How To Clean A Fountain Pen

There are so many things to learn, like how to clean a fountain pen! And the cartridge, converter, nib, dried ink, the list goes on.

This post is inspired by a few of the questions I’ve received from readers on how I clean my fountain pens.

There are many different methods, but this works for me. I’ve addressed several questions I’ve received in Q & A format below…

Can I use different colored inks after the initial ink runs out?

Yes! That’s half the fun of using fountain pens!

Just make sure you used water-based ink (all ink formulated for fountain pens is water-based.) India ink is made of carbon solids (think soot) and is will clog and destroy the flow in your pen.

How do I clean the nib. How do I get the old, dried ink out of it?

AFTER cleaning with running water. If you just rinse them, you will not get all of the ink out

I take the pen apart (it’s already apart from cleaning the converter) and run the entire section under cold water. This I do under higher pressure to force the water through the pen. You can turn it over and force water the opposite direction as well. Rinse it several times this way until the water runs clear.Don’t be fooled, you’re not done yet.If you just prop it upside down like in the nib graveyard photo, there’s still ink and water in the nib. Remember, they’re made to keep some ink in the feed and to be stored upright like this, you’re not going to get it all out without touching the nib to something to draw it out.

I prop the nib upside down on a folded paper towel with the vent hole and tip of the nib touching the paper towel. This starts the same capillary action that happens when you write, and draw all of the water and ink out of the feed. The bigger your nib, the more liquid will be drawn out from the over-sized feed.

If you’re really anal-retentive, you can then repeat the process again or until the paper towel only wicks water and no ink. Instead, I just fold the paper towel in a way that touches the nib for thirty minutes until it doesn’t pull anything else out and it’s dry.

Even if you run the same exact ink through a pen, I’d flush out the nib every other refill unless your converter or cartridge is extra small. Reason: the water in water-based ink evaporates leaving solids behind in the converter and cartridge. Those solids need to be flushed out of your pen or they will find their way into your feed and clog your pen.

Does the ink get a bit thick/gooey in the cartridge and need to be “thinned”?

Second part of question: “If this happens does it mean the ink is of low quality or is there a problem with the refill?”

No, all water based ink will evaporate some water and leave some ink solids behind, particularly if you leave it sitting for any length of time. It’s usually more of an indication of a pen sitting for months or leaving the cap off for extended periods. You will notice variations from ink to ink.

Cartridges – you can syringe clean cartridges if you want to reuse them.

Can you explain how to clean a fountain pen converter? Cartridge? Is there some special chemical to use?

If you’re cleaning the converter, I prefer to detach it from the feed and just rinse it out under running water. If it’s particularly inky, you can syringe clean it as mentioned below (same process as syringe filling ink into the converter, you’re just flushing it with water instead.)

*either of the methods below will loosen most dried ink particulates and flush them out if it’s only been sitting a few months or less. I only use water to clean my pens. You can buy pen cleaner or use vinegar for a particularly nasty pen, I’ve never had to use it.

How To Clean A Fountain Pen Converter

Cleaning a Parker Fountain Pen

Cleaning Parker Fountain Pens (and a few Sheaffers)


You can flush converters with water.  Make sure you run the pen out of ink or remove the cartridge and dump the ink inside first.To do that you can either:1.      Draw clear cold water back and forth into and out of it using the twist mechanism on the back

Or you can be impatient like me and pull it off and rinse it under the faucet with the water on really low.

Make sure you keep your faucet low if you live in an area with high water pressure, because filling it under pressure can force water behind the piston seal* (rubber ring that moves up and down to draw ink in and out.)

Then you hold your finger over the end and shake it to loosen up everything, pour out the water and repeat until it’s clean.

*When water gets behind the seal, it can mix with old ink and create a blob resembling mold. I’ve used a fountain pen with this moldy blob behind the piston seal and it looks pretty gross. Not only that but you’re dragging that mass up and down your converter every time you fill and purge it lining the walls of the converter with the gummy ink. You’d have to pull the converter fully apart to get to that and that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Thank you for visiting, your readership is a constant gift and I hope you start your pen collection today; you’ll love them as much as I do! (Don’t forget to check out my pages on Journals & Inks.)