Posted in Ink, Stories

Inky Fingers and Removal

I often read how people complain about inky fingers, especially (I assume) if they used fountain pens as a youngster and experienced ink “cross-contamination,” ie. getting ink everywhere. I can’t relate, I’m a child of the 70s, Bic Cristal baby.

“Inky fingers remind me of school days.”

~ Gray Summers

Getting ink on my fingers is not uncommon, it usually happens when I’m cleaning a pen or a vintage fountain pen is misbehaving. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve never gotten it on my clothes, and once dried it’s just a stain almost no one notices is there and washes off easily.

Some fountain pen users don’t mind a little ink on the fingers, regarding it as a badge of honor. Dried ink doesn’t contaminate anything else, and is generally non-acidic and non-toxic, which is a good thing as I often eat with my inky fingers.

When I open an ink bottle, I wipe the lip of the bottle with a tissue, then wipe the nib/section after filling. Next I use a wet tissue to remove excess ink from the bib/section followed by yet another wipe but with a dry tissue. If I skip the wet tissue step, and only use a dry wipe, it often results in a case of inky fingers.

Removing inky finger stains

I was reading this vary topic on Reddit and found it amusing to the extent some people go when faced with removing ink stains from their fingers. Grouping like solutions, here we go.

  • A pumice stone, fingernail brush or scouring pad, Lava soap, tea bags, or a mixture of rubbing oil and salt.
  • Various kinds of exfoliants, hand sanitizer, makeup remover wipes, alcohol swabs, or hairspray.
  • Dairy products like milk and butter.
  • A solution of chlorine bleach and hot water.
  • Degreasing soap like Dawn, Fast Orange, JOJO, Goop, or any mechanics hand cleanser.
  • Toothpaste, lemon juice, baking soda.

To be honest, I just embrace it. I will wash my hands once I’ve noticed the stain, just to remove any excess ink before I get ink on everything. It’s just a part of who I am.

My solution? Simple, I wait till the morning and wash my hair, it always works. Maybe it is the shampoo or the combination of my hair and the shampoo, it simply works great and shampoo was mentioned many times in the Reddit article.

Final thoughts

“It’s the nature of ink to permeate everything it touches and even ‘washable’ is only a relative term. There’s always the risk that a moment’s inattention can cause a horrible accident. That’s the price we pay for the pleasure of using fountain pens.”

What are your thoughts, or solutions for inky fingers?




I'm a loser as my wife likes to tell me, I enjoy researching dead cousins and playing with fountain pens.

8 thoughts on “Inky Fingers and Removal

  1. Thanks for the quote inclusion. Those school days were probably what cemented the non worrying about ink stains. Like yourself I don’t mind ink on the fingers at all. Using a fountain pen on the hospital ward? I had an aluminium Stephens Ink travel pot with a vintage 1930s Stephens bottle inside. Filled it with different inks using a rubber pipette. The bottle has a narrow top which helped with no ink from the rim when filling the pens. Bottle design can determine difficulties when filling re: ink on fingers. So, like you say with keeping an eye on the bottle, (you don’t want to tip it!), and cleaning it as you go is really good practice. Good observation re: the pen too. I just use tissues, so will adopt your extra care. You can’t avoid getting inky fingers sometimes when having to hold the bottle securely. It becomes a balancing act depending on individual pen filling systems doesn’t it. Washing your hair as an ink remover? Yes….definitely. And at work in hospital we washed our hands a zillion times a day it felt. And alcohol gel too. Great thoughts Danny. Don’t want anyone to avoid fountain pen splendour because of a few ink stains! They are, as you observed, a badge of honour. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gray, I’m glad you enjoyed this. I thought it would be a fun post. Ink is not permanent it always comes off even document ink. Getting on your face is embarrassing. Another option for removal which I opted to leave off is axle grease. It removes every stain known to man. Now getting it off your hands is a challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. YouTube! Took a quick look after reading your post. There are dozens upon dozens of ink removal advice uploads aren’t there. I scrolled the static images and thought ‘You could spend a whole day watching!’ Oil (mechanical) was removed with margarine once. A potter showed me that one. Cheers Danny.


  2. To me, I wear my ink-stained fingers as a badge of honour as evidence of my labour of love. I’m more surprised when I don’t end up covered in ink. Like you and Gray, I just wait for them to go after various hand washing sessions throughout the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Brenda, Simply put, ink happens! When I was writing this I have inky fingers, I cleaned 4 pens and it showed. I do believe I am fortunate to have not cross-contaminated my inky fingers and clothing. Thanks for visiting.

      Liked by 1 person

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