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Why Would I Want To Know The Ph Of An Ink?


A Smug Dill
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I went a bit stir-crazy after tendonitis in my wrist first struck my writing hand, and stopped me from wielding a pen painlessly. In the first three months, not only did I spend more money on pens that I couldn't immediately use, I also bought myself a pH meter on eBay (which would only be shipped from the US by way of its Global Shipping Program for some nebulously calculated postage and 'import fees' totalling 75% again of the price of the item itself). It was something I could use without exacerbating my condition, to find out some attribute of each ink, but I didn't stop to think clearly about why I would want to know. The pH meter arrived two months ago, and has been just sitting there in an unopened box all that time.

Part of what prompted me was that some folks here seem very keen to know, as if the pH of an ink was important to know. In whatever state of mind back then, I was influenced by the sentiment even though I really don't have a good reason to discover that particular piece of information. Money has been spent on the device, and I'm OK with that, but at least I'm now questioning why I would bother making the effort (in the future) to test the pH of any particular ink, much less every ink I have queued for review.

Most of the prospective reasons I can think of why any user of an ink would want to know seem to have to do with risk management and minimisation:

  • Potential of highly acidic or alkaline inks to corrode nibs
    • I trust most, if not all, of my modern (gold or stainless steel, plated or uncoated) to stand up to any commercial fountain pen ink (that is marketed as such), and the wellbeing of my one-and-only vintage pen concerns me not at all.
  • Potential of highly acidic or alkaline inks to damage celluloid or cellulose acetate
    • Is there such potential? I have only one celluloid pen that is of any value, and that is converter-filled, so any risk there should be minimal. I do have three aurolide piston-fillers by Aurora, but I don't recall coming across any claim or complaint that a highly acidic ink has damaged a modern aurolide pen. As for my other piston-fillers — a Pelikan M815 Metal-Striped, a Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange, a Pelikan M200 Smoky Quartz demonstrator, a PenBBS 309 Cloud and a whole bunch of Wing Sung 3008 pens — the only one I'd 'worry' about because of its value to me is the M600, and I use Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black in it so that ought to be safe?
  • Potential for issues when mixing acidic and basic inks
    • I don't mix inks.
  • Potential of remnants of highly acidic inks to react with bases in pen-flushing and pen-soaking solutions
    • I habitually flush the nibs, feeds, sections and converters with water 'clean' first before dunking any of them into my ultrasonic cleaning tank or any other bath to soak, so the risk should be minimal, maybe with the exception of Pilot CON-70 converters.
  • Potential of highly acidic inks to damage paper prematurely
    • I don't really have content to write with a fountain pen that I desperately want to ensure will remain in good condition for the next thirty, forty or fifty years. When I do, I'll look into ISO 12757-2, and perhaps restrict my choice of inks for those applications to the commercial inks that satisfy the relevant sections of that standard for archival document inks.

Is there something I missed, such that there may actually be a reason why it would be worth my while to test the pH of an ink and find out, before deciding whether to fill a particular pen with it?

...

Just to pre-empt: If I test an ink for its pH because it is of some value for me to know, and I produce an ink review for it, I'll publish the result; there is no reason for me to withhold it. However, if that information is of no value to me, then I won't bother testing it and finding out in the first place, when its potential to damage any pen or nib that I don't have (and won't use) is completely irrelevant and unimportant.

 

 

Edit: grammar and punctuation

Edited by A Smug Dill

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct, and valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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well then there's the worry about "archival" qualities... if the ink is too acidic it'll turn the paper brown or if it's too alkaline it might turn the cellulose fibres to mush

 

Yeah I noticed the various pH meters too :) but I circumvented buying them by buying some Litmus paper :P which has yet to be tried after arriving, so yeah lucky I didn't buy the machine

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... I circumvented buying them by buying some Litmus paper :P ...

I thought about that, but litmus paper only tells you whether something is acidic, neutral or basic, not how acidic or basic it is. Something with pH of 5 has far less potential of doing damage than something with pH of 2. I also looked at pH paper, but that's just not going to provide a reasonable level of precision.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct, and valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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think I bought the paper that goes blue to red with yellow in the middle at pH 7 & a rainbow chart on the book cover... thought it's accurate enough for our (non)use :)

 

Those pH probes, don't you need to clean/calibrate them with some special solution in between uses?

