What Inks Will Corrode My Pens?


I get asked this question a lot when people find out that I research and make calligraphy inks.

The short answer is, all inks will corrode your metal pens.  I have never had a quill pen corrode.  I sharpen and re-cut them too often for that to happen apparently.

Alright, so blog post over, right?

Not really, no.  So let me expand just a bit.

If your pens are made of metal just about any liquid will eventually corrode them.  Regular pH neutral water will corrode them. Why?  Water corrodes metal.  It is that simple.  Most of the inks we use are going to be water based. So they are going to corrode your pens over time simply by being in contact with the metal of your pen.  You can’t escape that.  Even inks that aren’t water based are going to eventually corrode you metal pen.

What will corrode your metal pen faster than other things?  Depends on what metal your pen is made of.  Steel pens act differently than iron pens which act differently than copper pens which act differently than bronze pens which act differently than stainless steel pens, so on and so forth.  Typically we use steel pens that may have a reservoir made from the same steel or sometimes copper or bronze.

Iron gall inks are acidic.  So generally yes they can corrode your metal pens faster than mass manufactured “neutral” inks.  The mass manufactured inks will also corrode your inks.  Some inks are actually on the flip side of the pH scale from iron gall inks and are bases.  They too will corrode your pen.

So how do you mitigate inks corroding your pens.  How do you slow down inks that can corrode you pen?

Proper cleaning and maintenance.  Don’t wait.  When you are done using a pen, clean it.  Clean it now.  When you are done cleaning the pen dry it so the water doesn’t corrode your pen.  How do you clean your pen?  I have a post showing you how to clean your pen that should help.

Yes, all pens will corrode regardless of what ink you use with them.  So, while your metal pens will corrode at different rates depending on the ink and the metal of your pen, the single best thing you can do is to clean and dry your pens when you’re done using the pen.

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