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How to Keep Your Pens from Drying Out

If you’re into pens, or use them a lot, it doesn’t take long to build up quite a pen collection. And since you probably don’t write with more than a couple at a time, you’re left to figure out how to keep the rest from drying out between uses.

Mostly, it’s a matter of the quality of the pen. The better the ink, and the tighter it’s sealed inside, the less likely that just laying around will ruin it. But, there are a few tricks you can use to help preserve your ink pens so they actually work when you pull them out of the drawer.

The main culprit is evaporation of the ink solvent, so you want to do whatever you can to keep air from getting to the ink. This is less of a problem with the thick, oily ink in ballpoints than with the water-based inks of rollerballs and gel pens.

Store pens on their sides or with the tip down.

BallpointThe idea of the ball in a ballpoint or rollerball pen is to act as a permanent cap that traps in moisture and keeps out air from the ink cartridge. The ball is forced against the opening by gravity, so if you store pens with the tip up, the ball rolls down, exposing the ink to the air and allowing the solvent to evaporate.

Dip the tip of the pen in wax.

Although the ball is a cap, it still must fit loosely enough so that it’ll roll across the surface and transfer the ink. That can leave a slight opening for moisture to escape, especially if the pen is laying on its side. To avoid this, just put a tiny bit of candle wax or silicone rubber on the tip of the pen when you won’t be using it for a while. Of course, you also should always keep the caps on, especially with the rollerball and gel pens.

Keep pens in airtight bags or containers.

The next best option is to seal the pens in something so that air can’t get to them. Put your pens in a Ziploc bag, lay it flat and squeeze it to force out as much air as possible (or use a vacuum sealer) and zip it closed. You can also try airtight food storage containers, or even airtight cigar tubes for your nicer pens.

Put pens in the refrigerator.

Cool temperatures will slow the evaporation of the solvents, so the ink should stay “fresh” longer. If a pen doesn’t write when you take it out of the refrigerator, warm up the tip with a lighter (just a few seconds) or by putting it in some hot water.

Fountain pen users probably already know that none of these tricks really apply to them. Fountain pens should be emptied and flushed with cold water before storing. If it’s just going to be a short time, you can leave the ink in, but put the pen in a holder with the nib up.

What about you, readers? Any special tips for how to store your pens?

6 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Pens from Drying Out”

  • Josh Moore

    Wow, great stuff, my pens are always doing that, i reckon i will take up the idea of putting them in the bag, seems good to me! :) Thanks for the share!

  • Bennett

    Does the pen dry out faster if you don't retract the cartridge and just leave the roller ball exposed?

  • Ron Bradley

    I would like an answer to the question posed above.

    • TonyB

      @Ron: The ball of the pen dries out from exposure to air. I supposed retracting it may give some tiny little bit of protection, but I don't think it makes enough of a difference to matter.

  • Cailee

    Do the dry out faster if not capped?

  • Karen

    How do you actually do this? "Dip the tip of the pen in wax." I'm concerned about the temperature of molten wax when I dip the pen, won't it burn the ball and ruin it? Should I let it cool a bit first? Please let me know if you have specific instructions. :) Thanks!

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