The Ultimate Guide To Cleaning Dip Pen Nibs!

With more and more people taking to writing for pleasure using a pen and paper, a wide range of pen types have seen a huge spike in popularity in recent months. Although in the grand scheme of things, dip pen usage is dwarfed by other pen types such as ballpoint, gel, rollerball, and fountain, we have seen a slight increase in the number of people using dip pens when writing.

Due to this increase in their popularity, we often see people reaching out and asking questions based around how to clean dip pen nibs without damaging them. Although the process is actually pretty easy once you are used to it, like most things in life, doing it for the first time can take time and patients. Due to this, we have decided to publish our ultimate guide to cleaning dip pen nibs to try and help as many of our readers as possible.

Just like our other ultimate guides, we have added a table of contents below to try and help save our readers time. You can click on the various options to instantly be taken to the required section without having to read the whole article.

How To Clean Dip Pen Nibs During Use?

As the majority of people who use dip pens for their artwork will often switch between different ink colors while working, the most common type of cleaning of a dip pen nib that most people will do is when the pen is actually in use. Provided that you never dip your dip pen nib in your ink deep enough for the ink to get into the nibs vent hole, cleaning a dip pen nib while in use is very simple.

You are able to dip the nib in your ink, draw as required, and when it comes time to switch ink colors, dip the nib of your pen into water and swish it around in the water to wash the ink off and then quickly dry your nib with a suitable paper towel. It is essential that you don’t dip your nib into the water deep enough to allow water to get into the vent hold of the nib though as this will end up causing you issues in the long run.

Using this cleaning method allows you to quickly and easily wash the fresh ink off your dip pen nib within seconds to allow you to re-apply a different ink color and carry on with your work. By ensuring that water never gets access to the vent hold in the nib, you drastically reduce the chance of rust build-up and any future issues making it much easier for you to use your nibs for years to come without problems with ink flow.

We know that many of our readers learn better by watching an example rather than reading and the YouTube video below offers a quick run through of the exact process that we recommend when washing your dip pen nibs.

How To Clean Dip Pen Nibs After Use?

As you would expect, the process for cleaning a dip pen nib after your drawing session is very similar to cleaning your nib during use. You simply go through the steps above ensuring that there is no water or ink inside the vent hold on your nib as this will end up causing issues with rust build up.

Once you have dried it, you can either leave your nib mounted to your dip pen or you can detach the nib and store it in a nib storage tin. Realistically, both are fine and work well enough but it will come down to your situation and if there is any risk of damaging your nib if you leave it mounted or not.

How Do You Get Dried Ink Out Of Dip Pen Nibs?

There are two different types of dried ink when it comes to using dip pen nibs for your artwork. The first is when the ink you are currently using starts to dry and the second is old ink that has not been cleaned off the nib correctly after use.

If you are currently using your dip pen then getting rid of the drying ink in the nib is much easier and we would recommend you simply use the process that we covered above. Simply dip the nib into your “art water” and swoosh it around to remove the ink, dry it with a suitable paper towel and then re-dip the nib into your ink and continiue.

The second type of dried ink is much harder to remove from the nib of your dip pen and this is why we always stress that our readers should be properly cleaning their nibs after use. If you have left your nibs for a day or more with ink in them, then the ink is going to be a nightmare to remove. Thankfully though, as decent dip pen nibs are cheap and easy to source, most people will simply choose to replace their current nib with the dried ink with a spare.

If for whatever reason you are not able to do this, you are able to try a number of different tricks to try and remove the ink from the dip pen nib to clean it. One of the most common methods of cleaning a dip pen nib with dried ink in it is to drop the nib in vinegar for around an hour before taking it out and cleaning it but this method can depending on the type of ink that you are using too.

There are a number of cheap, professional level nib cleaning kits on the market too that also have an excellent track record of getting dried ink out of pen nibs. If you have around $20 to spare, these nib cleaning kits can be well worth the investment.

How Do You Clean Rusty Dip Pen Nibs?

We often see people asking for ways that they are able to clean a rusty dip pen nib and although this is possible, it can take more time and effort than most people expect so simply switching the nib our for a high-quality spare is almost always the better option. On top of this, dip pen nibs rarely end up offering the same level of writing experience after having rust on them and they will tend to scratch too.

That said though, although there are a few ways to clean rust off a dip pen nib, we feel that the easiest method is to simply get a toothbrush, put a little bicarbonate of soda on the toothbrush and then gently rub the toothbrush against the rust on the dip pen nib. We can’t stress the gentle part enough there as the formation of rust will already have degraded the quality of the nib so you have to exercise care and patients to minimize the chances of any additional damage when cleaning the rust off the nib.

How Do You Clean A Glass Dip Pen?

With the quality of decent glass based dip pens going up while their price tag comes down, more and more people have moved over to using a glass dip pen for their work. Although the exact process of cleaning a glass dip pen will depend on the actual design of the pen and its nib, the majority of them are very similar to a regular dip pen.

You should be able to use the exact same process as we described back at the start of this article for a regular dip pen and not have any issues with keeping your glass dip pen nib clean. That said though, there are some more unique designs of glass dip pen out there that have been designed more for their unique look rather than the practicality of their use.

If you have one of these glass dip pens that are unique in their look rather than having the standard dip pen design but being made from glass, we would recommend that you check the user manual that came with the pen. We know that some of the more outlandish designs of dip pens have a specific cleaning process and rather than going over each one in this article, it is easier to just refer you to the user manual or brand’s website for its specific cleaning process.

How Do You Clean Indian Ink Out Of A Dip Pen?

With a large number of dip pen users working on their own comic books for fun or other activities where Indian ink will perform better than any other ink type, we see a number of people asking for ways to clean Indian ink out of a dip pen nib. If you are cleaning the ink out of the nib during use on a regular basis then you should be able to use the standard process that we covered above without having any issues.

That said though, if the Indian ink is drying in your nib then you may have to take your nib cleaning up a notch and pick up some Gum Arabic. As there are multiple ways that you are able to use gum arabic both before and after using Indian ink with your dip pen, you will have to do your own research to workout the system that is better for you.

Most people tend to use the gum arabic to make a solution with their Indian ink BEFORE actually dipping their pen into it. Not only does this ensure that the Indian ink will stick to the nib better, the diluted solution is also much easier to clean off too.


That brings our article on the ultimate dip pen nib cleaning guide to an end. We hope that you have found it helpful but prevention is always better than cure. You should be cleaning your dip pen nib on a regular basis while the pen is actually in use and then re-applying your ink as required. Although this process can become tiresome, it is much better than having issues with rust or dry ink later down the line!

Similar Posts