How can I reuse or recycle (or rescue) … dried up pens?

pens_in_a_pot180.jpgIn a completely un-me moment of organised and forward planning, I was looking for a pen the other day to write something on shopping list. I turned to the pot of random pens that I put together in another completely un-me moment of organised and forward planning. Unfortunately given the long time-lapse between those two periods, all the ink in all those pens had completely dried up. I ended up scratching letter-shaped holes in the shopping list instead. Useful.

So what can I do with all those old pens? Can I rescue them? Can I reuse their skins? Most of them are cheap (usually promotional) biros but there are also some felt tip types. Any suggestions?

(Photo by nazreth)

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78 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle (or rescue) … dried up pens?”

  1. Amanda Kerik says:

    There are various things you can do.

    Use them as basic level knitting needles.
    Sometimes heating / tapping them will get the ink to flow again.
    Use them to practice your melting skills – plastic acts much like glass but it takes much less heat.
    Purchase refills for them instead of buying completely new pens.
    Pens could be used as pegs / bars in homemade organizers.
    Use them as straws – make sure to cover the tiny vent hole in the side.
    Use them to blow paint blobs around on paper for art.
    Various poking uses (planting seeds, holding up seedlings, pushing wax bits into the melted pool of candles, etc.)
    Use it as a fine tipped glue quill-like pen.

    Lots of ideas out there….

  2. if you got a sringe and filled it with warm water, and squirted it down the end of the ink bit, leave it for a few minutes, and then pour the water out afterwards. That normally works.

  3. Heat the tip of the biro in a small flame (I find a lighter to be ideal) and often it will warm the ink enough to make it fluid again.

  4. Don Frank, Yank says:

    I have an elaborate biro (ballpoint pen in the civilized world) that plugged up from lack of use. It has a floating hourglass and weighs a metric ton, and is therefore worth saving. Nothing I tried worked. It was time to weed out any other defunct pens, so I rounded up a dozen or so and started weeding by drawing a line of continuous circles, each in turn. I hadn’t much room, so I kept writing over the same space. I found I had three dead pens, but was able to revive them all easily by scribbling over the ink deposited by the good pens. The ink itself coaxed new life into the three dead soldiers. Result: back to 100% function.

    • marc says:

      what an interesting idea. will certainly be trying this.

    • Melissa says:

      I think that is an awesome idea! I have a cup full of dead pens (worth saving) and another full of good ones. It seems quite a bit less messy/dangerous than dealing with water, rubbing alcohol, or fire! :D But, if it doesn’t work… I’m willing to get a little risky ;)

  5. Jagger says:

    Running pens over glass or a surface such as skin often bring them back to life. If they are actually dried as opposed to just stopping from lack of use, the other options here are better.

  6. marc says:

    I just wonder whethere there is any company that collects them and recycles the plastic bits. There must be millions of old biros thrown out each day and to me it seems such a waste of resources and the putting of unbreakdownable stuff in landfill.

    I also feel the same way about marker pens – all that aluminium and plastic just going into landfill.

    I have written to various companies and councils about this but never get any reply. I think it is in the too hard basket.

    Please email me with your ideas and comments.

    I am not in a position to do any research or start a company to do anything about this – so perhaps I should just shut up!

  7. Stephanie says:

    If you run the nib (tip) of the pen against the sole of your shoe it usually starts the ink floeing again; as the rubber of your soul catches the stuck nib and causes it to move thus the pen will work again.

  8. Ryan says:

    I’ve actually used the spring inside to repair a defunct door latch, but it took some craftsmanship to bend it to the right shape. The kind that are hexagonal tubes are perfect for shooting bits of wadded paper at people (aka spitballs) but enough about my childhood.

  9. Heather says:

    • use an empty pen casing to store glass thermometres
    • you can use them as vials for small glass beads

  10. attilathehen says:

    I have always though I could saw the outer tubes into beads and make a bead curtain. Never got round to it yet, though!

