Do Ballpoint Pens Dry Out And How To Prevent It!

Although gel pens and fountain pens have grown in popularity over the last few years, the trusty ballpoint pen is still the dominant pen choice for the majority of people while holding the largest market share. Due to this, we constantly see people asking a range of different ballpoint pen related questions to try and improve their performance as well as ensure that their ballpoint pens last them as long as possible.

We have already covered a number of commonly asked ballpoint pen questions in previous articles but we have noticed more and more people asking if ballpoint pens dry out or not. Due to this, we have decided to publish our own dedicated article going over if ballpoint pens dry out as well as how you are able to prevent your own pens in your stationary collection from drying out too.

Although there are a few different ballpoint pen designs on the market right now, the information below as well as our methods to prevent your pen from drying out will work with all of them. Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you are using a budget-friendly, disposable ballpoint pen or a luxary ballpoint pen, our tips and tricks below will help our readers no matter the price point of their ballpoint.

Do Ballpoint Pens Dry Out?

Ballpoint pens can dry out surprisingly quickly when left with their caps off or in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. This then ends up causing problems with hard starting and inconsistent ink flow that can be a pain to fix depending on how long your pen has been left in these conditions.

We often see people asking why they have to reapply the cap of their ballpoint pen when they have a small hole in the top so air is able to get to them anyway. The hole in the top of the ballpoint pen cap is due to safety regulations incase children accidentally swallow the cap so they are still able to breath. Even with the small hole, the air that is able to get to the ball on the pen is restricted enough to prevent you from having any issues with the pen drying out.

We also see people asking why they have to keep their pen out of direct sunlight as ballpoint pens use an oil-based ink rather than the water-based ink that gel pens use. Most people understand that the water in a gel pen can easily evaporate on a hot day but most people don’t realise that although a ballpoint pen does use an oil based ink, there is still a large amount of water in the oil that makes up the ink.

If this water evaporates then the consistency of the oil in your ballpoint pen becomes too thick for the writing mechanism on the pen to connect with and rotate correctly to transfer the ink to your paper when writing. Unlike a gel pen that can sometimes be rehydrated by dipping the pens ink cylinder in water, this is not possible with a ballpoint pen as the ratio of the water in the pens oils has to be exact for the pen to work too.

Do Ballpoint Pens Dry Out If Not Used Regularly?

Provided that you keep the cap on your ballpoint pen and store it out of direct sunlight you should not have issues with it drying out if not used regularly. Although this does seem to be a common issue for cheaper, disposable ballpoint pens with a plastic barrel, the issue is usually due to damage to the pen causing it to dry out and ballpoint pens with resin barrels usually don’t have this issue due to being more robust.

The main issue that people usually have is that they will leave their plastic barrel ballpoint pens in their bag with a bunch of other things for an extended period of time. As they carry their bag around, the other items in there then tend to smash into their pens and crack their barrels and nibs allowing more air to get to the oil based ink to dry it up.

If you are a student and you will be carrying all of your stationary around with you in your bag with other items that may damage them then a cheap pen case can help protect them and stop them from drying out. This adds that additional layer of protection to your pens and prevents them from being damaged and drying out when not used for a long period of time.

How Do I Keep My Ballpoint Pen From Drying Out?

The three main ways that you are able to prevent your ballpoint pens from dying out is to store them correctly, re-cap them after use, and to keep them out of direct sunlight when possible. Although these sound simple enough, a large number of people neglect their stationary and don’t even do simple tasks like this causing no end of issues in the long run.

You also have to keep in mind that there are non-capped ballpoint pens that either use a clicker system or a twist to hide system to retract the writing mechanism of the pen into the pens barrel. This operates in a very similar way to capped ballpoint pens by restricting the amount of air that has access to the pens writing mechanism when not in use and helps to prevent them from drying out on you.

How Long Do Ballpoint Pens Last Before Drying Out?

Even an entry-level, budget-friendly ballpoint pen is able to last you for years without drying out provided they are kept with their caps on and out of direct sunlight. This is why stationary stores are able to purchase them in bulk and potentially hold the pens in their storerooms for years prior to even putting them on their shelves without having issues with the pens drying out.

It is also very common for people to purchase ballpoint pen refills in bulk too for higher price point pen models as buying in bulk offers discount. The majority of people tend to just store their refills in ideal conditions for extended periods of time without having any issues with them too. As we have touched on throughout the article, the majority of issues with ballpoint pens drying out are usually down to user error or damage to the pen rather than the actual pen itself.


That brings our article going over if ballpoint pens dry out or not to a close. Although all ballpoint pens can dry out, there are simple, quick, and easy steps that you are able to take to prevent your ballpoint pen from drying out and ensure that it will last you for years with proper care. If you are using a more expensive intermediate or premium level ballpoint pen then these are definitely worth doing to ensure that you get as much use out of your pen as possible.

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