Ask The Desk: Storing Pens Up or Down?

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Reader Teri asks,

“So, should pens and markers, etc be stored point up or point down?”


In my opinion, it differs depending on the pen.

  • I find that felt tip pens like whiteboard markers, Sharpies, Microns and highlighters are best stored with the tip down. It keeps the ink in contact with the fiber/felt tip so that it does not dry out.
  • Rollerballs and ballpoints are best if they are stored upright so they don’t leak or get gummy at the point.
  • Gel pens seem to be okay stored either up or down. I have retractables that get stored point down and capped gels that get stored cap up. Both will occasionally need a little priming to get going but neither seems to leak or gum up at all.
  • Fountain pens seem to like to be stored horizontal which keep the ink in contact with the nib but doesn’t let gravity get too sassy.
  • I tend to store pencils pointy end up but this can be dangerous, especially if you are clumsy or have small children in the house. I’d recommend to store them tip down. Mechanical pencils can be stored tip down as well.

I’ve found these are the methods that work for me but I’d love to hear other people’s opinions and comments.

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36 comments / Add your comment below

  1. If you have to store sharpened pencils point down, put a couple inches of rice in the bottom of your pencil cup, so as not to dull the tip.

    1. I use a little piece of foam at the bottom of the pencil holder, so that the points don’t get damaged.

      I follow pretty much the same rules described here. Only addition is for the pencils I use for drawing and other artsy stuff: I keep those in a rolling pencil case/pouch, the ones that have elastic bands for each pencil.

  2. I usually have the best luck storing my porous point pens horizontally (Sharpie Pens, Le Pens, Microns, etc.). Whenever I’ve stored them point-down, I feel like the pigment comes out very heavily. Then I wonder if the end of the ink will be faint, with less pigment. I’ve only had one [Oriental Blue] Le Pen dry out this way, and I think it was 4 years old anyway. 🙂

    Some ballpoints seem to hate being stored point-down: Bic 4-colors, Bic Cristal Bold, Ink Joy (though they’re messy no matter what, save the 100). Regular Bic Cristals seem to like being stored point-down though.

    This is SO much to think about, which is a point in the Pencil Column for store-em-how-you-wanna. 🙂

    1. hmmm …funny topic!
      I have experimented with both over the years. I have found I have longer life from my permanent markers, both medium and sharp point sharpies storing them tip up. Yes the felt might become a little dry over time, but if I shake it gently in a downward fashion a couple of time this usually gets the ink flowing. Be careful the direction you swing the pen! There have been times when the ink has come out in droplets.
      I find if I store them tip down the ink dries up faster and the marker just simply will not produce.

  3. I’m a teacher and it’s a pet peeve of mine when people store pencils in a pencil holder with their sharpened tips up. To me it’s a hazard that common sense would tell you is wrong. Yet, just as it’s an absolute that I’ll store pencils point down, so many other people will absolutely store them points up. The same goes for forks and knives in a dish rack.

    1. I have a graphite tattoo in my palm from a pencil stored point up! 30 years later it’s pretty faint, and matches the one over my hip from a pencil stored in my pocket in high school.

    2. Back in the day, pencils were sharpened on both ends. So if you were using one and got knocked, the other point would stick in your face, or even worse in your eye, and these were lead pencils.

      1. Pencils, as far as I know, never actually contained lead. They have always been made of graphite and binder. Now, the actually material used to bind the graphite may have been caustic but graphite is not dangerous on its own — unless it pokes your eye out.

  4. I’m just so glad there are other people contemplating this. I was beginning to believe I was becoming a little too obsessive about pens and how to store them having spent the last 20 minutes contemplating the issue. I am happy to implement suggestions by type of pen. Had not even thought about pencils- always stored them horizontal.

