bringing dried up felt-tip markers back to life

topic posted Fri, May 6, 2011 - 11:04 AM by  Briggi
A felt-tip marker is loaded with ink and color at the plant but if you let it sit around for long, the ink will dry out. In theory, the color pigment is still in there and just needs a solvent to re-enable it. I've had some limited success bringing colored felt-tip markers back to life by dipping in alcohol, acetone, gasolene, but not much. Maybe that'll get them to go on for only a few minutes.
So what I'm wanting to know is an economic, easily available solvent, from supermarket or hardware, that will get them marking once more --- at least for a while.
posted by:
  • The problem is that when the tip dries out the ink inside of the marker dries out too. But when you re-liquedfy (new word ?) the tip ink, it does'nt get into the ink inside of the marker.
    • ---so far we've got water for the water-base markers, rubber cement thinner, and ronson... plus a caution about keeping those tips out of your nostrils.
      anybody else?
      • This problem sounds a lot like trying to un-paint a wall, unscramble an egg, or more on point recycle ink.

        Depending upon the particular marker, the original solvent used might be water, or toluene, or in the case of dry-erase markers isopropyl alcohol to name a few...

        Trouble is, when used as intended markers are designed to react in various ways with the medium upon which they are applied (sort of like paint on a wall). But the ink isn't smart enough to know when it's exposed to air whether it's still on the tip of the marker or has been applied to a medium for which it was designed.

        Here's a key quote fro the wikipedia article on ink <> :

        Ink can be a complex medium, composed of solvents, pigments, dyes, resins, lubricants, solubilizers, surfactants, particulate matter, fluorescers, and other materials. The components of inks serve many purposes; the ink’s carrier, colorants, and other additives control flow and thickness of the ink and its appearance when dry.

        What I would deduce from the above is that inks like paints are more often than not "suspensions", that is, very fine particles of stuff floating around in a liquid, gel, or paste. When such inks dry up in the tip of a marker, the problem that Dan calls re-liquifying isn't just a matter of dissolving the dried up stuff in a solvent, rather it's a problem of getting all the little particles that are now clumped together ground up again and "suspended" in the solvent.

  • I used to work with rapidograph pens and they make a solvent which was good to clean the pens, remove spots from clothing, but you need to dilute it with water before use, I sometimes used that to rejuice my Sharpies.
    • good lead ESS because sharpies are among what I use alot
      • I use sharpies alot too. I've found that they seem to vary quite a bit in quantity of ink.I'm very careful to keep the caps on, and some don't last long. Leading me to wonder just how much ink was in there in the first place !
        Lacquer thinner dissolves the ink well, but it's only good for a few minutes. I know the solvent isn't getting back into the reservoir, so the ink inside is either dried up, or not there.
        Markers are a crap shoot, no way of knowing how much ink your supposed to be getting, how much you got, or when it was made, it could have been sitting in a warehouse for years.
        Sometimes you can find them 2 for $1.00 at the dollar stores, I just keep a hand full around.
        • Although I can't get too specific about this because, like Dan, I tend to just chuck out dead Sharpies -- I've noticed that Sharpies can fail due to clogging of their tips. That is, using a Sharpie to mark materials that can slough off particulate or goo can really screw up the marking capability of such pens.

          I haven't really tried to verify that there was ink still left in Sharpies that appear to have become clogged, but if my instincts are correct, the solvent of choice in such situations would aim to dissolve the clog without dissolving the pen tip in the process.

          Oh, and the Rapidograph solvent idea sounds good. I used to use those pens many, many moons ago. And I recall that the solvent was very good at dissolving the dried ink. I wonder whether getting just enough solvent could be a problem though as I recall that I used to have quite a ritual of cleaning particularly the "0" tipped pens. This involved complete disassembly, soaking the tip parts in solvent, then carefully working all dried ink off of the various (delicate) surfaces involved.
          • I have a set of RotRings - clogged. Maybe the rapidograph will work on them

            • Briggi
              may I recommend the Kohi Noor Pressure cleaning kit and the syringe injection cleaning kit they have. we used those products as well in the art department I worked in. They are pricey to invest in, but last a long long time. I would keep all the caps and lids tight and store them on a bottom shelf of a dark cabinet.

