Can Fountain Pen Ink Go Bad?

Fountain pens are some of the most versatile pens out there, and they are used for many purposes. These pens come in all different shapes and sizes, and there is a huge variety of inks that can be used for these pens. Most fountain pen ink is affordable, but it comes in bottles that are very difficult to use all at once, especially if you like to change the type or color of the ink that you use in your fountain pens. For this reason, many fountain pen users ask the question, can fountain pen ink go bad?

Fountain pen ink can go bad, but most fountain pen ink will last a very long time. Fountain pen ink will go bad if it dries out or if it is contaminated with mold or bacteria, but if it is stored properly and looked after, the ink will last for many decades without going bad. 

There are so many fountain pen inks available these days that it is almost impossible to stick to one bottle of ink and use it all before acquiring a new bottle or trying a new color. Many fountain pen users have multiple bottles of ink in their collection and may be concerned about how long the ink will last before expiring. Let’s look at whether or not fountain pen inks go bad, how long they last, and how to take good care of them to help them last longer.

Does Fountain Pen Ink Go Bad?

Fountain pens are becoming more popular, and as more people begin to use them, there seem to be more and more fountain pen ink brands and types that pop up.

Nowadays, there are many different fountain pen ink brands, and they all make inks of varying quality, colors, permanence, and price points.

The accessibility of fountain pen ink and the wide range of inks that are available means that many fountain pen users have multiple inks in their collection. Will these links go bad if they are not used quickly?

Most fountain pen inks will last for many, many years. Some inks have been known to last for the better part of 100 years without going bad.

Some inks last longer than others and retain their quality over time better than other inks, but unless the ink becomes contaminated or the ink is left exposed to dry out, fountain pen ink will last for many years inside a sealed bottle.

Certain fountain pen inks last for less time, depending on the ingredients of the ink and the pigment that is used in the ink, but even inks that have a short shelf-life will last for at least 5 years after they have been opened if they are looked after properly.

Black inks tend to last longer than color inks, and the bottle that the ink is stored in, as well as the location that the bottle is kept in, will determine how long the ink lasts.

Good quality ink that is made from high-quality ingredients will last longer than cheap inks, and the inks that last the longest are made by well-known, reputable ink brands rather than small boutique ink makers.

If you buy good ink, look after it well, do not let it become contaminated, keep it in a sealed bottle, keep it away from heat and direct sunlight; your ink will last decades without going bad.

How Long Does Fountain Pen Ink Last?

Fountain pen ink has a shelf life that is entirely dependant on the ingredients of the ink and how the ink is stored.

Every fountain pen ink that is available now will last for at least 5 years without going bad, especially if the bottle remains unopened.

Modern inks tend to last less long and retain their quality less well due to government regulations on anti-bacterial ingredients in the ink. Older inks were made will more anti-bacterial ingredients, which means that they will last longer.

Fountain pen ink is relatively simple in its composition, and it is made mostly from water. If the water in the ink is allowed to evaporate, the ink will thicken, and this may cause it to go bad.

Thick ink will clog your pen, and it may go bad more quickly.

If enough of the water from the ink evaporated, the ink will dry out and become unusable.

Ink drying out is one of the most common reasons that fountain pen inks go bad.

The next cause of bad ink is contamination.

Mold and bacteria love to breed in fountain pen ink due to the ingredients that are in it and the high water content of the ink.

If mold or bacteria grow in the ink, it will turn the ink rancid and slimy, and the ink should be discarded immediately.

This type of contamination comes from dirty pens, or more commonly from contamination at the manufacturer or packaging plant for the ink.

Fountain pen ink that is well looked after, not contaminated, kept in a sealed, dark-colored bottle, and kept out of the sun will last for many, many years.

If ink has gone bad, it is a bad batch of ink that goes bad, or the ink has been mishandled by the owner in some way.

Some inks have been known to last for upwards of 60 years, and there are some fountain pen users who are using inks that pre-date the Second World War.

If the ink is made of good quality ingredients and from a reliable manufacturer and kept in the right conditions, the ink may very well outlast you – unless it is used up.

How To Tell If Your Fountain Pen Ink Has Gone Bad

There are a few ways that fountain ink can go bad, but the three most common signs of bad ink are ink that has dried out or has dry sections, ink that has mold or slime visibly growing on its surface or in the bottle, and ink that has a rancid smell.

Dry ink is caused by the water evaporating from the ink, which is almost always because the ink has been left out, left uncapped, not capped properly, or if the seals in the ink bottle have degraded and no longer seal the bottle.

Moldy or slimy ink is caused by bacterial growth on or in the ink itself, and this is usually caused by contamination from contaminated pens that have used already contaminated ink without being cleaned, or contamination occurs during manufacturing or packaging of the ink.

Ink that has a rancid smell has been contaminated as well, or the ink has was made with low-quality ingredients or vegetable ingredients that have decomposed, causing the ink to go bad.

This is caused by poor-quality ingredients and manufacturing, and this ink was destined to go bad more quickly than other inks.

How To Help Your Fountain Pen Ink Last Longer

The best way to have long-lasting ink is to buy good quality ink from trusted brands rather than buying ink from small boutique ink makers.

To keep inks lasting well, keep them in a sealed bottle, preferably glass, and the container should be of a dark color to block out as much sunlight as possible.

Keeping the ink sealed will prevent it from drying out.

Keep your ink out of direct sunlight and in a room that does not get too hot. Sunlight degrades ink, and heat helps to promote bacterial growth.

If you are using the same pen for multiple inks, be sure to clean the pen well before dipping it into the sink for refilling. Dirty pens cross-contaminate inks.

If you look after your inks, they will last a lifetime before they go bad!


Fountain pen ink is very long-lasting if it is made from good ingredients and is looked after well.

Even if there is a best before the date given by the manufacturer, these inks tend to last for decades.

Be sure to use good ink from a trusted brand for your fountain pen, and keep the ink sealed, away from direct sunlight in a dark bottle, out of hot areas, and clean your pen before dipping it in an ink bottle, and your inks will last for years to come!

Fountain pen inks can go bad, but if they are kept well, they are very unlikely to.

Bad ink will be dry, have dry areas, have mold or bacteria growing on it, or it will smell bad, discard this ink immediately!

If you look after your inks, and if you buy good ink in the first place, your fountain pen ink will outlive you if you do not use it up first!

Good ink will last for many years, so be sure to find brands and colors that you like, and make space on your shelf to add to your fountain pen ink collection!

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