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How to Get the Ink to Flow in a Stubborn Pen

Updated on January 11, 2013
just a few of my pens!
just a few of my pens! | Source

I love pens. I collect pens. I have pens from all over. I am not talking about exotic pens. I'm not talking about expensive pens, either! I am talking about the kind of pens that are given away by realtors, insurance agencies and maybe your doctor's office. I have so many that several of them will often dry up at once. There is not a whole lot more frustrating than reaching for a pen that doesn't work and having the next one do the same. I have learned to be somewhat resourceful in bringing them back to life.

"You want to be a writer, don't know how or when? Find a quiet place, use a humble pen."~Paul Simon

Fountain Pens

With a fountain pen, there are a couple of things to check first. Is your cartridge empty? Is it in properly? If it isn't empty and is placed correctly, you can start by putting it upright with the nib down. This should get the ink flowing for you. If that doesn't work, you may have a clog. Remove the nib and soak it in warm water for about 5 minutes. If the clog is in the nib, that should clear it out. If it still doesn't work, you can remove the bottom of the pen. You will be holding the nib and ink cartridge. Gently squeeze the cartridge until you see the ink reach the nib. If the ink begins to flow, reassemble and try it out! If not, you may want to bring it to a professional.

Interesting facts about pens

A ballpoint pen can draw a line 4000 to 7500 feet long or...

It can write approximately 45,000 words!

The word pen comes from the latin word pinna

The first fountain pen was produced in 1884 by Lewis Edson Waterman and the first ballpoint pen was invented in 1938 by Laszio Biro.


Ball point pens

The thing that works the best for me is to scribble with it. It may just need to get the ink flowing again. Before you do anything else, there are two things you need to watch out for: the surface your paper is on and the material you are writing on. Often, all you have to do is put another piece of paper under the paper you are writing on and voila, it works! If that doesn't help, try shaking your pen. Many people make the mistake of shaking it really hard and almost frantically. Just shake it up and down in a smooth motion. If it's not working yet, you can try my dad's trick. He used to lick the tip of the pen. I'm not sure if there is a scientific explanation for the success of this but it often worked for him! Another thing he taught me was to heat the nib of the pen. That one is almost always successful for me. Just be careful not to burn/melt your pen and be aware, they are sometimes false starts. Heat can bring the remaining ink to life for a very short run but that may be all the ink that is in there. If you are still not having any luck with any of these methods, I recommend getting a new pen!

You may only need to change the surface.
You may only need to change the surface. | Source
Not my favorite method.
Not my favorite method. | Source
Don't burn yourself or the pen!
Don't burn yourself or the pen! | Source

The above methods are what I do when I have a pen that doesn't work. I did research this issue and found some very interesting and somewhat complicated, difficult methods for getting your ink flowing. I decided to forgo those for a couple of reasons. Most of my ball point pens were complimentary. While some of them may have sentimental value, none of them have any monetary value. So...unless I need that pen RIGHT now, it will get tossed. With fountain pens, it is the opposite. I will try the methods above and if those don't work, I will put a new cartridge in anyway. If it still doesn't work, I will take it to a professional. I won't risk ruining it.

"The pen is the tongue of the mind."~Horace

thank you to Brainy Quotes!

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    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Abby for reading, commenting and just being here in general! I definitely have pens older than my kids!

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Hey! My husband does that fire trick! LOL. I remember when pens use to last forever. I still have some from when I was a kid, and I'm now a 45 year old kid! Ha! But, I can buy a pack of pens now and they are gone within a few months. They look as if they still have ink, but they just don't work. I get so frustrated with them that I just throw them out. I hate spending that amount of money, so I'm glad I found your helpful tips here, btrbell! ;)

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Anahi, thanks for stopping by! I was just in the process of checking out our apprentice team hubs! I picked the topic from the title!

    • everymom profile image

      Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Voted "up," useful and interesting! My father taught me the heating with a lighter method, back when I was 10 years old or so; glad to see it still works! What a great topic to write about! Thanks, Randi! Anahi

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Jami! Yes, the wonders of finding a title and writing to it! It was fun to write and easy to illustrate!

    • JamiJay profile image

      Jami Johnson 4 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      I had to giggle when reading this. There is nothing more frustrating than a stubborn pen that refuses to write!

      This is a very useful hub, maybe now I won't throw away so many pens.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Ditto on that last sentence, Colin! I am most appreciative of your friendship! And your amazing support. I only hope I am returning the favors in kind!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      love your chocolate balls , Randi.

      You've been a good friend to me and an esteemed colleague as well.

