Although the majority of people still don’t put their fountain pen through basic cleaning, it is good to see more and more people reaching out and asking how they should be cleaning and servicing their fountain pens to keep them performing optimally. Although we see a wide range of questions asked, more and more people have been reaching out to ask for tops on how to clean a fountain pen with vinegar over the last few months.
Now, before we go any further with the article we want to make a few things clear, we are going to be specifically talking about white distilled vinegar not culinary vinegar. Although this may sound simple to some people, we have lost count of the number of people trying to clean their fountain pen with culinary vinegar that you use for your food and then not getting the results they wanted. This is due to the user not using the correct type of vinegar, you have to use white distilled vinegar.
In addition to this, if you flush your fountain pen on a regular basis as in every six to eight weeks as a maximum then regular water with no additives should be able to get the job done unless you are in some very specific and rare circumstances. On the flipside of this, if water is not getting the job done then actually using fountain pen flush solution rather than a homemade vinegar-based solution will almost always perform better.
This is due to the pH levels of the majority of modern fountain pen ink formulas being almost the same as that of white distilled vinegar. This means that when it comes to the acidity level, you are trying to use a substance (white distilled vinegar) that has a very similar pH level to what you are trying to clean with it so fountain pen flush solution starts to pull ahead when it comes to performance.
How To Clean A Fountain Pen With Vinegar!
Additionally, there are a number of different ways that you are able to clean your fountain pen with vinegar too so we want to quickly clarify. For the purposes of this article, we are specifically talking about you using white distilled vinegar as a flush solution to clean the ink path of your fountain pen. Historically, this has been a very common practice, and the old Parker pen manuals used to actually recommend the user flushes their pens with white distilled vinegar for regular cleaning.
We want to make it clear that we are NOT talking about cleaning the barrel, trim, grip or cap of your pen with a vinegar-based solution. We would recommend that you use a specialist solution for these as they may not hold up well to the acidic nature of the vinegar as they have not been designed to come into contact with acidic substances. On top of this, if you have a steel nibbed fountain pen, the steel nib may have issues if your vinegar-based solution is too strong so we would always recommend that you go with a fountain pen flush solution for any pen with a steel or gold plated nib.
What Ratio Of Vinegar To Water Should You Use
There is also a large amount of debate on the perfect ratio of vinegar to use when cleaning your fountain pen too. Although it is agreed that you should never use a solution that is one hundred percent white distilled vinegar, there are trains of thought to back up everything from a 50/50 ratio to 25/72 to 10/90 splits of vinegar to water.
What you are trying to do with the cleaning solution will also come into play too. For example, Pelikan recommends that you use a 10/90 (vinegar/water) solution for regular cleaning of your fountain pen as it should flush the ink path without issue. That said though, if there is a build up of dried ink or gunk on the ink patch of the pen, a stronger solution will be required and this is where simply using a fountain pen flush solution becomes the best option.
The Cleaning Process
The cleaning process for your fountain pen when using vinegar is considerably easier if your fountain pen uses a piston filler, vacuum filler or cartridge convertor system. If your pen does use a standard cartridge refill system then you are able to clean your pen via a fountain pen syringe but it is a total pain. If you are using a fountain pen that is cartridge-based, we would recommend that you look into picking up a cheap cartridge convertor. Just be sure that the cartridge convertor that you do get is compatible with your fountain pen model as some brands do use proprietary designs.
To clean your fountain pen with vinegar you will strip your fountain pen down for regular cleaning meaning that you will remove the cap and barrel as well as the rest of the back end of your fountain pen leaving the nib, feed, section, grip, and piston filler or cartridge converter in place. At this stage, we would also recommend that you make your vinegar-based solution as explained earlier in the article and have it ready in a clean glass near your working area.
You will then expel any ink that is currently in the pen into a spare glass or onto paper towels to reduce the amount of ink that is in the pen and needs to be cleaned out. If your fountain pen does have a blockage of dry ink that prevents you from doing this then you can leave the ink in the pen until if required but you can often turn the pen upside down and unscrew the piston filler or cartridge converter can be screwed off and emptied without the excess ink having to be expelled via the pens ink patch. If you do have to purge the pen in this way, once empty, refit your piston filler or cartridge convertor.
At this stage of the cleaning process, submerge the nib of your pen into the vinegar solution and retract it through your pens ink patch via the piston on your piston filler or cartridge convertor. Although some people do recommend that you only half fill your piston filler and shake your pen to try improve the cleaning process at this stage, there really is no need and you can usually expel the cleaning solution via the piston on your pen after a few seconds of filling it.
As your cleaning solution is made up of white distilled vinegar and water, it should be clear making it very easy to see the ink being removed from the pens ink path as the solution will be the color of your ink when expelled. Keep in mind though, as you clean your pen, the solution that you have in your glass will be changing colors as more and more ink is expelled from your pens ink path.
There are a few ways around this though with some people preferring to have two glasses, one with the vinegar based cleaning solution for your pen in it and one empty. With this strategy, your draw the vinegar from one glass and then empty it into another and check the color of the solution when it leaves your nib. Another strategy is that you can use a single glass and repeat the process ten times and then empty the glass and replace it with water. You then fill the pen once more and check the color of the fluid when you expel it, if it is clear, the ink path is clean.
Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages though and we usually recommend that you fill your fountain pen via the piston between five and ten times as a minimum when cleaning it. If your pen is dirty or has issues with dried ink or blockages then you may have to repeat the process more than ten times though.
Can Vinegar Remove Dried Ink From A Fountain Pen?
We often see people having issues with dried ink on their fountain pen and although a vinegar based solution can remove dried ink from your fountain pens ink path, it can end up having issues. As we touched on back at the start of the article, the pH level of white distilled vinegar is very similar to most inks meaning that it can have problems shifting a dry ink build up and that a fountain pen flush solution may be needed.
Another potential problem is that the ink formulas for most modern red or purple inks do tend to have a slightly higher pH than all other ink colors making them increasingly difficult for your vinegar cleaning solution to clean them from your fountain pen. Thankfully, both ink types are not a very popular choice so this is a rare occurrence but if you are using red or purple ink then just go with a professional fountain pen flush solution from the start.
That brings our article going over how you clean a fountain pen with a vinegar based solution to an end. We hope that you have found our article helpful and the cleaning process is very similar to the other popular cleaning processes for fountain pens with very few major differences in all honesty. Please take note of all of the points that we have raised in the article about cleaning your fountain pen with vinegar though as although it can work, there can definitely be problems in some situations.