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Those pH probes, don't you need to clean/calibrate them with some special solution in between uses?

I'm not sure whether it's required between every test, or just for recalibration once in a while. That's one of the reasons why I'd be even more reluctant to routinely test new inks for their pH if I don't have a compelling need to know so as to protect one of my pens that are worth worrying about.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct, and valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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The question does arise, does a specific pH reading even matter? Does knowing something is acidic, or basic vs neutral enough? I don't think anyone has ever found that an ink that has a 1.9 pH is any more or less likely to corrode a nib than one with a 2.5 pH, or 4.5 pH. All are acidic, but which will actually cause damage? And, is that found in a more complex question than simple acidity, such as what's its chemical structure and behavior when interacting with other molecules/compounds?

 

I agree that most modern nibs; gold, steel, titanium etc. will have no problem with the acidity/alkaline levels of modern and many vintage inks. I think it will be more of an issue of pen material, though again most modern pens won't have an issue. I do think there is a connection between alkaline inks and sac degradation in pens that use latex sacs. Acidic ink I feel is less problematic for pen material, a lot of which is resistant to acids, unless you have them sit in pools of it for extended periods of time such as aluminum made pens, and even then...I am not certain it would cause noticeable damage...

 

Perhaps I throw caution to the wind, but I also have been using ink, many iron gall at that, for many years, and have yet to have a nib or pen become inoperable or punched through like corroded swiss cheese to take them for what they are. I clean the pens when needed, nothing too crazy beyond general flushing, and use them often. So far so good.

 

As far as paper, acid free paper is pretty dominant in the market, and alkaline buffered paper is becoming pretty popular too, so the interactions on paper itself, would have to be helped a bit by the temp., humidity, and air pollution levels in a given environment to get it to deteriorate noticeably. We also have to remember that iron gall deterioration is not a matter so much of acidity, but of an unbalanced chemical reaction of poorly made ink when oxidizing, leaving by-products that reacted to compounds in the paper and environment. This was prone to occur when iron gall ink was made of raw materials in inconsistent batches, though some were produced better than others. Now that all fountain pen friendly iron gall ink is made with lab grade chemicals, it is a lot easier to know exactly what is going into the ink, and to balance the chemical reaction during oxidation, creating no left over molecules that will react negatively with the paper. Of course, the one modern example of this not being the case was the first version (that I know of) of Organic Studio's Aristotle, which degraded in the bottle quicker than any other ink I have used, and oxidized to a degraded brown within 24hrs...

Edited by JakobS

FP Ink Orphanage-Is an ink not working with your pens, not the color you're looking for, is never to see the light of day again?!! If this is you, and the ink is in fine condition otherwise, don't dump it down the sink, or throw it into the trash, send it to me (payment can be negotiated), and I will provide it a nice safe home with love, and a decent meal of paper! Please PM me!<span style='color: #000080'>For Sale:</span> TBA

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I think that with the wide usage of inks and pens across online forums like FPN and reddit, if there were a commercially available ink with "pH" that was really harmful to pens in a meaningful way we'd have heard about it by now. So I share Smug Dill's skepticism of pH as a cause for concern.

 

As for the latex sac issue, that's easily solved by restricting use to known "safe" inks like Waterman, Quink, etc in those pens. Considering that sac pens are a pain in the rear to clean, it's better that way anyway.

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I don't think pH should bare much relevance. I'd imagine most inks swing around 7-8

 

The benefits of having modern plastics and alloys is that they're corrosion resistant. I always find myself more concerned with the oils and surfactants that use and the impact that will have on a feed

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For me the issue about pH is less about how they react with paper/nib/pen material and more about concerns with flushing. If I'm using a neutral of alkaline pH ink, I can flush it with ammonia solution. But if I'm using an acidic ink (such as an iron gall ink) I'm going to want to use vinegar solution instead. Because the next time I might not be using that same ink in that pen: I might be using something with a very different pH (and might not have gotten all of the ink out 100% when flushing (even with as OCD I am about the process).

Simple enough.

Especially after seeing a thread a couple of years ago when someone tried to create the "ideal" blue black and mixed Noodler's Bay State Blue and Noodler's Black. I saw the photos. They weren't pretty.... The two inks never really mixed, and looked very strange on the page -- parts of the writing was blue, and part was black (often in the same line!) -- and then the chemical reaction took over, and the result came out of the person's pen. In chunks....

