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How to Revive Your Recalcitrant Gel Pen

I found a big set of gel pens recently, sitting in front of a neighbor's house with a "Free" sign, but I've discovered that quite a few of them are not working properly. Apparently, this is pretty common, because gel pens can be persnickety, so I've been doing research on how to get them working again. I thought I'd share what I've learned from a bunch of different sites.


Reviving Recalcitrant Gel Pens


If you find that your gel pen ink is not flowing smoothly, my online research has indicated that there are a number of things you can try to get it working again. Not all pens can be revived, but here are some things you can try.

(Note: Each time you test the pen after one of these techniques, scribble tiny circles for 10-15 seconds on clean writing paper to give the ink a chance to start flowing.)

1. First try the techniques you would use with any clogged ballpoint pen: wipe the tip of the pen with a tissue to remove any traces of gunk, then rapidly make tiny circles on a clean piece of paper. If that doesn’t work, try writing on a rubber eraser or a mirror (or other piece of flat glass). Writing on glass may sound ridiculous, but I’ve found that it often works miracles!

2. Gently rub the nose of the gel pen against your fingertip. Your body heat + the oils on your skin can soften the ink and get it flowing again.

3. Hold the tip of the pen over a kettle or pot of boiling water for a couple minutes to warm and soften the ink.

4. Hold the pen under hot running water for a couple minutes. Dry the pen before you test it.

5. Soak a cotton swab with vegetable oil and apply it to the tip of the pen. Dry the slimy tip of the pen with a rag or paper towel before you test it.

6. Dip the tip of the clogged pen in nail polish remover. Dry the pen thoroughly with a rag or paper towel & make sure it's completely dry before you test it.

7. Thoroughly soak a rag or a cotton pad (such as those used to apply cosmetics—you can probably find these at your local "dollar store") with rubbing alcohol. Lay the saturated cloth on a safe surface and scribble on it with the pen.

8. Using a lighter, hold the gel pen tip 1/2 inch above the flame for 5 seconds. If there is any dried ink at the nose of the pen, this will melt it and get it flowing again.



There are more dramatic techniques for reviving dried out gel pens—techniques that involve taking the pen apart and doing all kinds of stuff to the barrel inside—but I'm not bothering to list those here, because I think they're ridiculous. I mean ... really? Gel pens don't cost that much! Rather than putting yourself through ridiculous Gel Pen CPR contortions, just throw out the ruined pen and use a similar color from the set. That's my advice, anyway.


To help prevent future problems from occurring, always store gel pens with the cap on and the tip down when you aren't using them. Just making sure that the cap is always securely fastened onto the pen when it isn’t in use will prevent most difficulties.(Note: Some of the caps are tricky: they seem closed when you just slip them on, but they actually need to be pushed until you hear a “click” that indicates that the cap has snapped into place.)

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