Since You Asked: Store ballpoint pens with their cap on
Whenever I come across a ballpoint pen that hasn’t been used for a long time — whether it’s point side down or on its side — I inevitably come across a pen that needs a lot of scribbling.
Sometimes I’ll try heating the tip to get things flowing, but I’m wondering, what’s the best way to store ballpoint pens?
— J. Scott, via email
For such a simple question, your query is one that not every writing instrument manufacturer seems to have considered — at least as far as their websites are concerned.
Thankfully, the biggest name in ballpoint, Bic, has outlined some recommendations to get the full 1.2 miles of writing service from their ubiquitous product. And yes, according to a frequently asked questions section of the Bic website, you should be able to get a full two kilometers of writing from your standard issue Round Stic or Cristal pen.
The French plastic pen heavyweight says storing the pen with the point facing down isn’t necessary, but they recommend using supplied caps or retracting the point when the pen isn’t in use.
The Parker Pen Company, maker of the refillable retractable Jotter ballpoint pen, has minimal storage instructions.
“Store your pen with the refill always retracted into the barrel,” Parker’s website recommends. “This will avoid stains or leakage if the point of refill touches the paper.”
The website goes further to recommend keeping the pen in a case or pouch to protect it from getting scratched.
Paper Mate’s FAQ page has no storage instructions, but parent company Newell Brands says they guarantee “complete customer satisfaction” and will replace new pens that don’t function properly.
Japanese pen manufacturer Sakura — maker of brightly colored Gelly Roll pens and those beige Micron pens popular with artists — had arguably the most extensive care instructions among disposable pen manufacturers.
With Gelly Roll pens, Sakura says gel ink is thick enough that they can be stored horizontally or vertically.
“If you choose to store them vertically, just be sure that you don’t drop them into the pen cup as this can cause air bubbles to form in the gel, which will disrupt the ink flow,” Sakura’s website states.
They say that a Gelly Roll pen can often be revived by scribbling in circles or firmly tapping the tip on a pad of paper.
Heating the tip can’t help in cases where the nib of a Gelly Roll pen gets clogged, the company says, but can be effective with traditional oil-based ballpoint pens.
Micron pens use small plastic tubes and delicate nibs, and are designed to be used at 90 degree angles with a very light tough.
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