How to care for your ballpoint pens (2023)

As with any type of pen, ballpoint pens require some care and maintenance to ensure their longevity. Storing them correctly is important to ensure ink flows freely when you write. Cheaper ballpoint pens, or biros, may also need a bit of perseverance to get them working. We’ve put together a care guide, so you know how to look after your pen, and we’ve also included some tips on how to get your pen working again should it seemingly have dried out.

How to Store Biros

One of the most common issues ballpoint pens face when it comes to them drying out is exposure to air. When air gets inside the cartridge it will make the ink dry up and for ballpoint ink, which is already quite thick, this will normally clog it completely. To avoid getting air inside the cartridge, make sure when you store your pen you retract the nib or cap the end. You can also keep them in a case, this will help prevent you losing or damaging the pen. Luxury pens with a metal barrel are especially worth keeping in a pouch or case to avoid scratches.

In regards to pen position, ballpoint pens that use gel ink should be stood upright. This will prevent them leaking. Traditional ballpoint pens that use oil based ink should be stored vertically so the thinner ink moves to the bottom ready for writing. This should make ink flow smoother when it comes to writing.

(Video) Technique to get your ballpoint pen to write again - Simple!

Can Ballpoint Pens Dry Out/ Why Ballpoint Pens Stop Working

Ballpoint and rollerball pens are designed to keep air out from the ink cartridge. The ball in the nib is designed to act as a cap to stop air getting through. However, air can still get inside the pen especially if the pen is left uncapped. More often however, people assume ballpoint pens have dried out because they stop writing. A better explanation would be that the thick ink inside the cartridge cannot flow as freely as needed. Additionally, ballpoint pens can stop working because the ink left in the ball when unused has been exposed to air and as a result clogged. Both issues can be fixed rather easily however so you can get your pen to start working again.

How to Fix Ballpoint Pens

A lot of people ask us how to make ballpoint pens work and how to get them to write. Ink flow can be inconsistent in ballpoint pens so where people might assume it’s dried up or the ink has run out, it may not necessarily be the case. Ballpoint pens depend on gravity to release the ink, they don’t write upside down, so you may have to hold them facing downwards for the ink to start moving. Similarly, if your new pen is not working try shaking the pen. Air bubbles can get inside the cartridge but shaking them will push the ink towards the nib ready for writing.

If your ball pen is no longer writing, the solution isn’t necessarily to change the ink. There are a few things you can try first to restart a dry pen. Firstly, try scribbling on a piece of paper. This can get the ink moving and sometimes a scribble is all the pen needs. Likewise, try applying additional pressure when writing and see if this helps you restart your pen. It is also recommended you push the pen hard into the paper and draw a forceful vertical line. This can also help get the ink moving. Remember, ballpoint pens use a thicker ink so may need some perseverance when trying to get the ink flow. It’s mainly cheaper biros however that experience these problems.

(Video) How to Restart a Dry Ball Point Pen

Other methods for restarting a pen may include:

  • Lighter method. This requires care and attention but holding a lighter to the nib of the pen can melt any ink that is clogging the ballpoint. Boiling water should also work. Be careful when exposing your pen and make sure you only show the end of the metal tip to the flame or water. If you go too far you will damage your pen.
  • Blow into an open ink cartridge. If your ink doesn’t have a cap on the end, blow into the opposite end to the nib.
  • Draw dots on a piece of paper. When you start to see ink coming out, scribble a pattern of swirls until the pen writes fluently to make sure the ink is working as it should
  • Tap the pen on a surface with a piece of paper underneath. As with shaking, this should get the ink moving better, although make sure you have paper underneath in case the cartridge starts leaking.
  • Write on a rubber or rubber surface like the bottom of your shoe. This can help unclog the ball in the nib.
  • Similarly, instead or rubbing the ballpoint nib on a rubber. Rub it against an emery board or piece of fabric. Both objects can also help unclog the tip.

If none of the above solutions work or you have used your pen a lot, it may be time to replace the cartridge.

Why do Ballpoint Pens Leak?

Ballpoint pens often leak when the temperature is raised. When people wear them in a shirt pocket the temperature of the human body raises the heat of the ink cartridge causing the ink to flow. If not capped or positioned vertically the pen is likely to leak. Fabric and paper are also materials that help the ink flow, so they can also cause the pen to leak.

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How to Clean Ballpoint Pens

You will have read some tips above on unclogging the ball in the tip of the pen. If the nib of your pen contains dried ink, you can release it with heat or by scribbling on a piece of paper.

If your cartridge leaks inside the barrel then you should soak the pen, after removing the cartridge, in a cup of water. This should gradually remove any remnants of the ink, but you can also try holding the barrel under the tap for a more vigorous rinse. If the ink still doesn’t budge, try inserting a wet cotton swab inside the pen to remove manually. It’s best to avoid household cleaners and detergents to make sure you don’t damage the metal.

