DIY: Make Your Own Pen Flush

DIY pen cleaner Equipment needed

It is ridiculously easy to make your own pen cleaner. It’s also really inexpensive. In fact, it’s so inexpensive that you could make up a whole bunch and share it with your local pen friends. Leave it on their doorstep in a pen equivalent of ding-dong-dash.

In our current era of working-from-home (or in some cases, maybe not really having a full-time job at all, like me) this is something that you can do while loading and unloading the dishwasher, washing machine, fixing lunch or doing household cleaning. This is a chore you’ll actually want to do because it means you can refill your pens with new ink!

The materials needed to make pen cleaner/pen flush can be acquired on your next trip to the grocery store. Just grab a bottle of

  • a bottle of household ammonia (usually 5% solution, non-sudsing)
  • a bottle of plain dishwashing liquid (the kind without any lotion or moisturizers in it. In the US, I recommend Dawn or Joy)
  • a bottle or distilled water (no impurities, chlorine or hard water deposits)

Step One: Mix

Using a measuring cup, measure out 9 parts water (say 9oz or 90ml, etc) then top with 1 part ammonia (1oz or 10ml). Add a couple drops of dish liquid… one, two, three, maybe four if you’re feeling generous.


Step Two:Pour into container

Then pour all of it into a storage jar. Make another batch if this only fills your jar a little bit. You have TONS of ammonia and water and dish soap. Pour it in too.

If you have more jars, make a batch for a friend or to keep at work — whenever you go back into the office. Repeat as needed. That did not cost anywhere near the $10+ that most people charge for pen flush. Now, you can go spend that $10 on paper or ink or something else way more fun.

Label it “pen flush” or “pen cleaner” so no one tries to drink it or pour it out.

To use, either decant a small amount into a dish or ultrasonic cleaner and drop dirty pen parts in or just flush pens in the jar until the liquid is completely black and then make a fresh batch.

Be sure to rinse your pens in clear fresh water several times after using pen flush to be sure you’ve removed any residue of soap and ammonia before storing or refilling.

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19 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Yup, that’s the recipe. I’ve been using it for years. I make it in a big bottle and put some in a small jar for my pen cleaning station on the windowsill above the kitchen sink.

  2. Hello Ana,
    Thanks for the great tip. There is a typo however in the recipe example. It should read 10 mL..not 1 mL.

    Thanks again,

  3. “…can be acquired on your next trip to the grocery store.”

    No mask = no trip, unless I want to be CANCELLED by a Karen. Can’t buy masks due to hoarders. Prolly doesn’t matter anyways, last time I went to the store (like 20 years ago) all sold outa bleach, ammonia, alcohol, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, you name it.

    1. I had great luck finding supplies at my local Dollar Store — bonus: Karen’s don’t tend to shop at Dollar Tree.

    1. Some people just refill the bottle of pen flush they purchased with their own mix once they realize it’s not rocket science. Trust me, we all bought a bottle at some point, so you’re not alone!

  4. Clean Pens has been on my to-do list for at least a week. Thank you for this recipe, I will get right to it!

  5. I was about to buy a pen flush solution, and found this article… saved…cha-ching!!

    But my question would be, how often would I need to use a pen flush for cleaning my pens? and would it cause any long term damage to any parts or material? One thing to note is that, I tend to change inks almost every time the pen needs a refill.


    1. It’s not necessary to use pen flush every time you change inks. If you have a dark ink, it may help to get the color out faster. If you have had any nib creep or crusting, the flush will help or if you have left your ink in your pen and it’s dried in your pen. The flush will not damage modern pens but be sure to flush with clean water after using to remove any traces of the flush so that it does not mix with the ink. With vintage pens, I use pen flush as a last resort if water and an ultrasonic cleaner does not work first.

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