As pencils don’t come with sharpening instructions, pen nibs don’t come with prepping instructions either. The fact is: new nibs are covered in invisible protective film (courtesy of their makers), preventing them from rusting in storage. This chemical layer also prevents medium from adhering well to your nib, which is why we have to remove it prior to first use.
There are several ways to do this, all are Googlable. I will list them from (what I think is) the easiest.
I got this one from an IAMPETH article by Ziller of Kansas City. Apparently you just dip the nib in water and use a rubber eraser to rub, rub, rub the nib (back and front from the shoulder up). Rinse with water and dry with hand tissue to finish.
I think this method is the most effective and simplest. Chances are you already have an eraser – you might not even need to move from your desk practising this method.
- The Window Cleaner
This one’s a little bit tricky. Put a bit of the liquid in a dish, then soak your nib for several minutes. I’m not sure how much good the soaking part does, but it’s important to rub off the nib, maybe with an unused cloth.
- Soapy Warm Water
Pretty much the same as the window cleaner, except the nib would probably enjoy this one more. You can use dish washer liquid or liquid hand soap.
Bet you don’t know your saliva has acidic properties! Some people are all about kissing the tip of the nib – despite the apparent ease, some people advise against this method. It’s said to be bad for your teeth and health in general. If you still want to use your saliva, just drool on a paper towel, then rub the towel on the nib.
- The Toothpaste
If you don’t mind the minty aroma, wipe and rub your nib with a bit of toothpaste. You don’t have to use a toothbrush, just a paper towel will do.
A contested method for the damage that can be done to the nib: swiftly run your nib through lighter fire a couple of times. Make use of your pen holder or tongs if you don’t want your fingers to be prepped too.
- Boiling Water
I’m not sure how this one goes or how effective, maybe like boiling an egg? But I’m sure it’s too much of a fuss.
- The Potato
I think this one’s the hardest because, not everyone is in the daily possession of a potato, and to buy food for the purpose of cleaning a nib… well. Anyway, find a raw potato, then with your nib in the holder, jab, jab, jab the poor veggie. I wouldn’t eat the thing before cooking it well.
After any (or all!) of these methods, whichever you choose, remember to not touch the tip of the nib with your fingertips, for you risk depositing oily residue that will disturb the nib’s flow of ink. Try it if you’re curious… you can always clean your nib again. What’s your favourite way of nib prepping? Share in the comments!