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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pH is all over the map for FP inks. That's been documented.

 

Even if you don't mix inks, there can be some ink residue left over in a feed when you switch inks in a pen with a new fill. If you've ever noticed on a new fill the color of the ink isn;'t what you usually expect, the inks have mixed. Though usually that will empty of after a few lines or a page of writing, so typically not a problem.

 

pH Meters

 

Yes, they require calibration using standard solutions at the pH expected to test. There's a solution for pH 2 (for acids), pH 10 (for bases), and one for pH 7 (for neutral solutions). So you'd first do your calibration and then test inks (or whatever).

 

 

My guess is pens can handle the pH of inks with the possible exception of sacs.

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Thank you for all of your input, folks. No point in my throwing good money (on standard solutions for calibration) after bad, or making the effort to manually test the pH of inks just for the hell of putting the pH meter to use, then.

In an ideal world, each ink will by default be supplied — by 'push' such as inclusion in the retail package, or by 'pull' such as making it available for download from the manufacturer's web site on demand — with a fit-for-purpose MSDS document, which I expect will include information on pH for liquids such as ink.

Some of us have encountered issues trying to get ink shipped from one country to another, where the (postal or forwarding) service refuses to accept items for shipment on account of their being potentially classified as hazardous or prohibited import items by customs in the country of the recipient and absence of MSDS documentation upfront to prove they are not hazardous. For what it is worth, ink is not deemed to be either hazardous or prohibited for import into Australia, and I have received well over a hundred bottles of ink in the post the past year, with the occasional package containing ink being opened for customs inspection at the border. I even used Rakuten Global Express in Japan to 're-ship' a package of goods including a bottle of Platinum Classic Ink to me earlier this year without any hiccups; but last week when it received some inks on my behalf, including another bottle of Platinum Classic Ink, RGX advised that inks are categorised hazardous items that cannot be sent! Go figure.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct, and valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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No manufacturer is going to pay for and maintain an MSDS document. That would destroy their margin

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> I don't think pH should bare much relevance. I'd imagine most inks swing around 7-8

 

Like pH 3 for Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue or pH 10 for many Sailor/Pelikan inks? Few inks are actually around pH 5-8 (neutral is 7) as most inks rely on ionic groups to be dissolvable in water - and ionic groups need either pH<5 or >8 to be stable in water.

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I think pH is not the full story. The [in]famous Noodlers Baystate Blue is only slightly alkaline (pH somewhere toward 8), while a number of Iroshizuku and Sailor inks have been measured to be on the alkaline side as well. No one is going to say that Iroshizuku or Sailor inks are unsafe for use* and will damage pens if left unattended (*there's a view among some repair people that alkaline Japanese inks might be bad for latex sacs or vegetal resin) not to the same degree that we know Noodlers Baystate Blue requires careful pen maintenance.

https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/154941-checking-the-ph-of-inks/?p=2358779

Waterman Florida Blue is one of the safest and most benign inks out there, yet its quite acidic.

*Quote by R. Binder: "Most Japanese inks are alkaline. Alkaline inks are hostile to latex. I have experimental evidence that at least some of the Pilot Iroshizuku colors will destroy latex sacs. For this reason, I recommend that you avoid using Japanese inks in sac-filling pens as well as in pens that are made of organic resins and use the barrel for the ink reservoir (as described in the preceding paragraph)."
http://www.indy-pen-dance.com/Inks-The-Good-the-Bad-and-the-Ugly.html

Edited by Intensity

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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That's a good point. I've been told that Sailor inks are "safe" -- but the older version of Sky High stained the heck out of a brand new Pli-glass sac in one of my Parker 51s (and yes, it WAS brand new -- I sat there at a pen show while it was being replaced by Danny Fudge a few years ago).

As for BSB? That ink gets relegated to a dedicated pen; the Baystate Series inks just do NOT play well with other inks -- even other Noodler's inks....

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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regarding the ink pH

The Japanese pen magazine Shumi no Bungubako tested a variety of inks, I will not link to an illegal copy of the tables made by a member from FPN. The magazine is cheaply available as digital copy (e.g. as Kindle and by magazine aggregators) so it is just not fair to rip off many pages as this member always does.

