How to Clean a Piston-Fill Fountain Pen

Here’s one simple method for cleaning a piston-fill fountain pen:

1. Now’s a good time to use room temperature water to rinse out the pen cap. There may or may not be some ink residue inside. Let the cap dry on a paper towel. (Some writers like to use distilled water instead of tap water to clean their fountain pens.)

Use room temperature water to rinse out the pen cap.
Use room temperature water to rinse out the pen cap.

2. Take apart the pen and rinse the feed under running tap water. Make sure the water is room temperature. (Not a bad idea to put some kind of strainer over the drain to keep the fountain pen feed out of your garbage disposal if you drop it.) I personally like to soak the feed in a glass of water overnight if I remember and have the time. Screw the pen back together. You can skip step number 2 entirely if you wish.

Rinse out the feed under a running tap. Use room temperature water.
Rinse out the feed under a running tap. Use room temperature water.

3. Turn the fountain pen piston knob counter-clockwise until the piston mechanism is all the way at the bottom (nearest the nib). Submerse the nib in a glass of clean room temperature water. Twist the piston clockwise (as far up as it will go) to draw water into the pen.

Submerse the nib in a glass of water. Twist the piston to draw water into the pen.
Submerse the nib in a glass of water. Twist the piston to draw water into the pen.
The ink remaining in the pen will mix with the water.
The ink remaining in the pen will mix with the water.

4. Turn the piston counter-clockwise to expel the water from the pen. Repeat step 3 and step 4 over and over again until the water from the pen runs clean and clear. You will need to dump the inky water out of the glass and refill it with clean water a few times.

Keep refilling & expelling water from the pen repeatedly until the water runs clear. Change the water in the glass a couple of times as you continue.
Keep refilling & expelling water from the pen repeatedly until the water runs clear. Change the water in the glass a couple of times as you continue.
Eventually the water inside the pen will be clear & clean.
Eventually the water inside the pen will be clear & clean.

In this picture you can see a bit of blue ink stain inside my pen. I could use a fountain pen cleaning solution to work on removing this.

Blot the nib on a paper towel to see if there is any ink remaining in the feed.
Blot the nib on a paper towel to see if there is any ink remaining in the feed.

5. Once the water coming from the pen is clear, twist the piston counter-clockwise to expel any water remaining in the pen. You can test to see if there is any ink left in the feed by blotting the nib on a paper towel. If the paper towel remains clean you’ve done a thorough job. For best results let the fountain pen dry out on a paper towel overnight before you refill it with ink.

What’s your favorite method for cleaning a piston-fill fountain pen?

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