    1. Yay, writing geeks! DRY ERASE: Agree. Not long ago I discovered by accident that the reason the magnetic mount dry erase markers we use were so faint was that we stuck them to the boards point up (the barrels tended to flip over the tips when mounted tip down) but when it dawned on me to try sticking them to the board tip down anyway, they all intensified dramatically. Just need to be a little more careful not to knock them about. I keep my non-magnetics horizontal, and they seem to do fine. FOUNTAINS: Recently bought a lovely pen case with slight storage angle. Retailer showed fountains tip up … but they all dried out prematurely. Slight angle down seems to work OK, but looks a bitunexpected at first glance. PENCILS: Love the rice advice for my Ticonderogas! For mechanicals I use wooden pencil boxes, horizontal. GELS: Best luck so far horizontal. SHARPIE et al: Prefer horizontal, but if not an option for space reasons, then tip down seems to work best. Nice to meet others who think about such things.

  5. Haha..How great is this!? To know I am not the only one who is anal about my pens,pencils,paint pens and markers is such a relief..I’m here to tell ya the struggle is

    I find storing paint pens tip down is a huge disaster as the paint tends to drip down and when I take the cap off, I am often standing there with paint all over my clothes and or project..Usualy both..Ugh..So tip up with them..If they dry out or get gummed up, just gently remove the felt tip, don’t wiggle it, gently pull straight out..Place in a cap full of fingernail polish remover for a minute or two then rinse it with warm water..You’ll be able to see the difference..If the paint needs rejuvented then simply unscrew it and place ONE drop of remover inside the tube,rescrew..Gently replace the filter..Sometimes it’s necessry to flip the tip..It’s ok..Just snip the tip to a point if ya want..Then make sure to shake for at least a minute thrn gently push till the paint is flowing again..WooHoo..Rejuvenated Paint Pen..They can get costly especially for our wonderful art teachers and parents of many rugrats so fixing them is so much cheaper.

    Gel pens need to be stored horizontal so the air dont mess with the flow.

    I have found that dipping my tips in wax,candle wax usually,and always replacing the caps helps to keep the ink from gumming up my tips..And protects my ball rollers..But if they do get gummy just run under warm water and then make circles on a piece of paper unitl it loosens..It may take a few rotations to get it unstuck.

    Markers with their tip dipped in warm water for a few seconds then stored tip down is an amazing color bringer backer.. You can also remove the back then remove the color filter and drip a couple drops of water on both of the ends..Roll the filter on a paper towel to remove excess water and replace.Wait an hour or two before using them tho..Takes time for them to refill with color.

    If you have freyed tips then simply gently snip the fuzzies off..Using a nose hair trimmer works great.

    Seems like I am writing a book Amanda they prolly dont care..But then again a rejuvenated pen of any kind is cash saved..And if it happens to be your favorite pen then it can be a ‘Oh happy day’ when it’s saved from the infamous file 13..

    Time for some seriousness..Why ever in the world would anyone store pencils tip up.. I guess its ok to run with scissors now too.. Spells disaster if my opinion counts..I find a sponge cut to the specs of the bottom of the cup not only cuts down noise but also protects the tips of all your writing tools.

    ok tutorial over..Hope this helps and saves those perfectly useful supplies from being tossed out..After all we have enough unecessary trash as it is..Have a good day and remember it takes more facial muscles to frown than it does to smile!!

    1. Thanks for all the detailed information, Amanda! As for pencils, I store colored pencils tip-up because often times the color is more accurate from the lead rather than the paint on the end and they are usually not sharpened as sharp as graphite pencils. Graphite pencils get stored point down. Again, I don’t have kids so I’m not likely to have anyone skewer themselves on the colored pencils except klutzy adults.

  6. Wow! Thanks for all your thoughtful sharing. I can tell that you folks value the fine art of writing by hand! I had pulled one of my BIC Ultra Round Stic Grip pens out of my pen/pencil jar and there was a gross glob of ink on the tip. (Tip down storage.) I really like the rice/sponge idea. And how different materials need different storage. My gels do best horizontal. I work in a library running an afterschool reading tutoring program and we use a LOT of dry erase markers. I’ll have to see if the direction of storage makes a difference in longevity. I try to keep them tip down. The comment about trimming the tip is excellent, the younger kids tend to be a bit heavy handed and fray the tips.

