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.


    It didn’t work

    Heather kuhn

    It worked! Following your suggestion, I dipped the tip in a few drops of oil till I rinsed and filled the refill. With some patience with scribbling on paper and striking it slightly in air, the pen was finally convinced to write on paper. The oil also helped me remove the clogged ink I have tried removing a couple of times earlier. My precious pen is working now. Thank you!

    Mahrukh Zubair

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