  11. Chris says:

    Here’s a sad one. If you should happen to be into making models of railway carriages with detailed interiors, the sort that used to have armchairs as opposed to bench seats, a section of pen tube, some filler and a fine saw produces a high backed armchair just right for a dining car. And you need lots, cos you’re obsessed, right?

  12. Mike says:

    I tried dropping the pen nib first onto my desk and after a few such blows just scribbling with it seemed to work!
    Now to try the other 533 pens I bought ten years ago!

  13. nadia says:

    i have hundreds of pens at home. when i finally got to sorting out the ones that worked and the ones that didnt work, i had only 5-10 that actually worked. i need something that get the ink flowing again, or if there is a company that takes pens back to recycle.

  14. lisbeth says:

    My mum says to put them on top of heating vents. I have yet to determine if that will work.

  15. Silas says:

    The college for the blind in Worcester use dead ballpoint pens to draw tactile graphs (in maths and science etc) for blind people to feel. You need a special kind of paper that retains the lines you draw. You draw a mirror image of the graph/map/etc on the back of the paper, then turn it over and it can be felt.

    I believe the college already has a sufficient supply of dead biros though.

  16. Amber says:

    As a preventative measure, you could get one or two fountain pens instead and fill them from glass ink bottles which can be recycled. I get them cheap on ebay.

  17. renee says:

    bright plastic pens can be sawn into beads for kids craft projects.

  18. The Pen Guy says:

    I collect pens of any kind and glue them on My Mercedes Pens Art Car. I also make other art and I am always looking for dead pens. You can always send them my way:):):)

  19. Hi, you could use recycled pens in the first place. The pens linked to above are made entirely from recycled materials, and thus I imagine can be recycled again after use.

    Does anyone know how recycled pens can be re-recycled?

  20. Gulia says:

    Choose the prettiest pens and frame them one by one or all together.

    Write with permanent marker names of the plants, and stick into the ground by them.

  21. The Green Stationery Company in Bath (& online) sells wooden rather than plastic pens, helping reduce the problem in the first place. They sell refills too.

    Like others here, I am loathe to use recycled plastic goods if they will only end up in landfill after I’ve used them.

  22. Karen says:

    As someone else pointed out who recycles the recycled pens? Think I’ll send my ‘dead’ pens to the ‘Pen Guy’ if he still wants them. I may be inspired to research this further (start saving those pens but don’t hold your breath:)
    Something else I’m having a problem throwing out is ‘dead’ rubber gloves. I keep a few damaged pairs for doing dry dirty work and I only dispose of the one that leaks (usually the right one) and replace it with a new right one (I have a back log of left hand gloves). Maybe the Pen guy would be interested a new art project…..

  23. Simone says:

    I have been recycling for years and dried up pens have been my worst problem, recently, though, I have discovered something (If you love plants)! What you can do is super glue a little piece of paper on to the pen and write the information about a plant and poke the pointy end into to the soil of a pot!

  24. Lorna says:

    Lordy – knowing my luck as soon as I tried THAT the pen would feel a sudden good ol’ fashioned Mississippi Squirrel Revival and start to work again. Before I knew what was happening I’d have a macabre house of dried up plant corpses – cause of death: Catastrophic and lethal doses of non-toxic pen ink. (Yeah you don’t think they’re dangerous – I once had an inmate stab me with a pen. I still have the mark!! Insta-tattoo!) ;-)

  25. iqkrhuwieopf says:

    maybe u could glue them on a lampshade to make it an artsy lampshade.

  26. Bad Monkey says:

    As a kid used to take the biro bit out of the middle and made an excellent pea shooter!!

  27. Ruti says:

    They can be used with crafting soft metal for making pictures, book marks etc. by kind of embossing. Tried to find a picture of this online but couldn’t.

    Also good as a clay / playdoh tool.

  28. SpeckledMama says:

    I continue to try to keep the outside casing of pens and get refills as needed. I do like the idea of a fountain pen and inkwell (sp?), though. So, “The Pen Guy” are you still accepting pens? Do you know anybody else (US) who might like some?

