Howto: Clean Pen Nibs

Pen nib cleaning

If you use dip pens, brushes, or anything else for pen and ink work you know how hard it is to remove dried ink. I have several tips on cleaning pen nibs and a great recipe that can easily remove dried ink.

Basic Cleaning

To be honest I do not really clean my pen nibs completely after each use. I find if the nibs have some dried ink on them they seem to flow better the next time I use them.

My basic cleaning technique is to let the pen nibs almost dry and remove them from the pen holder. I take a paper towel and rub off as much dried ink from the nibs as I can, especially from the tip.

When it is time for a good cleaning, or after each use with certain nibs, I clean the nibs better.

I remove the pen nib from the holder and walk to the sink. I apply dish soap to cover the nib completely and then scrub it with a toothbrush. The nib is rinsed with warm water and repeated until clean. Then it is fully dried with a towel to prevent rust.

Advanced Cleaning

There are times when a nib will not come clean no matter how I try to clean it. That is when it is time to use the recipe I found from Mary Lawler, and her post Pen and Brush Cleaner Recipe.

  • 3 1/4 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Ammonia
  • 1/4 Cup Rubbing Alcohol
  • 1 Teaspoon Dish Washing Liquid (Dawn or Sunlight)

The recipe will fill a 2-liter bottle about half full of the cleaner. I store my cleaner in a clean 2-liter soda-pop bottle, with writing and the recipe right on the bottle.

The easiest way to use the cleaner is to get yourself a denture container, which is about $2 new from the store. Simply fill the container half full and put the nibs into the strainer basket. Gently shake/swish the container to allow the nibs to be fully coated in cleaner. Let them soak for a few hours and gently shake/swish the container before opening. Pull out the strainer basket and remove the nibs – if any nibs fell out of the strainer basket use tweezers to get them out of the container. Wash the nibs with warm water and towel dry to prevent rust.

If the pen nibs are still dirty you can repeat the steps above, or let them soak in the container overnight. A word of caution though the longer the nibs soak the more likely they are to rust.

Cleaner left in the container can be reused multiple times. Simply close the lid tightly and place somewhere secure until it is needed.


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