Removing Ballpoint Ink

Ballpoint ink tends to be more difficult to remove but If your pen has leaked or you’ve managed to get ink on objects around your home, we have a few tips on how you can remove the stains.

(Video) How To Quick Fix Your Dry Ballpoint Pen


If you have ballpoint pen stains on leather than you need to proceed with caution. Leather can be easy to ruin and unfortunately the solution will depend on the object. It’s best to start off trying the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning solution. If that doesn’t work, we recommend you spot check different solutions on a small out of sight part of the leather. Try spraying hairspray on the area and let it sit for a minute, but don’t let it dry. Then wipe clean with a wet cloth and try your usual cleaning solution. Alternatively, you could try rubbing alcohol onto the area. Always spot check the solution first however and remember to be careful as different fabrics will react in different ways


If you have got ink on clothes or furnishings, the best way to remove stains would be to try rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover on the stain. Blot at the stain with a clean cloth until it disappears and then apply your normal laundry detergent onto the area. After 5 minutes wash the fabric in hot water. If the fabric is delicate like silk or wool, you may want to seek professional cleaning advice.


If you have ballpoint pen ink on your skin normal household soap should remove it. It may require pressure and a scrubber however. Perseverance is key to removing the ink, but it will eventually disappear.

(Video) How to revive or unclog a clogged gel pen

(Video) How To Revive A "Dry" Pen + Storing Pens + Other Pen Hacks


How do you take care of a ballpoint pen? ›

Ballpoint pens have oil-based ink and can be stored upright with the nib of the pen pointing upwards. This will prevent any kind of leakage. They can also be kept downright. This will ensure than the ink travels down towards the tip, making the ink flow smoothly while writing.

How do I take care of my pens? ›

Soak the pieces in water, overnight if you need to; put the nib back on top of the assembly; and slide back into the pen. The best way to avoid clogs is never to leave a pen with ink in it unused for more than a week. Even the best ink will start to congeal in the nib fairly quickly.

How do you bring a ballpoint pen back to life? ›


Solvents will dissolve the ink and should get everything flowing. Nail polisher remover (with acetone) and rubbing alcohol both work wonders. Simply put a little onto some cotton wool and wrap around the tip for a few minutes. Wipe clean and write!

How do you keep ballpoint pens from drying out? ›

· Air tight containers are great

Yet another clever tip for ensuring that the chilling winters will not dry out the ink inside the ballpoint pen is that you need to keep it inside an airtight container. Basically, the flow of air inside such a container remains completely minimal.

How long do ballpoint pens last? ›

Rollerballs write great, but the refills tend to last for only about 30 pages. Ballpoint pens can write up to 300 pages with a Parker style refill. If the pen takes a Parker style refill, it will also take a gel refill.

Do ballpoint pens dry out? ›

All types regardless of ballpoint, rollerball, gel etc. dry out. The degree that they do varies widely. Two common mistakes are not trying to get a stubborn pen started and trying too hard to keep a cartridge going when it's past prime.

How do you store pens so they don't leak? ›

Ask The Desk: Storing Pens Up or Down?
  1. I find that felt tip pens like whiteboard markers, Sharpies, Microns and highlighters are best stored with the tip down. ...
  2. Rollerballs and ballpoints are best if they are stored upright so they don't leak or get gummy at the point.
  3. Gel pens seem to be okay stored either up or down.
Jul 12, 2013

How often should I clean my pen? ›

Common symptoms of a pen in need of cleaning include slow or inconsistent ink flow, scratchiness, and skipping. We would always recommend that your fountain pen be cleaned every 4-8 weeks, even if they are still writing well to avoid problems in the future.

Why do ballpoint pens stop working? ›

Additionally, ballpoint pens can stop working because the ink left in the ball when unused has been exposed to air and as a result clogged. Both issues can be fixed rather easily however so you can get your pen to start working again.

Why is my ballpoint pen not working when it has ink? ›

The ball in the tip can get clogged, or the ink can congeal or coagulate. Especially on a brand new pen the cartridge is filled at the factory from end opposite from the tip. The ballpoint needs to be wet with ink and then it will work going forward. Until it gets wet, the pen will not write.

How can I improve my pen holding? ›

The thumb grips above the index finger. The index and middle finger grip above the thumb. The whole hand is arched like a fist around the pen. The thumb is usually on the opposite side and holding against it.

Do pens dry out if you leave them open? ›

A: Almost any pen will dry out over time, but it takes a long time, if you put cover on after use any limit the exposure to air.

How do you lubricate a ballpoint pen? ›

Dab spit on the nib to lubricate your pen or dip the point in rubbing alcohol.