  29. Pat says:

    my sister just gave me Alot of pens that didn’t work, of course she still has even more that does. So I just took an old can roughed up the outside of it with sandpaper and hot glued her non working pens to it. This way I can give the can with the non working pens back to her to put her working ones in

  30. Meighan says:

    I had the same problem. I took the ink pens and put them in a small platic cup of hot tap water…pen point end down in the water, cap off. Then I placed them in the microwave for about 10 seconds. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED!!! That was just enough warmth to melt the ink and be able to revive the ink in them. My pens were UniBall Quicksilver Gellyz…about 10 years old.

  31. Gulia says:

    Those pens can be used like hair pins, they hold woman’s hair in a bun very nicely.

  32. Gulia says:

    They or their lids can also be glued to a massage board to hold paper notes, cards, envelopes, or to work as a tiny hooks for hanging nick-necks, memorabilia, etc.

    If they are beautiful, hang them as Christmas ornaments.

  33. Gulia says:

    Use one to hide money.

  34. Gulia says:

    Can use them as pipes when building small fountain, or as logs for a doll house.

  35. Gulia says:

    Tie them around a candle for a special look.

  36. Gulia says:

    Got too many? Use them as mulch for your special plants.

  37. Gulia says:

    Hang the old pen for your pet to play.

  38. Gulia says:

    Stick them in the soil for a cute border around a plant.

  39. Gulia says:

    Thread the pens on one string lengthwise, creating a chain or garland.
    Many of those chains put together create nice curtain.

  40. Gulia says:

    Teach a child how to build a tepee.

  41. Paul says:

    I just fixed two unused-but-dried-up pens using a combination of the methods above:

    1. Took refills out and stood them nib end down in a mug.
    2. Poured boiling water on, left for a couple of minutes.
    3. Took refills out and dried them, blew hard down open end.
    4. Scribbled vigorously on old newspaper and, presto!

  42. Kai says:

    Hello everyone!
    I’m from the Philippines.. Call me ‘pens girl’.. I need dead pens right now! do you still have your dead pens? would you care to post it to the Philippines?? =)

  43. woody says:

    I’ve tried every tick on here. My mom was a hoarder. I’m finding packages and packages of un opened BID pens. None of which work. The microwave trick worked, but it took 4 shots at 20 seconds each, and the water was almost boiling. The pens worked for a couple inches or so, then quit. Looking at the pens carefully, I noticed on the filler tubes, a gray area about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch at the top. The ink used to be much higher in the tube. They look like about 3/4 of an inch of ink was used, even though they were sealed in the package.

    This has to be solvent evaporation. The ink it’s self is dried out. The heat melted a little bit of it, enough to write an inch or two then when the ink cooled off, it went solid again. IF the solvent (Whatever it is) has dried like this, nothing is going to restart them, other than using a syringe and filling the tube back up with a solvent and letting the ink re-absorb it. I don’t have a clue what solvent to use.

  44. Kai says:

    Hello everyone!
    I’m a student from the Philippines.. Call me ‘pens girl’.. I need dead pens right now! for my project at school.. Do you still have your dead pens? would you care to post it to the Philippines??

    Please do contact me at

    Thanks much!

  45. Kai says:

    Hello everyone!

    I’m a student from the Philippines.. Call me ‘pens girl’.. I need dead pens right now! for my project at school.. Do you still have your dead pens? would you care to post it to the Philippines??

    This is my third call. Please do contact me at

    Thanks you very much!

  46. Glenn Averoigne says:

    Pen Guy,
    Are you still accepting dead pens? Your post was rather dated.

  47. Gulia says:

    Hide a little treasure for a child. Use pens as arrows to point direction to the treasure.

  48. Gulia says:

    A pen lid can even serve as a tiny vessel for a wall plant.

  49. Gulia says:

    Draw an outline of a simple image on large canvas. Glue pens along the outline. Enjoy your art.

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