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Avoiding an inky mess

Have you ever started writing to suddenly discover ink on your hands or fingers or find ink spots on your best shirt or blouse? Have you thought to yourself, "where did that come from", as you start looking at your fountain pen for leaks.

It may not be your pen's fault; it could easily be yours.

I have been servicing and restoring fountain pens since 2018 and have seen lots of pens that the owner said, "must be leaking", but where is it coming from?

One of the very first things I do when I receive a fountain pen for restoration or servicing is to dip the pen and test how it writes and how the filling system operates. I then give the pen a thorough inspection for any damage from either normal wear of the pen of from any misuse or accidents. Once that has been completed, I TEST THE PEN FOR INK THAT HAS ACCUMULATED IN THE CAP.

You say, "ink in the cap, how does that happen?" Well, guess what, when the cap is replaced, ink accumulates in the cap due to seepage from the feed and nib due to changes in the barometric pressure, changes in temperature or several other reasons.

Temperature Change

Pens often leak when the temperature rises. People tend to carry their pens in a shirt pocket. When the temperature rises, from your body or outside forces, the ink heats up and becomes liquefied and is pushed to the tip or the end of the pen depending on gravity. No matter how well you cap it, temperature plays a crucial role when it comes to pen leaks.

Capillary action:

If you have ever noticed, sometimes the ink from a pen spreads when it comes in contact with a paper or fabric. What actually happens is that the ink is being pulled out without gravity or external forces onto the surface it touches (and absorbed in the case of fabric). This is what is known as capillary action.

Manufacturing defects:

Defects are a fairly common cause of pen leaks. This is especially true when you opt for cheap quality pens that are not designed to last. This, however, varies from brand to brand. Of course, the conditions of heat and placement of the pen are significant but sometimes, it boils down to the quality of the pen you are using.

Destruction of pen tip:

The pen tip has a very delicate structure in which a fine ball is assembled at the tip of a thin piece of metal. Therefore, if you penetrate an object with a pen or drop the pen tip onto the floor, the pen tip will be damaged. Of course, you shouldn’t be surprised if it gets deformed and the ink begins to seep out.

Although it is helpful knowing how leaks occur, it’s only a part of the solution. Here are a few simple ways to combat leaks:


As a general rule, using the correct position to store your pens goes a long way in preventing unexpected leaks. Keeping that in mind, it is recommended to keep them stored horizontally or in a vertical position in a nib-up manner if in a pocket. Keeping a pen nib-down is asking for trouble. If you’re carrying them with you, it is recommended to keep them horizontally in a case.


To avoid unexpected leaks, it’s also important that your pens are stored correctly. It is best to keep it in a cool space that avoids heat and high temperatures since heat can cause the air inside a pen to expand and force ink out. Pens should be capped and retracted as well. When stored safely, you shouldn’t have any issues unless the problem is with the pen itself.

How does one stop their fountain pen from leaking?

Keep your Fountain Pen Capped. ...

  1. Keep your Fountain Pen Upright. ...

  2. Always Carry your Fountain Pen Carefully. ...

  3. Always Keep the Fountain Pen Cool. ...

  4. Keep the Nib Facing Upwards. ...

  5. Install your Ink Cartilage Securely in Place. ...

  6. Check your Fountain Pen Regularly, including the cap. If ink is found in the cap, you can be sure it will transfer to the barrel of you pen when the cap is posted and will most likely end up on your hands, fingers or shirt.


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