Which brand of pen lasts the longest? ›

Which brand of pen lasts the longest? The brands of pen that last the longest are Uni Ball, Pilot, and BIC.

Is there a pen that lasts forever? ›

ForeverPen, as its name states, is a pen that will last you forever. It is the world's tiniest pen with no ink, so it will never run out on you. You can keep it in your zipper pocket or attach it to a keychain so you can never lose it.

What is the smoothest writing ballpoint pen? ›

Here are the best ballpoint pens for your needs.
  • Best Overall: Uni-Ball Jetstream. ...
  • Best Refillable: Pilot The Better Retractable. ...
  • Best Value: Bic Cristal Xtra Bold. ...
  • Best Retractable: Schneider Pulse Pro. ...
  • Best for Drawing: Muji Gel-Ink. ...
  • Best Mini: Paper Mate InkJoy Mini Retractable. ...
  • Best Large: Kaweco Classic Sport.
Aug 22, 2022

Can ballpoint pens be refilled? ›

A ballpoint is trickier to fill than a gel tube because of the thinner tube. However, with patience, it can be done.

Can you lube a pen? ›

Pensive Pens Ultimate Pen Lubricant is commonly used for sealing threads when converting a fountain pen to an eyedropper-filled pen. It can also be used on the threads of a nib unit to seal it into the section to avoid air leaks and to lubricate the moving parts of a piston-filling fountain pen (and others).

Should pens be stored upside down? ›

As mentioned a few paragraphs ago, for single-ended markers like Sharpies, highlighters, gel pens, fine liner pens, etc., it's better to store them upside down. This way, the ink will stay in contact with the felt tip fibers, therefore helping your art markers or pens last longer and not dry out.

Where should I store my pens? ›

In theory, gel pens should be stored vertically with the nib facing upwards to prevent leaks. However, they are commonly stored horizontally in pencil cases without much issue. If you use your gel pens frequently, a pencil case is probably fine, but otherwise, we'd recommend vertical storage to avoid issues.

How do you store Bic pens? ›

It is not necessary to store a BIC® pen with its point facing down. However, we do recommend protecting the point when the pen is not being used. In the case of retractable pens, the point should be retracted when not in use, and pens with caps should also be protected after each use.

How do you moisturize a pen? ›

Fill your bowl with rubbing alcohol (you can also use the cap of the alcohol bottle, as you'll see in these examples) and put the Sharpie, tip down, in the liquid. Let it sit until you see a little ink running out into the alcohol. Then, cap your marker and let it sit for 15 minutes before using it again.

Is pen cleaner necessary? ›

Just as your car needs its oil changed, your fountain pen needs internal cleaning. A once a month cleaning will often save you a trip to the nib specialist. After flushing the ink out of the pen with water, we recommend flushing with one part household ammonia* and two parts water.

Is there a pen cleaner? ›

Pen cleaner for speedball super pigment acrylic inks. This pen cleaner is specially formulated to keep dip pens, fountain pens and technical pens. It also removes dried ink from drafting film and can be used to clean fine jewelry. Soak all parts to be cleaned for 30 minutes, then flush with warm water.

Which is better ballpoint or rollerball? ›

Rollerball ink flows much more freely, producing a vivid line that's thicker and more dynamic than most ballpoints, which makes them a great choice for writing in cards or sending a handwritten note.

Why does my pen keep skipping? ›

Skipping is when a fountain pen writes with missing or partial stokes. This occurs when the feed cannot supply enough ink to the tip of the nib or if the tines on the nib are misaligned. The first problem is an easier fix while a misaligned nib is best left to an experienced pen tech to repair.

Do ballpoint pens dry out if not used? ›

Unlike rollerball pens, ballpoint pens use thicker, oil-based ink. The rolling ball mechanism acts as a cap to stop the ink from drying out, but when left out, unused for long periods of time, it can clog up and stop the ink flow.

Do ballpoint pens run out of ink? ›

Most often, ballpoint pens run out of ink long before they dry out.

What should you not do with a pen? ›

  1. Not Using A Fountain Pen At All. Even if you own it, you may just have it in your desk drawer and it never sees the light of day. ...
  2. Using The Wrong Paper. ...
  3. Pushing Too Hard On The Nib. ...
  4. Using The Wrong Ink. ...
  5. Not Cleaning Your Fountain Pen. ...
  6. Dropping A Fountain Pen On The Nib. ...
  7. Not Keeping The Nib Up When Traveling.
Aug 11, 2018

Do pens dry out if not used? ›

Most pens shouldn't dry out from not using them enough. If you are having issues with your pens drying out, it probably has something to do with how old they are or how they are being stored. However, if you have a fountain pen, it may be more prone to drying out if you don't use it.


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