      It was a good day when we met.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      I am still up, Colin....gotta make the donuts! my work schedule has been interfering with my writing and I am a bit behind. I will go check out your nw one now. So sorry about the cold. It is warming up here, thankfully.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Just arrived home from night shift at lake erie time 4:49am on perhaps the coldest night of the year. I am writing like a woman now - check out my new one written at work tonight - I sincerely hope all is well with you -

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Ravishing Randi, are you still up? My tender heart is quivering .....

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, mr-veg, for stopping by and your kind comments! I do appreciate it and look forward to checking out your hubs!

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Ah, Cris, thank you sooo much. I always love getting a comment from you! I do understand about the Mount Blanc pen, but think about it this way. If you leave it packed away, you will probably never enjoy it. So bring it out a little bit. Maybe dedicate it to a favorite journal! Thank you so much for the votes and sharing! Randi

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 4 years ago from Colorado United States

      Nice hub, i used to throw away those stubborn pens...:D .. but looks like now they can be brought back to life :) Thanks Randi for sharing the knowledge !!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Great hub! I have a really expensive pen "mont blanc" (modesty aside) a gift from my hubby but I seldom use it because: 1. The ink is so expensive when it runs out, 2. I'm afraid I'd leave/forget it and lost it.

      So, I stick to my cheap pens and I'm a sucker for hotel pens. Lol! Like you, I have quite a collection and some of them gets dried out already. Thanks to you, now I know what to do when they don't write.

      Interesting, useful and absolutely sharing!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      My computer just died in the middle of my epic answer to your, as usual, way too generous comment, Colin! So, I will try to recreate it....aww, Colin, you are too sweet! If you promise not to tell anyone, I will share a secret. I never worry about the ink flow in my pens because like you, I always keep a stock of them everywhere. This Dollerama sounds like my kind of store although I prefer the name brand pens! Happy to hear you are having mild weather. Kiss those little Canadian kitties for me with lots of hugs, too from me and my American crew!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      ...well my ravishing Randi - you always manage to put the ink in my pen, so to speak, lol , and I love pens too actually, for obvious reasons because all of my writing starts with pen and paper.

      At work , they all know who has the pen(s) - me!!!!

      What I do now , Randi , is I buy a whole package of cheap pens from a store at Dollerama, and spread them around my cottage or in the car because I am forever losing them and I have a couple of really good pens too but I can't find them - lol - the cats and I are having a January thaw in the weather with rain instead of snow - and mild temperatures instead of cold -sending you warm wishes and big hugs from your three Canadians - at lake erie time 9:56pm

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Eddy, thank you so much for the votes and sharing! I know what you mean , I could have given up my day job for all the money I'd have had! Have a great day, Eddy!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      I would love to have had a pound whenever this happened.

      I think I would be quite rich by today!!

      Very interesting btr and I vote up,across and share around.

      Eddy.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Actually, saffronblossom, I usually just toss them too. I only resort to these methods if it's the only pen in the vicinity! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • SaffronBlossom profile image

      SaffronBlossom 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Love the quotes scattered throughout and the tips! I admit I'm lazy and usually just chunk the pens when they gunk up...but I also use very cheap pens.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, idigwebsites for stopping by , commenting and voting! Be careful not to get ink in your mouth!

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

      I'm also guilty of biting the tip of my pen or burning it, and sometimes poke into it with a little stick. Thanks for your tips, as it will eliminate my annoyance about stubborn pens. Voted up and useful. :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hi catgypsy! It was my father who licked the tips and, honestly, I think that all it does is wet it enough to eke out a couple of words! Thank you for reading and commenting! I haven't seen you in a while. I hope all is good with you! Happy New Year!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

      I'm so glad to know that someone else gets upset over pens that won't write...I thought I was being ridiculous when I would get frustrated and keep trying to bring it back to life...haha! Thanks for the tips. I hadn't thought of the "licking the tip of the pen" in years, but remembered seeing people do this! And it usually works!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      And, thank you, explorational for stopping by and commenting!

    • profile image

      explorational 4 years ago

      Thank you btrbell for a good and informative hub!

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Wow, thank you, Martin. You are way too kind!

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, peachpurple for your visit, comments and votes. I'm glad you enjoyed it

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. There should be an award for this sort of hub.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Carol, thank you, thank you! You are, as always, way too kind. I do appreciate your support!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hey Bill, thanks for stopping by! Yes, I do love my pens! And I do enjoy finding those facts. 7500 feet. Who knew! ?

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      interesting facts about pens and i love the ideas you gave for making the stubborn inks to flow down. Voted up

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      enjoyed reading about pens..and you did a great job and researched well. Good style!!! Voting up and sharing with all there are to share with.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The quote from Paul Simon is a classic for any writer...and your love affair with pens is......admirable. LOL Great facts....7500 feet long? Wow!