How to Get a Ballpoint Pen to Start Writing Again

By Daniel Whitehouse

Braxton Blue Ballpoint Pen

How to Get a Ballpoint Pen to Start Writing Again

By Daniel Whitehouse

So, how to get a pen to write again?
Sometimes, you might need a minute to get the ink started in a brand new pen. Or if you have a pen that you haven't 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.
How to Get a Ballpoint Pen Working Again Infographic

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 tip's ball can clog, 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.
It all has to do with how a ballpoint pen works. The pen will not write until it gets wet. That's why you need to wet the ballpoint with ink to make it work going forward.
Further Reading: How Do Ballpoint Pens Work
So until the ball in the tip wets 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 the pen starts, there will be no further issues.

Tips on how to get a pen to write again:

  • 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 absorbs and only ink starts to flow.
  • If it does not start, then soak the tip in oil for 20 minutes and try again.

If this did not work, here are additional tips 

  1.  The video below demonstrates 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.


The table below summarizes some issues you might face when using a ballpoint pen and their solutions:

Issue Solution
Pen won't start Shake the pen gently to get the ink flowing
 Dry ballpoint tip Draw small circles on scrap paper to encourage ink flow
Old or dried ink Soak the pen tip in warm water for a few minutes
Air bubble in cartridge Tap the pen gently on a hard surface to release the air bubble


    Daniel Whitehouse is the President and CEO of Dayspring Pens. He uses his expertise with premium writing utensils to create exceptional, intentional products and craft easy-to-understand articles that help both new and experienced users learn more about their writing tools. He lives in Virginia where he and his wife are raising their four children.

    To learn more about him and his insights about custom engraved gift pens, follow Daniel on LinkedIn.


    @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

    Hi, here is my story: I scratched my pen too hard on paper and now it is not working anymore. I tried various methods such as dipping the pen in hot water and burning the tip. However, non of these methods seem to work and my pen is still not working. What should I do?


    Less goooo


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