How to refill your fountain pen

Oh no! My pen’s run out of ink. What do I do now?

We love our fountain pens here at Eco Collective. We’ve also got a bit of a journaling obsession, so our pens tend to get a lot of exercise. Not only do fountain pens feel comfortable and elegant to write with, but they also offer a whole assortment of inks to play around with - all with minimal waste! 

So: you’ve got your pen, and now you’re ready to ink up! Or maybe you’ve had your pen for a while, and your first ink cartridge has run dry… and now you’re wondering what to do next. It’s time for you to refill your ink so your pen can live to write another day!

How to fill (and refill) your ink:

Disposable Cartridges

Let's start with cartridges: this is the easiest option for fountain pen ink, and the one I usually recommend for beginners. Each package of Kaweco ink cartridges comes with 6 small plastic cartridges. When you run out of ink in one, you simply toss the old cartridge into the trash and replace it with a new one! Even though this option still generates some plastic waste, you are saving a huge amount of plastic by not throwing away a whole pen.

I recommend these for beginners because there is basically no learning curve, and you can get to know your new pen without some of the mess that can come with a refillable cartridge!

Cartridge ink makes it easy! Just toss the old cartridge and pop in a new one! Things get a little trickier with a refillable cartridge…
  1. Disassemble your pen, including the disposable cartridge. To do this, remove the pen cap and unscrew the part with the pen tip from the body of the pen. You'll be able to see that your cartridge is empty (if it's not, but the ink doesn't seem to be flowing, see the "clean your pen" section below).
  2. Toss the empty cartridge into the trash.
  3. Pop in a new cartridge! POP is the key word here: make sure you really push the new cartridge - you want to “pop” the seal.
  4. Reassemble your pen. You’re done! Write away!!

Refillable cartridges

We carry two types of refillable cartridges: the syringe and the dropper. The syringe refill cartridge is made for our colorful Kaweco Sport fountain pens, and the dropper is made to fit our metal Kaweco Liliput fountain pens.

These are amazing because you can just refill that one cartridge from a glass ink bottle over and over and over again. I bought my 30 mL ink bottle over 8 months ago, and am still less than halfway through it! An opportunity to save money and save waste? Yes, please! 

With the cartridge inserted into your pen tip, dip the tip into your inkwell and pull up on the syringe.

But... what's the catch? These refillable cartridges are a little trickier to use. Particularly when I first switched to these, I had a real problem with small drops of ink dripping onto the page unexpectedly. The trick I use to keep this from happening is to very thoroughly wipe off any excess ink from the nib. The ink can stain fabric, so I have a dedicated reusable cloth wipe that I use each time I refill. 

  1. Disassemble your pen, keeping the refillable cartridge attached to the nib portion of your pen.
  2. Open your ink bottle, and position the nib directly over the opening, cartridge pointing up. 
  3. Slowly lower the syringe to empty any air or remaining ink from the pen and into the ink bottle. 
  4. Lower your pen into the ink, until the entire nib is submerged in ink.
  5. Slowly pull up on the syringe, drawing ink into the cartridge. (Don't worry if you can't fill it all the way to the top - I've never managed that, either!)
  6. Reassemble the pen body. Be careful as you handle your pen, as the ink will lightly mark your fingers. (Nothing a lil soap and water won't fix, though!)
  7. Wipe off any excess ink on the nib. Be thorough here! Wipe and wipe and wipe again until you can no longer see excess ink on the nib. 
  8. You're done! But still take care with handling your pen, especially right after you've refilled. An unexpected flick of the pen has been known to send some small ink drops flying!! Careful wiping will help minimize this. 

    Refilling your fountain pen is nothing to be scared of!! With just a little extra care and patience, your refillable fountain pen can deepen your zero-waste practice with every refill.

    Blot off excess to avoid drips! Blot, blot, and then blot some more!

    How to clean your pen:

    Sometimes, you'll run into issues with ink flow, even if there’s still ink in your cartridge. I’ve found this is usually a sign that something’s clogging up the nib: this could be old, dried ink or even a bit of dust! (A great reminder to always store your pen capped, and preferably stored nib down!) 

    Luckily, it’s super easy to do a quick 5 minute clean... easy enough that you could even squeeze in a preventative clean once a month or so for good fountain pen maintenance!

    Soak in water (replacing with clean water often) until ink stops seeping out.
    1. Empty your pen and disassemble completely, removing the (empty!) cartridge. See step 3 in "Refillable Cartridges" for how to empty a reusable cartridge. For disposable cartridges, see the note below*.
    2. Flush with running water, by holding the nib portion nib-down in your sink. 
    3. Soak in water, replacing with clean water frequently, until water stays clear.
    4. Let dry, ideally for 24 hours. (If you manage to make it that long, I am impressed with your superhuman patience!) I usually let mine dry for around 20 minutes, and then I'll just put up with some extra-watery ink for a sentence or two. 

      * If you're using a disposable cartridge and running into issues with ink flow, you probably don't want to fully disassemble your pen - unless you want ink splatters all over everything you own. Instead, you can try lightly wiping the nib against a damp cloth to clean it. 

      I hope these tips help you enjoy your pen for years and years to come! I'm going on two years with my own Kaweco Sport pen, and it's filled many a notebook and journal in that time! May yours support you on your journey toward your dreams, as well.