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Sitb Again



Dino Silone

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Dino Silone

I became aware of a bad case of SITB in a relatively new bottle of ink recently. I had no idea such a thing existed prior to that time, and have been pretty lax about isolating pens and inks from one another. The end result is that (although problems have only really developed with one pen), it is possible that as many as 5 bottles of ink and a couple of dozen pens may be infected.

 

I've been following threads, including the great investigative work that Sam Capote has been doing, and I've been trying to figure out what I need to do to salvage my pens and ink. I thought I'd share my thinking, in the hope that it might help someone else, and also to get opinions from others that have dealt with and/or thought about this problem. I apologize in advance for the bottom-up way I'm presenting this, but I wanted to lay down some background thoughts first.

 

First of all, I believe that treating my writing desk as a clean-room environment is a non-starter, at least for me. I love writing with dip and fountain pens, but honestly, if I had to treat my writing utensils like surgical instruments, I'd take up writing with a bic or a mechanical pencil. And clearly, people who wrote with these instruments in the past didn't follow surgical procedures for sterilization, etc., yet somehow they managed to write with them. So, I'm operating from the assumption that there must be way to approach this without going nuts.

 

Some thoughts:

 

1) Spores are all around us. Just opening a bottle of ink exposes it to infection. You can limit that by keeping the ink open for the shortest amount of time, but really, it probably doesn't take long for some spores to get in there. If the environment is hospitable for their growth, they will grow.

 

A mild treatment of not-gunked up ink with something (and that something is still TBD) could prevent a fungal infection from taking off, though it won't kill spores, and may not stop an existing infection. Also, the mild treatment won't necessarily last a long time, and may need to be repeated from time to time.

 

Gunked up ink is probably not worth saving, at least for me. Once it has gotten to the point where there's a really flourishing, active infection, and the ink has that rotten smell, I'm inclined to toss it. Life is too short, and the price of a bottle of ink (at least the inks I buy) isn't going to make or break me.

 

So the first objective is to make the ink an inhospitable environment, at least for a while.

 

On to the pen:

 

A good flush of a not-yet gunked up pen will eliminate any incipient fungal growth; a really gunked up pen might require dis-assembly and rinsing/flushing to get rid of it. Neither of these treatments will kill spores, or even kill an active fungus - but they will get rid of blockages either existing or in the making. And once the pen is mechanically ok and unblocked, it's working. (At least until the slime grows back...)

 

At first, I thought that I would want to disinfect all my pens to eliminate any spores. But I realized that's probably overkill (besides, I think I'd probably sooner throw them out and start another hobby). As long as any ink that I filled them with provided an inhospitable environment for fungal growth, and as long as the ink didn't stay in the pen long enough for the protection to wear off, I'd probably be ok.

 

Given that, then the objective becomes to find something that you can add to ink that won't mess up it's qualities as ink, but that will make that ink inhospitable to fungus growth for a period of time. Even if that period of time is only a week or two, that's probably long enough. In fact, any time period that's longer than the interval between filling and emptying/rinsing a pen is long enough. It's no big deal to have to put a couple of drops of something into a bottle of ink even once a week.

 

So the remaining questions are: What's a good something to treat the ink with, where do you get it, how much does it cost, how much of it do you need, how long does the treatment last before you have to do it again ...

 

And this is what Sam's been looking at. My modification to that quest is that the something doesn't have to solve the problem permanently - just for a week or so at a time.

 

Ideas/comments?

Edited by Dino Silone
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Possum Hill

Tacky as it is to reply to my own post, I just found this stuff, and was wondering if Sam or anyone had any experience with it:

 

http://www.artistsupplysource.com/product.php?productid=53775

 

The same company also sells formaldehyde in small quantities.

 

No affiliation, not even a satisfied customer. Just curious.

There have been some discussions of phenol as a preservative in ink. Some of them got pretty lively with a member who had previously been unconcerned about phenol becoming quite irate at the suggestion that his favorite ink might contain it.

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Dino Silone

Tacky as it is to reply to my own post, I just found this stuff, and was wondering if Sam or anyone had any experience with it:

 

http://www.artistsupplysource.com/product.php?productid=53775

 

The same company also sells formaldehyde in small quantities.

 

No affiliation, not even a satisfied customer. Just curious.

There have been some discussions of phenol as a preservative in ink. Some of them got pretty lively with a member who had previously been unconcerned about phenol becoming quite irate at the suggestion that his favorite ink might contain it.

Isn't it the traditional preservative? (I also read about formaldehyde being used). In fact, it's the active ingredient in the Sporicidin Disinfectant that Sam has been experimenting with (from the web site, active ingredients: Phenol 1.56% Sodium Phenate 0.06%) The phenol solution from Artists Supply Source is actually a little more concentrated (a 4% solution), so you'd need to add less to ink to get the same protection.