 

An overview - for details see the Magazine

Japanese inks: Sailor 7-11, Pilot 8-10, Kobe 7-10, Taccia 8-11, Platinum 8-11, Platinum Classic 1.2-1.3

CdA 2-9

Diamine (only 2 were tested) 2-4

Faber-Castell 5-7

Herbin 5-9

KWZ (only 3 tested) 3-4

Lamy 2 (Blue), 5-9

Montblanc 3-5

Parker Blue, Black 2-3, BB 7.5

Pelikan 2-3 (BB, Royal Blue and Turquoise), 5-8, Highlighters 10-11

Rohrer&Klingner 2-5, some 8-9

 

You can see that the inks spread between 2 and 11 if they are not Iron galls which are near pH 1.

 

If you want to relate it to some common materials' pH values, see here: Wikipedia.

 

Caution: no information is given how they measured it (AFAIK, would need to recheck) There are little pH meters but they need to be calibrated from time to time. I usually do this once a day (in my work, not with the inks).

 

Why don't open makers this information? I don't know. Perhaps they change their formulas from time to time? Or they simply don't care about PR apart from PR for advertising new pens/inks/what ever else.

 

Mixing inks which are not made for mixing is playing Russian roulette. If you mix an alkaline ink with an acidic ink, you can induce precipitation of ink particles as you destabilize the colorants* and they crystallize either alone or as mixture of the two colorants. You think nothing happens, probably you only created nano particles which are no problem AT THE BEGINNING of your ink mixing. Later they will increase their size and eventually clog your pen.

 

*Such a destabilization CAN also be induced by dilution - or by evaporation of water.

 

Damages

To sacs? I avoid pens with sac anyway.

 

Regarding the nib, stainless steel is certainly more affected than well-done gold-plated nibs, or even gold nibs. Stainless steel nibs shouldn't rust so easily. However, not always is a stainless steel really what it says, a lot of cheating is done, test with a magnet and you will see how many stainless-steel materials are magnetic.

 

The following lines are cited from https://flexiblenib.com/store/product/zebra-g-dip-nib-in-jowo-6-black-ebonite/

 

"I list here some of my observations when leaving the nib inked, from worst to best. This is not a definitive, controlled test, but I used several nibs with each ink, wrote frequently each day with each nib, and left the nib inked continuously until failure.

  • Waterman Mysterious Blue. Damages the nib in less than one day.
  • Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue. Damages the nib in 2-3 days.
  • Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa, R&K Salix. Damages the nib in 3-4 days.
  • Visconti Bordeaux. Damages the nib in 4-5 days.
  • Aurora Black. Damages the nib in 4-5 days.
  • Noodler’s Apache Sunset, Noodler’s Tiananmen. Damages the nibs in about a week to ten days.
  • Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium. Lasts for more than a month. This ink is my favorite for use with the Zebra G nib."

I can personally confirm that a G-nib rusts with Pelikan RB.

 

 

MSDS

It is not required if the product doesn't contain hazardous chemicals.

"OSHA does not require nor encourage employers to maintain MSDSs for non-hazardous chemicals. Consequently, an employer is free to discard MSDSs for non-hazardous chemicals. "

OSHA requires SDS's ONLY for materials that 1) meet OSHA's definition of hazardous and 2) are "known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency".

https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2015-03-27

 

Usually, I would think that an FP ink is excempt.

 

--

Regarding damage reports on the web, always question if such a report is true if there is no detailed information given on the problem. Did the person eventually switched inks and didn't clean well the pen, .... You know the reports sent to customer support "My TV doesn't work."

Edited by mke
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I wonder what makes the Zebra G nibs (stainless steel) so different from stainless steel nibs on full fountain pens. The latter certainly don't rust easily at all, even with IG inks, given some regular cleaning. The former is known to rust pretty quickly. Both types are stainless steel. Zebra G must be some corrosion-friendly alloy that's extra flexible. I would be amazed to see the damage quoted above from those inks on any of my stainless steel fountain pens (no problems at all with R&K Scabiosa with any of my steel-nibbed fountain pens, nor from Waterman inks).

 

(Coincidentally, I have recently purchased one of the ebonite feeds for Zebra G + JoWo housing from flexiblenib.com and also read that reference table. I plan on using mostly pH-neutral inks with my Zebra G nibs, since they are known to be corrosion-happy).

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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