How To Clean a Fountain Pen When It Becomes Clogged

Eventually, when you collect pens that you use you will need to know how to clean a fountain pen or two because you need to change ink colors, let the ink dry inside so much it will not write correctly, or you purchase a pen with dried ink inside. Pen cleaning isn’t hard and only takes a few minutes as long as you don’t let things sit too long.

There are lots of ways to do fountain pen cleaning the method I will show you is the one I use that has worked extremely well for me over the years. Most pens made today are cartridge and/or converter pens. This pen cleaning method works well with other types of pens too. The first step is to disassemble the pen-like so:

Disassembled fountain pen - how to clean a fountain pen
Once the pen is apart to this degree you need to remove the converter. Cleaning fountain pen converters is easy. There are two general types of converters, screw in and push in. You can really mess up a converter that is a screw in by yanking it out thinking it is a push in. The best way is to treat all converters as screw in and unscrew it counterclockwise while pulling gently. Once the converter is out, rinse the nib off, rinse the converter out, and then allow water to flow through the nib and feed like such:

flushing out the nib assembly - how to clean a fountain pen
This gets all the liquid ink out to get ready for the next step of how to clean a fountain pen. To really clean the pen out you need a small ultrasonic cleaner. To clean a fountain pen you do not need an expensive cleaner, I have several that I paid far less than $100 for and they work wonderfully for this.

an ultrasonic cleaner
Fill the ultrasonic cleaner to the fill line with regular water, then find a glass or bowl to place inside, I use pyrex graduated beakers, I linked to 250ml versions but what size you use depends on the size of your pen parts and the size of the ultrasonic cleaner. I use pyrex because I want a hard durable glass. Plastic will not work nearly as well for this as it tends to absorb some of the vibrations instead of transmitting them to the inside of the beaker.

Fill the cup up enough to cover the nib section and converter (this is how to clean fountain pen converters if you have one) still disassembled, I like to use purified/distilled water, and for stubborn pens I will put a drop or two of ammonia (clear, not the lemon or pine-scented, ammonia is excellent for pen cleaning) in the cup. Never use ammonia full strength, and never on chrome parts, it can pit chrome. That setup should look like this:

pen parts in the ultrasonic cleaner
Note that the tip of the nib of the pen is not on the bottom of the cup, never place the nib down so that it is on the bottom as this can damage the nib tipping. Let this run a few minutes, remove the parts and dry well, do not use a hairdryer or anything that generates heat or large amounts of air pressure. Air drying is always best and that is one of the reasons for using the purified/distilled water, so there is no residue left from drying.

Fill up your pen and give it a try! I do all my own pen cleaning and almost all my own pen maintenance for a wide variety of pens.

This same method works with other filling systems as well although you need a way to suspend the pen in the liquid without the nib tip touching anything as you do not want to submerge lever, crescent, button, or piston fillers as the water will get into places where it should not go.

Monteverde Fountain Pen Flush

Now let’s assume this did not fully clean the pen, so now it is time to try an added step of a professional pen flush, Monteverde’s Fountain Pen Flush is an excellent choice and one of the first fountain pen supplies I suggest newcomers purchase. This product has cleaned pens that I thought were permanently destroyed and improved the writing of pens I thought were already clean. Although at less than $20 a bottle, I still prefer using only clean water to clean my pen unless that process does not work as well as it should.

To use Monteverde’s Fountain Pen Flush I pour a little of the flush into one of my 100ml or 250ml pyrex beakers, enough to submerge the nib completely and then a little more. I dip the nib into the solution and draw some into the converter (or piston, or whatever) and then expel it back into the beaker. I repeat this process until I feel the pen is clean and then flush it out well with purified/distilled water.

If the pen will not move the fluid through the nib, I remove the converter and fill it directly with the fluid and then attach the converter back on the pen and expel it through the nib. Should I not be able to do that, I leave it in the pen overnight and try again in the morning. Sometimes I even leave the nib submerged in the fluid if the clog is bad enough in addition to having the converter or ink chamber filled.

Once I am done I dispose of the fluid and do not put it back in the bottle. Occasionally when I do not think there was much ink in the pen so the cleaning fluid might not be too contaminated I store it in a different container to use on another pen that might need just a little cleaning, or might be so bad I expect to refill my beaker with solution several times.

More warnings! Be very careful trying to clean a fountain pen, or any pen, made of Casein, be careful with hard rubber, never add chemicals like ammonia with pens made of anything other than plastic or metal, never submerge parts that you do not have to (caps etc) unless you have tried your pen cleaning methods with junkers first to see what will happen. Never clean fountain pen with alcohol as it dries out plastic and rubber seals. Good luck!

If you can not get your pen working by cleaning, or somehow can not get it to work after cleaning, you may need professional pen maintenance.

Now you know how to clean a fountain pen!