              I also store my Sharpies away form heat or extreme cold and light, capped tightly and in a jar, tip down.
              • ESS >
                I looked at that kit last night; the rapido-eze fluid comes in 3 sizes. The syringe looks alot like the baby nostril syringe found in dollar stores. It may be cheaper to get it at a shop because online discount art suppliers want alot for shipping.

                Rotring has 2 kinds> the cleaning fluid and the concentrate --- not sure of the chem formula distinction between the two?

                My markers are end up in cans; having learnt long before about the tight capping. I have a few from Japan with special wide tips for shading & other effects but from 30 years ago - it should be interesting to get those guys going once more. why not.

                • I believe the concentrate was used for the ultra sonic, which I never used, I just remember banging the tips or scrubbing them would scratch or compromise them, thus leading to leakage.... I used to wipe down my pens after each use with denatured alcohol. Also I would cheat and not dilute the cleaning fluid. I found that really helped with the dried on deposit of pigments by soak the tips, nubs and even the cartridges. I never really have worked with or seen a baby nostril syringe, so I couldn't tell you any differently. All I remember is the cleaning bulb actually fitted each tip and when you removed the adapter it would fit the nub size as well. But the first couple of times I used it, well it was messy, so beware! I had switched over to Multiliners and Copics because they were way less maintance.
                  I don't know about now or where you are but some of the bigger art stores would ultrasound your pens for free or for a buck.

                  I also would wipe off my Sharpies after each use, when working with glues and rubber cement, with the denatured alcohol, as some one mentioned above, it does help with the longevity.

                  And those Japaneses pens called "Magic"? if my memory serves me right, well those or still valued
  • Unsu...
    Depends on the marker. If it is fairly scent free it's prolly a water based vehicle that the pigment traveled on. If it's the stinky kind then you'll need a fast drying VOC like Naphtha

    The Sharpie line uses Butanol (71-36-3), Propanol (71-23-8), Diacetone Alcohol (123-42-2), Ethanol (64-17-5)
    None are available in the BORG. But Naphtha is.
    • This science project is getting interesting. With the cost of obtaining the various solvents suggested, there's now no way to justify the experiment on the grounds of saving money... but think of the knowledge gained. And one is actually cheating the throwaway paradigm.
      I may have the ronson & naptha around, and I'm getting the rapido-eze shortly. The rubber-cement thinner may be a variation on the refined petroleum -based formulas under consideration.
      Hey thanks yall for the great input
      • Unsu...
        You want to cheat the disposal mind set? Don't buy things that are sold as disposable.
        Use a small brush, or dip a quill in ink you make from carbon black ( from your kerosene lamp or ground up whale bones) and alcohol.

        The best black inks were made from crushed burnt bones. Stinky shit for sure but fine fine fine carbon. Lamp black is supposed to be really good too.
        • we are creating a reality from the rubble of a decadent civilization slowly self-destructing before our eyes. After the fall, when viable supplies of industrial residuals run out, we shall have to turn to fundamental sources of raw material

          a potion concocted of refined petroleum distillates laced with alcohol might be not incompatible with a jungle fix good enough for this app
        • re: making ink: oak galls make a nice blackish brown ink when crushed and steeped in alcohol (tinctured).

          I always store my sharpies tip-down and never really have had problems with them drying out...
          • the thing about tip-down sharpie storage is that when all grey ends stick out of the can you have to pull each out to tell its color
            • try a glass jar for storing your pens tip down, like I do, I'm kind of lazy so if I can see it right away, easier and smooth....
              • glass is beautiful clear material. Time to chuck those big rolling tobacco cans. I stopped smoking 18 years back.

                tomorrow going in the city & will pick up the rapido-eze
                • ---- epilog, & more issues!!
                  got the rapido-eze solvent.

