How to Unclog Ballpoint Pens

pen #4 image by Adam Borkowski from

Ballpoint pens can develop bits of clogged ink in the tip of the ink cartridge, causing the pen to stop writing. Ballpoint pens that have been stored and unused for long periods are more susceptible to clogging problems than those that are used daily. If you find a batch of old pens that are full of ink but will not write, the pens may be clogged. Before you toss the pens in the trash, try a couple of simple steps to unclog the pens.

Dampen the end of paper towel with rubbing alcohol.

Wipe the tip of the pen thoroughly with the rubbing alcohol to remove any dried ink around the tip.

Hold the tip of the pen at the top of the flame of a cigarette lighter, or other flame source, for a two seconds. Do not hold the tip of the pen in the flame longer than two seconds or you may melt the end of the pen.

Scribble on a piece of paper to get the ink flowing through the cartridge. You may have to repeat the heating process to melt away all of the dried ink inside the pen’s tip.


  • If you have tiny wire that will fit in the tip opening, shove the wire into the tip opening if the pen does not work after heating.


  • “Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things”; Reader’s Digest Staff; 2008

About the Author

Kaye Morris has over four years of technical writing experience as a curriculum design specialist and is a published fiction author. She has over 20 years of real estate development experience and received her Bachelor of Science in accounting from McNeese State University along with minors in programming and English.

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