In our Chicago store, we offer daily free pen cleanings. Technically we have Pen Spa Saturday, but I’ll clean your pens any day of the week. Some customers don’t know how to clean their pens, some just don’t want to, and others have inherited or found pens and don’t want to risk damaging anything.
Almost every day, these 2 questions are asked most often:
How often should I clean my pen?
How do I clean my pen & what do I need?
Today, I will answer the 1st question, and we will address the second question next time.
We recommend that you clean or at least rinse out your fountain pens:
1 – After every 3-5 fills or cartridges of the same color, formula and brand
If you are using the same brand and color of ink, we suggest that you clean and flush your pen after every 3-5 fills. Even if your pen is in constant rotation, and used regularly, a good flush will keep your pen in peak performance mode. This will prevent ink from drying out and clogging up your feed, and interrupting your writing experience.
2 – When you switch colors of ink
Unless you want the ombre experience that occurs when you switch ink colors, we recommend that you give your pen a good cleaning, or at least a thorough rinse, in between different colors of ink.
Switching from, for example, a red cartridge to a blue cartridge can produce some interesting colors as the red runs out, mixes with the blue as it flows down, and you finally end up with just the new blue color, but consider this a good opportunity for a bit of a freshening up.
3 – When you switch brands of ink
Not all inks play nicely together formula-wise, think mixing lemon and milk in your tea (ugh), so we always suggest that when switching from one brand of ink to another, you definitely clean your pen. This will eliminate any contamination between the brands or formulas that could cause chunks, clogs, or any other unpleasantness.
4 – When you switch formulas of inks
Cleaning your fountain pen should also be done when switching between different formulas of inks, even within the same brand. You might be fine starting with Herbin Rouge Grenat (one of my faves) to Herbin Rouge Hematite with shimmer, but you may have issues doing that in reverse without a thorough flush in between. Getting the shimmer particles out of the converter, feed and underside of the nib before inking up again will prevent issues, and also prevent any contamination of the new ink bottle.
5 – If your pen starts to act up (skipping, inconsistent flow, hard starts, etc.)
When it comes to ink flow issues like skipping, hard starts, or inconsistent flow, cleaning your pen is like the analog version of turning your computer off and then on again. Our first recommendation, always, when customers have a flow issue with their pens, is to clean the pens, and change inks. A good cleaning can fix any number of issues that cause a pen to skip, hard start or have inconsistent flow. Residual ink from another fill that has dried in the section or feed is easily fixed, as is any manufacturing residue or ink from testing the pen before shipping to distributors. Some inks just don’t work as well in some pens as others, and often a good cleaning and a new ink will also solve these issues.
6 – When using certain inks that require a little more maintenance
Certain inks do require more frequent cleanings. Ink with certain properties such as shimmer, fast-drying, iron gall or pigmented inks among others, should be cleaned out more regularly to prevent clogging or drying out in the section and feed.
Shimmer ink, of course, will fall out of suspension over time, and if you let it sit in a pen too long, can require a little more effort to clean out. Make sure to gently rotate your pen before writing with it, if filled with a shimmer ink, and remember that a broader nib will show the shimmer better than a finer nib, and the flow will be better as well.
7 – If you seem to have oddball issues like a constantly leaky nib or section
When cleaning your pen, do not forget the cap! Ink can leak into the cap and create a constant annoyance. You would be surprised at how much ink can collect in there! The ink can trickle down onto your nib and section, which makes it appear that your nib is leaking or that you have a cracked section or nib collar. You can clean the nib and section every day, but if there is ink in your cap, the problem will continue until you clean it out. Always let the cap dry completely before recapping your pen to use it or store it.
8 – Before you remove it from rotation and put it in your pen chest for a little rest
Lastly, absolutely positively when removing your pen from rotation, and before storing it away, Clean That Pen! Most writing issues can be avoided by cleaning your pen before putting it away. Ink will not dry and clog while in storage, and your pen will be ready to be filled and enjoyed the next time you put it into rotation.
I hope this helps answer a few questions about when you should clean your pens. We do recommend our own Anderson Pens Pen Flush, of course, as a great solution for thorough but safe cleaning of both modern and vintage pens. At the very least, remember that you should always use cold water, never hot!!!
Ink it up & use your pens!