Does India Ink Expire – Our Breakdown!

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Although India ink has had its niche uses in both general art and body art for an extremely long time, it has seen a solid spike in its popularity over the last few months and it shows no signs of going away anytime soon. In fact, the popularity of India ink seems to keep on increasing with each passing month due to people sharing their India ink artwork on social media attracting more and more people to using it for their own work.

As with all things art related when they see a sudden surge in their popularity, we have seen a huge surge in the number of people reaching out to ask a wide range of questions about India ink and how to get the most out of it. From what we have seen, one of the more frequently asked questions that we end up seeing is based around if India ink expires or not.

Due to there being a few different variables involved in this one, we have decided to publish this dedicated article going over if India ink expires or not to try and help our readers get the most out of their India ink. Now, to be clear, there are two main types of India ink on the market, commercially available India ink formulas and then we have homemade India ink formulas.

Depending on the type of India ink that you are using, you can have different experiences but throughout our article below, we will try and touch on the differences between the two as well as how you are able to get the most out of your India Ink. Please note though, when it comes to homemade India ink, there are a huge number of different recipes out there so we will be sticking to the standard soot and water recipe with no additional ingredients.

Does India Ink Expire?

Technically, India ink does not expire in its purest form as it is simply charcoal and water mixed together so there are no ingredients in it that are able to expire. This is why any artwork that you do involving India ink can last for a very long time with many people thinking that India ink is permanent.

Although this is not technically correct as India ink does not have the properties of archival ink or lightfast ink, it will not expire once it has been used for your art work. That said though, India ink does have some issues due to its simplistic formula that can make it a problem to store for long periods of time.

As we touched on above, for this article, we are only looking at India ink in its base form being made up of very fine soot and water. This is the traditional recipe that the majority of commercially available India ink formulas use today and what most people seem to use for their work.

As you may be aware, the main issue with water-based ink is that the water in the ink formula can evaporate in the bottle if not stored correctly when not in use and the same is true for India ink. Although this is not your India ink expiring, it is a pain and can cause issues with the formula formulating correctly in the future and the majority of the time, it is better to simply throw out a bottle of dried-up India ink and just purchase a new one.

That said though, you can sometimes try adding water to your ink bottle, leaving it for a minute or two and then shaking it for a minute to try and re-hydrate your ink but there is no guarantee that this will work with dried out (often looked at as expired) India ink. This is due to the soot in the India ink needing to be extremely fine for it to be suspended in the water and function as an ink.

If your India ink does end up drying out then the soot tends to build up into large chunks that will not function correctly for use as an ink without being re-grinded. This is why we tend to just recommend that any of our readers who do end up having dried out India ink just throw their current bottle away and buy a new cheap bottle of India ink to replace it.

Does India Ink Go Bad?

As we touched on earlier in the article, due to the majority of modern India ink formulas still sticking to the more traditional formulas that are based around soot and water with no additional additives, there is nothing in the ink that can go bad. That said though, there can be some issues with the ink formula that can cause problems moving forward but this is almost always down to user error rather than the actual ink.

The first issue and the most common thing that we see that can make your India ink go bad is leaving the top off your ink bottle for extended periods of time. Realistically, the cap should be off your India ink bottle for a few minutes at a time to refill your fountain pen, fill your dip pen pod, or put India ink on your paint easel. We constantly see people just leaving the top of their India ink bottle for days at a time and this is where the issues start as bacteria can get into the ink, live in the water, and contaminate your ink.

The second most common issue that we see time and time again is that people will store their India ink in a warm area of their home, often in direct sunlight and this can cause no end of issues as it is ideal conditions for any bacteria spores that managed to get into your ink. Thankfully, this is a quick and easy fix as you can drastically reduce the chances of this happening by simply storing your India ink in a cool, dry place that is out of direct sunlight when not in use.

Please note that there are some popular homemade India ink recipes available on the market that do have additional ingredients in them that can accelerate the rate that bacteria is able to grow in them. This is why we have focused on the more traditional and more popular recipes based around nothing but soot and water.


That brings our article going over if India ink expires or goes bad to an end. We hope that you have found it helpful and that we have managed to help you preserve your India ink and keep it for as long as possible without you having any issues with it.