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 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 the 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.

The 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.

Tealight Candle

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.

Pen in Ziplock Bag

The next best option is to seal the pens in something so that the 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.

Pen in Fridge

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 them. 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?

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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

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

  1. Awesome about putting in fridge i have a huge collection of markers and gel pens and live in high desert so even with ac running full blast still hot and dry

  2. I like what you said about keeping your pen cool so that the ink stays fresh longer. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to buy a handmade pen soon, and he wants it to last for a long time. I’ll share this information with him so that he can look into his options for professionals who can help him with this.

  3. It’s great that you explained the effect of putting candle wax or silicone rubber on the tip of your ballpen to keep it from drying out. I’m fond of buying school supplies, and it’s been a real challenge for me to safe keep my pens because I want to store them as part of my collection. I’ll keep in mind your tips and make sure to buy a pen with a long shelf life to save money and resources in the future.

  4. When you say the ink will dry of the pen is not used for “a while”, how long do you mean? The pens I’m using are Zebra pens, if it matters. Also, how long can we keep the pens in the refrigerator before that causes problems as well?

  5. I have a problem….
    My ball pens ink become lighter…after writing some several page…and stop wrting with in ten page though the ink is full inside the pen.
    I’ve been observing this for a month…
    how can I solve this.?

    • If you disassemble the pen, you can wad up some paper and shove it down the ink fount with a slim object. With any luck this should push the ink to the point.

      • I saw a video of a guy using an air compressor to push ink down toward the tip. He just pushed the ink straw loosely into the gun

  6. I have kept my Mont Blanc Ball point refills in the refrigerator and they have stayed well and worked
    after removing them ( I rotate the refills) from the refrigerator. Do not keep these in the Freezer Compartment. Keep them in the general compartment around the eggs / chocolates tray area.
    This advice was given to me by an executive from a Mont Blanc Boutique in Brussels.

  7. 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!

    • Most balls in a ballpoint pen are made of metal. Wax won’t be able to melt them. Don’t worry, dipping your pen tip in wax won’t harm the pen. However, I would recommend dipping it slightly in acrylic paint instead, as it’s easier to remove without leaving a residue

    • @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.

  8. 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!


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