                  Many markers do not dis-assemble. Have no removable plug nor tip to access the inner reservoir wick.......
                  so how to inject or insert the solvent without destroying the integrity of the pen ? -let em draw up the liquid from the marking tip?
                  Should the rapido-eze be used straight-up or diluted? ... diluted with what?
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.
                    Hey Briggi, so I am going to post this u-tube video which is better for a visual example than me trying to write it out for the graphing pens or the markers, for just in case. But the other markers I am not so sure about because I have worked with many kinds of different tips, so if you can describe the kinds of tips or the pen names, then I 'll try some suggestions other that just using a 22 gauge canula (tri bevel needle tip) needle and syringe which can be used with some felt tips against the plastic side casing...



                    for the Japanese ones if I think these are the ones you may have...

                    • Thanks ESS for coming through with that.

                      edding, berol, uni, sharpie, marks-alot, & a bunch-load of dollarstore x-brands.

                      The second vid suggests inoculating solvent through a puncture you make in the felt-tip markerpen body. Presumably you seal the hole after with a drop of glue ( like when refilling printer cartridges). As a solution for wetting dried felt-tip markers, would you say use the Rapido-Eze straight... or cut it with alcholol/Ronson/water/ketone/acetone etc ?

                      When you use sharpies to mark carpentry or masonry, of course the tip is gonna get hammered quick. That tip can be sharpened back to paper-graphics quality through application of a razorknife to the dulled furry end.

                      As to the side issue of cleaning drafting pens>>
                      The 2 vids show 2 different methods .. pressure flush with the bulb,,, or soaking overnight. Here I have a set of RotRings, and a set of analagous off-brand 1980s Chinese pens. I know from last time, the overnight soak wasn't doing it. I'm thinking a rubber ear cleaner bulb syringe can be modified to accept a screw-in of draft pen tips. Anyway I can make it work by rigging spare pen parts to adapt the bulb tip.
                      Seems somehow wasteful to run the expensive solvent through the pen onetime only. Probably can use the same fluid for several rinses even if it is obscured by ink in suspension.

                      your comment?
                      • Hey briggi,glad those had a bit of insight and help for you.

                        I used to have a bunch of baby jars that i would fill with the used rapidoeze after using it straight. If my pen had sat there for over a month, I would use straight rapidoeze and leave it to soak in one of the baby jars with the lid on overnight up to two days. For a couple of weeks old, I would use denatured alcohol 1 to 1 with rapidoeze with the squeeze tube bulb set. Oh also i would use a couple of layers of newspaper in case of.... had a few accidents and getting ink off, well was more work... If the tips were not too dirty I would keep using it until it was, but I always save the solutions from each cleaning and add to the jars I had. I didn't like throwing it down the sink besides someone told me to recycle it by using it in old pens. So I had different color baby jars to use for reactivating my different colored markers.

                        Okay so it is hard for me to get sharpies and uni here so, with those I would get my 22 gauge needle /syringe and used the old dirty rapidoeze stored in the baby jars, each jar had it's own color, shake well to get the pigments loose, I would use 0.5 ml of denatured alcohol to 0.5 ml used pigmented rapidoeze, so then I would fill the syringe to 0.7ml for the thinner markers and to 1.0ml for the thicker markers. Take the tip of the bevel needle slip inbetween the felt tip and the side of the tip plastic casing, slip slowly feed the needle in, very, very, very slowly push the plunger down. if you go too fast, it will be quiet messy..... The first time I was wearing it all over my face, hands and front....

                        Some of my friends who graffiti markers will use a dremel and drill a hole into the casing, in their case that makes sense, but I would throw away the Edding, Berol, marks a lot, because well they were cheaper and easier to replace, but you can use the syringe technic on those felt tips of those pens, it should work.

                        We use to use a bic razor to shave the tips back to a fine point! Yep the razor knife, exacto blades are a great tool.
                        i used to get syringes fro the pharmacy, I would ask for a couple of 22 gauges and I would get them for free.

                        Please let me know how it goes with your modify dropper, I will get back to you about the Rot's, but i have got to run right now!

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