How to Re-ink a Typewriter Ribbon.




About: Hello there, I am rather mechanically inclined artist that loves making old things live again. I have gone to school for auto mechanics and welding among other things. I love fixing newer things as well &qu...

Love your old typing technology but hate the cost and waste of upkeep on ribbons? Well time to add new life to the old ones!

Step 1: What You Will Need.

To do this you will need:

  • fountain pen India ink. (mine was simple black and non waterproof I have not not tried others)
  • a paint brush.
  • Exhausted ribbon.

Step 2: Next

Wind the spools evenly, so it is give or take an even amount of tape between the two. You are going to be painting them so this will help with even absorbing and faster dry time. I made that mistake the first time around and got a half renewed ribbon.

Now paint on the India ink slowly and let it soak into the layers of the ribbon. You do not want to just dunk it in ink. You will know when you are done when both spools are damp and a bite more weighty. If you make them drip fear not, this just means a longer dry time.

Now wait for it to dry and.....

Step 3: Done!

Put your ribbon back in that glorious machine and type away!



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12 Discussions


3 months ago

I've recently purchased on old typewriter and while the current ribbon looks like a ghost is writing, I look forward to creating some neat stuff. Thanks for the ink tutorial! Question: how long did it take for the ribbon to dry? Thanks in advance!


3 months ago

Hiya! I'm gonna start by saying that I might be a bit of an anomaly in this comment section, as I'm a Gen-Z/millenial kid and I know most people my age won't really bat an eye at a clunky old thing like a typewriter.

That aside, my grandmother found my aunt's old highschool typewriter (an Olympia Travel De Luxe if anyone's wondering), and she reckoned I'd be able to make good use of it as an avid writer. She definitely isn't wrong, but the one thing I've been wondering is 'how the heck am I going to deal with this typewriting ribbon thing???' I then found your tutorial and I'm really happy I did! I'm gonna try it soon, thank you for posting! (^v^)


4 months ago

Did you paint the entire ribbon? like unroll a section, paint it and then move onto a new section? Or just heavily paint the outside ribbon and let it soak through?

1 reply

Reply 4 months ago

I just painted it and let it soak through.I would have dunked it but did not have enough ink to sumberge it.


1 year ago

I was wondering if I could use board marker ink instead of fountain pen ink.
Would it work the same?

I have a Smith-Corona Classic 12 manual typewriter. I recently listened to Tom Hanks's reading of his book "Uncommon Type" and he inspired me to get my typewriter out and clean it up. So I did. And of course, the ribbon was as dry as dust.

I have some black Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph Ultradraw Waterproof Ink, so I looked up how to re-ink a typewriter ribbon. I followed these directions and they worked pretty well. Thank you for posting!

I would add a few suggestions here.

1. Ink is messy and spreads easily. Put down newspaper before re-inking.

2. Ink is messy and spreads easily. Wear latex or other gloves.

3. For those of us who seem to attract chaos--the drawing ink comes off with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. I used the alcohol to clean ink off the spool, my typewriter's keycaps, case, and of course, my own fingers. :-)

4. I ended up winding the ribbon into different locations on the spool because the ink didn't always drip all the way down to the inner rolls of the spool.

Now that it's been a few days since I reinked the ribbon, the ink is mostly dry. I find, though, that the typewritten letters are not as dark as I'd like. I will use a different ink next time. Or maybe next time, I'll try spraying WD-40 on the ribbon, as it suggests here:


2 years ago

Hi, I just wanted to clarify:

You said to use "fountain pen India ink," do you mean fountain pen ink OR India ink? Also, I was wondering if you know if this works for vintage typewriters (early 1900s or so)?

Anyway, great job and thanks!

2 replies

Reply 2 years ago

Thanks for the comment as I am happy to help.To be very specific I used.

Fountain pen India ,
Non waterproof ink'

So if you can not go with that brand i could go with a black non waterproof fountain pen ink. The type writer ribbon I used was off at old Remington machine from about the early 1920's and another from the 50's. So I hope that helps.

Thank you again!


2 years ago

My grandmother would be proud! Greqat work!


2 years ago

I used to have mine from high school and early college. I got rid of it when it got hard to find replacement ribbons. Wish I still had it now.


2 years ago

A typewriter? This is so last century technology☺

My wife used hers for years, it was a portable she got in high school, back in the day it was as much a status thing as I pads etc. are today.

Good tip on reusing the ribbon too!