Fountain pens are made for continuous use and as such, need to be properly cared for and maintained. This means, if you want to keep them around for long, you’re going to need to learn how to clean a fountain pen.
The ink can deteriorate and dry on the inside of the pen if left on its own for too long. Paper fibers and dust can be caught on the nib, leading to poor ink flow and gaps in your writing.
The good news is that cleaning and maintaining your fountain pen is a fairly simple process. As long as you follow this process, you’ll have your fountain pen in top condition for years to come.
Cleaning Your Fountain Pen
Things To Consider
Different Models Require Different Cleaning Methods
Some pens have a built-in piston mechanism that makes cleaning easier. Newer models allow you to disassemble the nib and feed.
Others use ink cartridges that make replacing and installing the ink easier.
Different types of ink present different levels of difficulty when it comes to cleaning.
For example, Noodler's Baystate Blue ink is notorious for staining the inside of your pen and being difficult to clean. When cleaning your pen, it’s good to have an understanding of the type of ink you use so that you know the best way to clean it.
How To Clean A Piston Style Fountain Pen
Water For Flushing
All you need to clean a piston-style fountain pen is a cup of water. You can use regular tap water but we recommend distilled water because tap water might contain minerals that can damage your pen over time, though it depends on the model as older ones are more susceptible to damage.
The water can be warm or room temperature, but never too hot. If the water is too hot then you run the risk of damaging your pen, as the heat can melt the pen’s mechanisms.
Emptying The Converter
Firstly, you need to get rid of the ink if there’s still some left in the reservoir. This type of fountain pen has a knob at the end that makes use of a piston mechanism – a converter – so that you can draw liquid in and out of the pen.
Use this mechanism to pump out any leftover ink so that the chamber is empty.
Drawing The Water
After getting the ink out of the converter, use the piston mechanism to draw clean water from a cup into it and then pump it out into your sink or another cup. Doing this cleanses the nib and feed, getting rid of the ink stored inside. The water released should be tainted with ink. This shows that it’s working to get the ink out.
Keep pumping water in and out of the ink reservoir until the discharge runs clear.
If the water in the cup becomes too inky for pumping to make a difference, dry the nib off to get rid of any excess ink before repeating the diluting process with a clean cup of water.
Cleaning The Piston
Some piston-style models allow you to remove the piston to do a more thorough clean. You can use a cotton swab or tissue to soak up any moisture inside the converter. Just remove the converter and rub a tissue or cotton swab along the sides of the chamber to soak up any ink or moisture left inside from the flushing.
If you’re only changing inks using the same color, then further cleaning of the piston won’t be necessary. Although, even if you only use one type of ink, a more thorough cleaning is still necessary now and then.
Applying some silicone grease to the piston helps it run smoothly after extended use.
How To Clean A Cartridge Fountain Pen
The Running Water Method
If your cartridge pen doesn’t come with a converter, there are other methods you can use.
Flushing the tip of the pen under running water is one method.
To do this, first, remove the cartridge from the grip section. You can either discard the empty cartridge or you can clean it out and refill it using an ink syringe.
Disconnect the grip section and run it under a faucet, allowing water to flush out the feed section and nib. Although this is the simplest way to clean any fountain pen, a faucet doesn’t provide enough water pressure to thoroughly rinse the ink from the feed.
If you want to try something more precise that saves water there are a few alternative methods.
The Bulb Syringe Method
Using a bulb syringe is one alternative. Bulb syringes come in different sizes, so be sure to get one that fits your pen.
First, fill the bulb syringe with clean water, then attach it to the grip section. Lightly squeeze the bulb syringe to allow water to flow through the pen, expelling the ink. Repeat the process until the water comes out clean. This is a more precise method of flushing and doesn’t waste any water.
The Ink Syringe Method
If your fountain pen isn’t compatible with any bulb syringes, you can also clean it using an ink syringe. There are two methods you can incorporate.
Remove the nib of the pen. You can fill the ink syringe with either water or a cleaning solution and position it at the base of the grip section to flush the ink out. This method is useful for situations where the ink spills out into the grip section, and only works if your pen has a removable nib.
Another way to clean a cartridge fountain pen is to use the syringe as a makeshift converter using an empty and clean ink cartridge.
You do this by removing the needle and attaching the empty cartridge to the base of the syringe. Slight adjustments will need to be made if the cartridge doesn’t fit. You might need to cut the tip a bit for it to fit into the base of the syringe, or you might need to enlarge the hole already punched in the cartridge.
Once the cartridge is connected to the base of the syringe you can draw water into it. After pulling in enough water, connect the end of the cartridge to the feed section and push the syringe down. This flushes the pen clean in the same way that a converter or a bulb syringe does.
How To Clean The Nib
Soak The Nib
If you want to give your fountain pen nib an extra thorough clean, place it in a cup of water and let it lie for a while. This helps dissolve any dried ink that couldn’t be cleaned by flushing it.
Using regular water works fine, but some inks require a little more attention. For getting rid of inks that are difficult to clean, like shimmer and shine or drawing ink, it’s best to soak it in a cleaning solution of some kind.
There are various ink-cleaning products like pen flush specially formulated to clean difficult inks from your pen. You can also use a cleaning agent like vinegar and a small quantity of bleach.
Depending on how intense the ink stains are, you can either soak the nib for 5-10 minutes or leave it overnight. It’s also a good idea to change the water if it gets too inky.
Drying It Off
When you’re done soaking it, use a cloth or paper towel to dry it off. To be extra thorough, put a cloth inside a cup and place the pen nib down onto it so that any excess moisture can be absorbed.