    Has anyone figured out a way to re-wet dry erase markers? (The kids tend to leave the lids off. aaarg!)

  7. You’re not going to believe this… I have had an Avery yellow highlighter for 11 years and it still works great! Granted I very rarely use it but I’m surprised it hasn’t dried out yet. I kept it tip down but now decided horizontal is a happy medium for all my pens.

    1. Not surprising, Gabrielle. I still have my college era Kinko’s highlighters from the early 90s and they still work.

      Also would like to add that I have been collecting pens and pencils for the past 40 years and the best way for long-term storage is horizontal. Ballpoints are the least fussy but even those will eventually leak or gum up if stored pointed down, or will skip if pointed up.

      If you use pens daily and expect to go through them within a few months, store them however you like. I have a pen jar full of Bics and Pilots that all get frequent use and have no problems. If you dont plan on using them for a year+, and you like the pen, store horizontally until they’re back in your rotation.

      Also, be careful how you handle them. Dropping them can shift the ink and cause skipping – maybe not immediately, but possibly later.

  8. When I made the search, I wasn’t expecting any real answers, so thank you all for your input — it has been very enlightening. I’ve had suspicions on how to store some of my writing utensils for quite some time now (trial and error), but it’s nice to see some of them confirmed. I’m unfortunately a pencil pointed-up person… but I put mechanical pencils face down — it’s because I don’t want the tips to wear or break (I like keeping them sharp). I’ll try out both the rice and foam idea and see which I’m more comfortable with. I must say, it’s nice to know that there are other obsessive pen-enthusiasts out there…

    P.S. Amanda, your post made me smile. If ever you do end up writing that book, do let the rest of us know.

  9. Thanks for the help, I’ve had these questions before with no one to ask!
    How do you feel about the color brushes, that have points like the aqua brushes, but instead of being filled with water, there is a water based ink in them.
    Thanks (?) to my family who know I love pens and drawing, so they have given me many kinds of markers, pens, pencils, you name it and I am at a loss how to store them. Things like Kuretake Zig Letter Pen Cocoiro pen bodies & multiple colors of refills with felt tips, Pilot Petit Pens in all 3 series (Petit1 –
    Fountain, Petit2 – Sign pen with a hard fiber tip & Petit3 – Fude Pen with flexible tip), I love them all but I can’t keep them all in cups on my desk or I won’t have a desk!
    I hate tossing them into a shoebox because for me it is “Out of sight, out of mind”.
    Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

  10. Greetings to all also anal about pens and markers. I sent email to the sharpie makers and the reply was store markers like you see the package, example if you put sharpie markers in a can caps should be up direct from sharpie makers hope this helps everyone

  11. One very important thing to remember when keeping pens is that some of them have to be stored tip-down so that the ink flow wouldn’t be disrupted and therefore make it easier to use whenever they’re needed. Some pens need to be shaken a little to get them going especially if they’re gel pens as the ink tends to settle down weirdly and have to shake them a bit before they start writing. Now that I know how to store these Sharpie markers I keep buying, it’s best to keep them tip-down since these are felt-tip markers and the ink tends to weird out when stored in any other direction.

