Tale of a Vandal Pen User: What’s Mold Got to Do with It?

Remember the Sheaffer Cartridge pen? It came with a couple of ink carts wherein the ink had evaporated, leaving a few chunks of ink concentrate behind. Or so I’d assumed about said chunks.

Sheaffer Deluxe Blue evaporated
Sheaffer Deluxe Blue evaporated

I’d never reconstituted vintage ink before. Prevailing wisdom said to add some distilled water to the ink cart, shake it up and write. Doing so produced a decent looking Sheaffer Deluxe Blue:


The Sheaffer Cartridge pen went through two separate inkings. The first with an apparent clean cart filled with Waterman Blue-Black. The pen was flushed cleaned with water, and put away for a couple of days.

Later on, the pen was inked with the rehydrated Sheaffer Deluxe Blue. When that particular ink fill was used up, the pen was cleaned again, this time with a 10% ammonia solution, and put away for long term storage.

Recently I showed the pen to a friend. When he uncapped the Sheaffer, lo and behold, there was mold on the feed. Regretfully, I didn’t take a photo.

While I’m pretty sure the mold originated from the rehydrated ink cartridge, I can’t say so absolute certainty. Nor am I sure what’s been contaminated by what. And so, I’ve tossed the two carts used in this Sheaffer, and won’t be refilling them. Also I’ve tossed the blunt syringe unit used to fill both carts. And, the saddest act of all, tossed the remaining Waterman Blue-Black ink used during the first round of inking.

Okay, so this is my very first ever experience with mold in a fountain pen, and I don’t wish to repeat it. Intellectually I understand that many people use vintage ink, or revive old dehydrated ink without any mold at all appearing in their pens. Yet, I’ll be reluctant to use ink in this fashion again. I’ll stick to trusty Pilot Blue-Black, and Sailor inks for now.

I’ll grant too that normally when drying an acrylic pen section, I leave it on the window sill. It’s been very cold here, and everything’s been slow to dry. I’m sure those conditions helped the mold to party-hearty.

There are many recommendations on how to clean a pen that’s had mold in it; some recommendations within the pen forums even contradict each other. At least one pen repair pro suggests cleaning with a pen-safe germicide (specifically Basic-G).  Vinegar may be an option. Bleach is not a pen-safe chemical, especially for non-acrylic pens. Clearly the 10% ammonia flush used to clean the Sheaffer didn’t kill any mold.

[Please remember, too, that what you think you can do to a pen today without issue, may have ill effects way down the road. So let’s think hard before telling each other, “That never happens to me when I put my-favorite-poison in my pen.”]

I can imagine that more complicated pens might even need professional attention for mold eradication.

The little plastic Cartridge pen is a relatively simple disassemble: pulling the nib and feed from the collar. The key is to reach those hidden places in the feed, and ferret out any mold that may be hiding. The cap’ll need cleaning, too.

These parts are about to get a vinegar soak, and cleaning. We’ll see if the vinegar kills off the mold. The final word on the little Sheaffer Cartridge pen’s condition will be noted at a later time.

Mold in a pen feed, or in your ink, is serious business, ay? At least for fountain pen peeps. You don’t want it spreading to inks you dip the pen into, or spreading to other pens.

Be Sure to Read

Richard Binder’s, “Ick, What’s That Stuff?” also, “Care and Feeding: How to Pamper Your Pens”