How to revive dried out pens: 5 Tips


Who hasn’t reached for a pen only to find that it’s all dried out and doesn’t work anymore. Did you know most pens can draw a line nearly two miles long before running out of ink? Yeah, we’ve never gotten nearly that amount of use from a pen before it dried out either. Luckily, you can revive dried out pens. Easily. So before you toss your scratchy pen, try our 5 tips on how to revive dried out pens.

5 ways to revive dried out pens

  1. Soak: dissolve dried ink on the nib by soaking your pens in a cup of hot water or rubbing alcohol
  2. Forced air: remove the ink cartridge and blow on on the clean end to force ink to the nib.
  3. Scraping method: remove the dried ink clogging up the nib by rubbing your pen on the bottom of your shoe, a damp cloth or an emery board.
  4. Fire: Hold your pen tip to a lighter flame for a few seconds to melt dried off a ballpoint.
  5. Rod it out: use a straightened out paper clip and a drop of nail polish remover to clear out the dried ink clogging up the ink cartridge.

If you try all these tips and your favorite pen is still well and truly dead, you may be able to just replace the ink cartridge.  Know another way to revive dried out pens? Share your tips in the comments.

Sources: Recording Thoughts, Wikihow, Lifehacker

23 comments on “How to revive dried out pens: 5 Tips

  • Elizabeth Rynear says:

    I would really love to win the supplies contest, as our district has a 9 million dollars deficit (very poor management/communication from district) and we are suddenly left holding the bag. Like other teachers, I already spend thousands of dollars a year, so any little bit of help with supplies would be wonderful. My Kindergarten class is my pride and joy and I’d hate to come up short with supplies.
    By the way:
    this a great blog! I love the helpful hints!! I’m glad your contest got me here to become a regular reader!

  • Lucario (anon) says:

    Lick the nub of the pen to remove dried ink from the tip, or the lick can re-wet the in in the pen.
    Or you can point the pen at a distant object, and swing your arm in circles, using centrifugal force to make the go to the nub.

    • Denise Greenberg says:

      This will work for dry erase markers as well. I tape a piece of string to the end of mine and give it a whirl or two. Not too many, or the ink will spill onto your hands when you take off the cap!

  • Frank Nugent says:

    I have a container of water next to my desk to help humidify the area. Just touching the tip of the nib in the water is usually enough to get the ink flowing again.

  • I have a very large quantity of pens that are dried out. Do you know if pen ink is alcohol based or water based and do you have any good tips to get them working as a batch.


    • Alyssa Ochs says:

      Hi Tony, thanks for your question. Rollerball pens, for example, typically use a thin, water-based ink. Many manufacturers use water-based inks for pens. However, felt-tipped pens need ink made with alcohol for a solvent. Have you tried any of the methods described in this blog post yet?

  • Centrifugal force
    Straighten paper clip
    Make 2 wraps around the center of the pen barrel
    Chuck the loose ends, which should be even, in a drilll
    Spin inside of a cardboard box
    Think, is it worth it to do this for a lousy pen when it could
    do you serious damage.
    So, if you feel you can do this safely and all else has failed.
    Disclaimer : this is not a good idea, do not try this at home

  • Angela Fragomeni says:

    Hey does anybody know how to revive fine liner markers? I use them to do adult coloring. It’s very relaxing. I fined that they dry out quickly and for 29 dollars Canadian I’d like to keep them as long as I can. Any suggestions would be appreciated

    • I always store all markers with felt tips, standing upright, with the tip / cap facing down in a cup-like container. This ensures that the liquid/fluid inside flows to the tip (following gravity). Some magic markers that I don’t use often have lasted for years!!

  • So there are two effective ways:
    The first is to hold the tip to a water sprayer and pump it a few times. Note: make sure it's not water-based and it's waterproof. But you can cap for a few hours so the water will evaporate.
    The second way is to use pliers to remove the tip then load a syringe and needle with ink and inject it into the tip and the edges connecting the tip to the cartridges.
    Those should be used for extremely dead pens.
    Other ways you can try writing on glass with water, or ice, or dissolve it on alcohol
    Hopes this helps 🙂

  • Paint markers! I have a large amount used for a school project. Tons of paint left in each. Tried wiping the tips with paint thinner, shaking, waiting, removing nib…. I see above you noted nail polish remover and a paper clip – is this for paint style markers? I would assume paint thinner or nail polish remover would work equally, but I'll take any suggestions / advice to get my money's worth out of these pens!

    Much thanks in advance – ~M

  • Blew into the end of the pen, and it worked, but only for a few seconds after writing a couple of words. It goes dead if i don’t blow in it every sentence. What’s happening & what should i do?

  • I used the lighter technique. I dipped the pen nib into acetone, lit a match and let the nib heat up in the flame, (over the kitchen sink) until the match was too short to hold. Then I lit another match and did it again! It worked well on the biro. Thanks

  • I like the heat method the best . Add several “dead” ballpoint pens into a metal bucket, add an ample quantity of lighter fluid then drop a lit match into said bucket. When the flames are out, smile and then
    toss remains into trash and then head to your favorite office supply….problem solved…”revenge is sweet”.

  • Cheryl Stewart says:

    I tried all of the methods for reviving gel pens – three large sets of colored pens – and only got a few of them working. After getting myself and the kitchen covered in ink I thought to look up refills. You can get refills for about a dime each. For the good black or blue office pens they are about a quarter. I have ordered them, but haven’t tried them yet. I hope they work for the sake of reduce/ reuse and cost.

  • — I have stuck a long toothpick (like for cooking) down the cartridge and stirred it and that helped. (You might draw some ink or gel back up though.)
    — I gently squeezed the cartridge and that helped.
    — I pressed harder on the tip to loosen it, sometimes even a good jab on the notebook or clipboard, and that helped.


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