  12. Hi, art student here!
    Didn’t know about ballpoints playing silly if stored tip-down – remembering that one!
    Sharpies actually advise you to store them tip down: it’s written on the barrel. I’d stored mine like this and they were still alive after two years of disuse.
    Pencils . . . tough one. If there are children, I’d go point-down at all times. I’d worry about the leads breaking when you put them back in a jar or tin though. Mine are point down in my art-trundle-case-thing. Mechanicals are safer for little ones, I think, but only a little. There’s less chance or breaking them graphite though. I use them in college.
    The real kicker is alcohol-based markers like copics, spectrum noir, and promarkers. NEVER store them vertically, especially if they’re dual tipped. The ink will flow straight into whichever tip is down and you can wave goodbye to the other end. Since most don’t come with a brush tip, that’s half the marker gone. Store them horizontally.
    And remember with colour pencils that light and heat can affect them in funky ways too. Mine are always in fabric cases so I’ve never had trouble, but keep them away from radiators and sunlight to be sure.
    Good luck!

    1. Since alcohol markers can be refilled, you could store them vertically, but decide which end you like better, the brush or the wedge since the other is likely to dry out more quickly. Copic, Promarker and other companies even sell vertical storage containers but use them with caution. But I agree, most markers are best serverd stored horizontally. And colored pencils should be stored out of the light. Thanks for adding to this list!

  13. So you’ve decided how you should store the pens… “In your opinion”… Well guess what? Most of the serious producers tell on their websites how the pens should be store. Your opinion doesn’t help, it doesn’t matter. To google and look for each brand and line of pens separately, that would be useful. Please be so kind and delete this post, so that you stop confusing more people on the internet. You’re welcome.

    1. I’m sorry our post was not specific enough for your needs. We try to provide general information for our readers and base our information on the type of refill which can differ, even for a specific pen model (i.e. a Retro 51 accepts both a standard Parker-style ballpoint which can be stored point down without too many problems and the Schmidt rollerball refill which is notorious for leaking when stored point down). If you have a specific pen you need advice about storing, please ask and we’d be happy to help.

  14. I asked the folks at Sharpie about this, and here is their reply:

    … Thank you for contacting Sharpie. We appreciate your interest in our products.

    In line with your inquiry, if you have the single tip Sharpie Permanent Markers, you can either store it tip down or lay it down horizontally.

    If you have the Sharpie Paint Markers you have to store it tip up, this way the ink would not build up on the tip. Just make sure to pump it well before you start using it.

    Now, if you have the dual tip Sharpie Permanent Markers we only recommend storing this laying down horizontally to make sure that the ink is evenly distributed to both tips.

  15. Dry erase markers should always be stored on their side!! Helps them from drying out, actually says on the back of dry erase marker packs to store them horizontally and it really helps.

  16. Keep them tilted down. In general, vertically laying their tips down is the safest technique. Sharpies should, however, be stored horizontally to prevent alcohol from evaporating.

  17. I previously thought storing felt tipped markers with tip down was the best method but recently I’ve begun to think otherwise. The reason being is they seem to dry out faster on me. I think maybe the reason is that the ink (or whatever the liquid inside is called) is given more of a chance to evaporate when in direct contact with the tip of the marker. The lids, in my opinion, aren’t air tight. So, while the tip itself may dry out if stored tip up, the ink remains less exposed to air if let to sit in the bottom of the marker. I can’t say for sure if this is correct as I haven’t performed any trials to test my theory. I hope to some day because who wants to spend more on these items than need be. The idea of storing them tip up came from noticing how they’re packaged. So far, the markers I’ve stored this way have seemed to last longer but, like I said, can’t be sure.

  18. At your recommendation, I just flipped over all the sharpies in my pen cup, but now that I can’t see the caps of the markers I won’t know which color they are without pulling each one up and looking. It would be nice if Sharpie and other marker companies would show the color of the marker on the other end, too!

    1. Sharpies are pretty durable. You could probably leave those cap UP in a cup, especially if it helps select a color.

  19. Am I missing something by storing mine the way their manufacturer packaged them? Sharpies are tip up; gel clicks tip down, etc. I figure the engineers who designed them are employed by the manufacturer, and the manufacturer designs of the packaging. And if I was the manufacturer I would want my packaging designed so that my pens stay ready to work regardless of how long they were held in a warehouse or on the retailer’s display/hanger/shelf.

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