How to Get a Ballpoint Pen to Start Writing Again (2023)

How to Get a Ballpoint Pen to Start Writing Again (2023)

How to Get a Ballpoint Pen to Start Writing Again (2023)

Sometimes a brand new pen can take a minute to get the ink started. Or if you have a pen that has not been used for the while, the problem and solution can be the same.
We have had customers think that perhaps their new pen came without ink in the cartridge, when in fact it was just a matter of getting the pen started.

Why does it not just write the moment I first try it?

While most of the time the ink will start on first attempt, sometimes they do not.
The ball in the tip can get clogged, or the ink can congeal or coagulate.
Especially on a brand new pen the cartridge is filled at the factory from end opposite from the tip. The ballpoint needs to be wet with ink and then it will work going forward.
Until it gets wet, the pen will not write. So until the ball in the tip is wet with ink or until any small air pockets are removed, the pen may not write or may skip.
99.5% of the time the ink cartridge it is not defective, it just needs to be started.
Once it is started, there will be no further issues.

Tips on getting it started:

  • Dip the tip in a drop of oil. Cooking oil is fine, any oil will do.
  • Water can also work, but we suggest oil.
  • Let it soak for 5-10 seconds, swirling it around in the drop of oil is best.
  • Scribble vigorously on a piece of paper until the oil is gone and only ink starts to flow.
  • If it does not start, then soak the tip in oil for an 20 minutes and try again.

If this did not work, Here are additional tips 

  1. A second way to get a pen to start writing
  2. If none of the above works, then warming the ink just a little can tried. You should remove the refill from the pen before you warm the ink. Warming it can thin the ink or melt a clog, allowing the ink to flow easily.

Here is a video. NOTE: We are NOT responsible for any damage to the pen or refill if you choose this method.


@Mindy to answer your question yes it depends on the type of ink that is in the PIN it can either leak or not write very well for long periods the ink would have to gravity bleed down like swatting your pin through the air as if you were going to throw a throwing knife but not letting go of the pain but most pens actually have a certain substance in the opposite back side of the pin and even more expensive refills will have plastic stoppers or a lot of times you’ll see a refill with like a plastic plug in the end but there’s always a tiny hole now I’m not sure if that tiny hole is a purposefully made kind of like the hole in pin Caps or if it’s meant to let a certain amount of air flow through I’m pretty certain it’s made to let a certain amount of air flow through cuz if you remove it your PIN will leak a lot and if you put some hot glue on the tip of that hole and cover the hole up your pain won’t work properly so most pins have to have the proper amount of resistance for the airflow to write properly like especially thin water-based inks have to have a good stopper in the back side where is oil based inks are thicker more viscous they don’t flow as easily they don’t leak as much/as often


The oil method can sometimes mess up a pen and trying to use alcohol can also mess up the pain they can try the ink in the tip or coagulate the ink if it’s water based ink it will dry the tip and then you have crusty hard bits of ink pigments that don’t want to let the rest of the wet ink still in the PIN flow out as far as dipping the tip in oil I’m guessing for ballpoint or oil based inks I’ve tried this method with mineral oil and lubricating three and one oil and both times to no avail but I believe my ink was a little too dry inside the refill as it was an older pen that hadn’t been used in a while that being said if you do use oil the ink will not want to stick to the ballpoint so you have to remove the oil after you’ve used it to roll the ball around in and basically clean the ball tip out..
If you’re ever trying to heat the tip of your PIN to get it to work with a lighter you risk drying or coagulating the ink inside the tip and the spring mechanism that’s inside the tip behind the ball point can get stuck in the coagulated ink and basically ruins the tip with no easy fix short of taking the pen and tip off of the plastic refill ink barrel, and completely pressure washing the ballpoint tip out and then reassembling it as well as getting the air pocket out of it after that, which you can use a needle and syringe to help pressurize the ink back down towards the tip but anytime you take a tip off of the refill and you basically get an air pocket when you press the tip back on you can gravity bleed that sometimes but not always an easy task.. the warm water method is great for water-based inks but if you have a dried out oil based ink such as a ball point, simply heating the ink won’t do it may work for a little while if there’s not that much coagulated ink in the tip but odds are the ink will start to stiffen overtime and if you have a favorite pen that you like the way it feels in your hand and the way it writes you can always check the refill model number and order cartridge refills from Amazon or Staples.. the one thing that I am still trying to figure out is the chemical formula for Bic ballpoint ink and how to thin out a point oil-based ink adding oil doesn’t work because the oil that you add to the mix does not mix in with the oil-based ink and trying to use an emulsifier like alcohol only dries the ink out more.. I thought about trying mineral spirits but I’ve not got to that process yet, hope some of this info helps I’ll and by the way if you scrape your ballpoint or rollerball which are basically the exact same tip it the difference is water basting versus oil-based ink but if you scrape your paper too much or too often you get paper clogged up in the tip of the ball which is where soaking it warm water can also help or using a little bit of something to clear the tip out there’s also a method of kind of pulling the debris off the tip versus just some wiping the tip that tends to help or if your tip is jamming a certain way you know use a little bit of pressure and and push down and let off push down let off like kind of fast as you roll the pin around because there’s a spring that’s behind your ball in the tip of the pen and when you press down on the pin it gives the ball a little bit of clearance to clear any debris out.. hope this has helped someone


@Mandy At first glance, I would be inclined to agree with you. Most ballpoint refills either have no sealant on the back or are not airtight for that very reason. That being said, there are some ballpoint refills out there like the Fisher Space Pen refills that are pressurized with air sealed inside the refill to push the ink out. So maybe the person was using one of these refills?

Samantha Di Nardo

Hello! I have a question that has been lingering in my mind. If an ink refill is plugged at the end (the “back” end or the opposite end of the writing tip), will ink still flow normally? For example, if you plug the end of a drinking straw that’s full of liquid, the liquid won’t flow out of the straw because there’s no airflow. I recently saw someone make a pen using epoxy resin, where they simply filled a pen barrel shaped mold with the epoxy resin, then dropped an ink refill cartridge into the resin (with the writing rip sticking out of course). My first instinct is to think that the pen won’t work because the cartridge is fully encased in the resin, no airflow. Thoughts? Thanks!


@CHENULI What a bummer! Sorry to hear that! Unfortunately if the housing that holds the ballpoint is damaged there isn’t an easy solution to fixing it. If you pen is refillable, I would probably try swapping out the refill for a new one. If the mechanism itself is broken, there isn’t much that can be done since the tip of the ballpoint requires such precision manufacturing.

Samantha Di Nardo

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