container or as intricate as a rosewood jewelry box. The idea is to simply keep your pens in a stable environment where heat and humidity cannot zap moisture from your pen.
  • Keep Your Pens Away from Fans – Dry air will be the death of your fountain pen. If you live in a particularly warm climate and regularly use fans or the air conditioner, try to keep your pens away from the vents. Constant air blowing into your pen’s nib will dry it out and create clogs.
  • Use a Humidor – Sometimes you can’t escape dry air. If you live in a desert region or a climate with a dry season, you can maintain a moist environment for your pens by using a cigar humidor.

At the end of the day, though, the best way to keep your pens from drying out is to use them regularly. If you purchase a new pen, simply clean out the old one and shelve it without any ink.

Final Thoughts

Fountain pens are generally more durable and longer-lasting than standard ballpoint pens but they’re not invincible. Over time, your pen may dry out if you don’t use it. Should this happen, simply flush the feed and nib, let it dry, and then refill the pen.

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