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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12 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.

  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.

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