Example of pointed pen calligraphy

January 27, 2022

Calligraphy 101 – How To Clean Your Nibs

Have you ever had a problem with a calligraphy nib? So many issues faced by beginners can be fixed by cleaning your nibs, it’s an important and often forgotten step. It’s not rocket science or difficult, so here are some useful methods to know about.

New nibs arrive with a thin coating on them to prevent rusting and damage during delivery. This means cleaning them is important to ensure that the ink runs smoothly off the nib when writing. If it’s dipped straight in the ink without first being cleaned, you will see the ink run straight off again.

Uncleaned nib – ink runs straight off the surface
Cleaned nib – full covering of ink once dipped


To avoid this problem, clean your nibs using one of these four methods. You will soon find a favourite technique.

1. Potato (yup that’s right, a potato!)

Stick you nibs into a potato, make sure you insert past the vent hole on top of the nib, and leave it for 20 mins. Then simply dry off with kitchen roll. This method is great for cleaning lots of nibs at the same a time.
(The potato method not suitable for delicate nibs such as Gillott 303, Gillott 404)

Potato cleaning method

2. Ink (my favourite method)

Dip the nib into black ink, then wipe it off with the kitchen roll. Do this three or four times using the same inky bit of kitchen roll and remember to wipe underneath the nib in the reservoir. This method is easy to do and uses what you have on hand already.

Fold the kitchen roll and wipe underneath in the reservoir

3. Fire

Put your nib in your penholder and run it through a flame a couple of times quickly. Have the vent facing up so that the flame hits the reservoir underneath. This method is quick and works really well, just don’t hold nib in flame too long!

Fire method

4. Warm soapy water

Put your nibs in some warm soapy water for a minute or two, take out and dry with kitchen roll. Occasionally, a nib might need a further cleaning with ink and kitchen roll to get it all off. This method is fast for cleaning lots of nibs at one time.

Water method

So that’s it, four simple ways to clean your nibs. It’s important to note that regular cleaning will not only keep the ink running smoothly off your nib, but it will also help your nibs last longer! Make sure that once you have finished writing, you clean off the ink before storing it away. If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you, just add a comment below.

We include new nibs in most of our monthly Calligraphy Boxes. We also sell calligraphy nibs in our online shop, you can grab these here – www.jlcalligraphy.com/shop. In the photos in this blog we used a Zebra G nib.

Enjoy your calligraphy practice!

  1. Janet Clark says:

    Sounds like very useful tips.
    I’ve only just ordered my subscription yesterday so I am so excited and
    looking forward to receiving my beginners box soon.

  2. Linda says:

    Just received my box today so excited to get started

  3. Sally Harding-Last says:

    Oh I’m super excited ! Have just signed up for. 12 months and cannot wait for my beginners box. The thought of lots of pretty inks to have and learn the most beautiful creation Calligraphy ! Hurry the post for me please x

  4. Julie Brandon says:

    Received my 1st box today and looking forward to getting started, but reading all the information
    etc before doing so, glad I have read these tips on cleaning the nibs too, thanks you

  5. […] Before you start writing with a new nib, it’s important to prep it properly. This means removing the protective oily coating that comes on most nibs. There are several ways to do this, including using warm soapy water, or a specialized nib cleaner. You can find more detailed instructions in our cleaning nibs blog post here. […]

  6. Lynda Piears says:

    This is so helpful. I have just joined and am waiting for my box to arrive. I am so excited to get started and this blog will be invaluable for me as I had no idea about prepping the nib, but having read this blog I totally understand why! Thank you 🙂

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