 

I expect the protection would last for a limited time, so maybe, especially if you don't use the ink a lot, the amount you have to use might be a consideration.

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Dino, that is a great find. Phenol got a bad rep many years ago, but used within reason, it is a great biocide, and was used by all the major ink makers until over agressive testing put it on a cancer causing list, forcing ink makers to drop it. The Sporicidin I was recommending in my Biocide Shootout Thread only had 1.56% phenol concentration (which is the same amount used in Chloraseptic throat spray). At that level, you had to use about 1 ml per 15 ml of ink which gives a bit of dilution effect. I got a 3x sample from the Sporicidin company sent to me which has a 4.68% concentration, so now I could use 1ml in 45 ml of ink. Using less gives less dilution effect of your ink which is mostly water. I believe the protection from Phenol will last many many years, perhaps decades.

 

The product you found (made by Natural Pigments) is 4%, so you could treat a 40 ml bottle with 1 ml of that 4% Phenol. I just make sure it comes mixed in water, which is very likely given the directions listed at their link. This now moves to my #1 product recommendation for people looking for a biocide. Your finding this source is a real contribution to the community. Don't use formaldehyde (which they also carry) in a pen. It is much more damaging to components.

 

Now a couple of important caveats.

 

  • This dose of Phenol is adequate for long term protection of the ink, but if there is an active infection, a higher dose is needed, perhaps 3-5 times higher depending on how bad the infection. With an infection, you should always filter the bulk contaminants from the ink first, either through a coffee filter, or with a better quality filter paper and funnel like I showed in the DeAtramentis thread, then hit with biocide and watch for at least a month before using.

  • Phenol proportionately loses its effectiveness as the pH becomes more alkaline above 8.0. How do you know the pH of your inks? You don't, but I ran some preliminary tests with my meter posted in this thread to get you started. I still need to do more. Greg Clark did them 4-5 years ago in his Ink Sampler booklet, but I did not find correlation to some that I more recently tested. The only biocide I have for use in those higher pH inks is the proprietary ink maker's biocide.

.

Edited by SamCapote

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

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Dino Silone

Dino, that is a great find. Phenol got a bad rep many years ago, but used within reason, it is a great biocide, and was used by all the major ink makers until over agressive testing put it on a cancer causing list, forcing ink makers to drop it. The Sporicidin I was recommending in my Biocide Shootout Thread only had 1.56% phenol concentration (which is the same amount used in Chloraseptic throat spray). At that level, you had to use about 1 ml per 15 ml of ink which gives a bit of dilution effect. I got a 3x sample from the Sporicidin company sent to me which has a 4.68% concentration, so now I could use 1ml in 45 ml of ink. Using less gives less dilution effect of your ink which is mostly water. I believe the protection from Phenol will last many many years, perhaps decades.

 

The product you found (made by Natural Pigments) is 4%, so you could treat a 40 ml bottle with 1 ml of that 4% Phenol. I just make sure it comes mixed in water, which is very likely given the directions listed at their link. This now moves to my #1 product recommendation for people looking for a biocide. Your finding this source is a real contribution to the community. Don't use formaldehyde (which they also carry) in a pen. It is much more damaging to components.

 

Now a couple of important caveats.

 

  • This dose of Phenol is adequate for long term protection of the ink, but if there is an active infection, a higher dose is needed, perhaps 3-5 times higher depending on how bad the infection. With an infection, you should always filter the bulk contaminants from the ink first, either through a coffee filter, or with a better quality filter paper and funnel like I showed in the DeAtramentis thread, then hit with biocide and watch for at least a month before using.

  • Phenol proportionately loses its effectiveness as the pH becomes more alkaline above 8.0. How do you know the pH of your inks? You don't, but I ran some preliminary tests with my meter posted in this thread to get you started. I still need to do more. Greg Clark did them 4-5 years ago in his Ink Sampler booklet, but I did not find correlation to some that I more recently tested. The only biocide I have for use in those higher pH inks is the proprietary ink maker's biocide.

.

Thanks, Sam. I've decided I'm more interested in preventing new infections than doing something to end an active and well-estalished one. I will toss my bottle of stinky ink. I just don't want any other bottles getting infected, and more importantly, I want to create a stock of "fungus unfriendly" inks to use in my pens that have almost certainly been exposed to spores, but aren't gummed up. (I will, of course, flush them to get rid of any gunk that's in there already, but that won't kill spores. I just want to make sure I fill them with ink they won't thrive in.)

 

I'm going to order a bottle of this Phenol, and will report back when I've tried it. BTW - if you order directly from the manufacturer, shipping is about $3 less. Either way, it's pretty steep. (Over $10 to NJ from the manufacturer, over $13 from Artists Supply...) But when I consider all the other money I've wasted spent well on this hobby, I guess it's down in the noise...

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