Sometimes, I have trouble writing with a ball pen, when the paper is "dirty". The pen just stops working, and I have to unblock the ball by writing on another piece of paper that does not cause any trouble before being able to use the pen again on the original paper. This is annoying.

I am actually not sure what the "dirt" is (dust, slightly humid or oily paper...?). But I am sure many other people have experienced the same problem: it's definitely a problem of the paper, not the pen; it usually happens on notebook paper rather than paper for printers, and not on all pages on a same notebook.

How can I write on such paper with my usual ball pen without having to switch every few seconds to the secondary paper?

(And bonus question: What is wrong with the paper?)

  • 2
    I know exactly what you mean, I thought it was wax on the paper but I'm not sure where that wax would come from. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 13:47
  • It may be oil or "sizing" (starch) on the paper surface. My experience is that some types of ball-point pens work better than others. Narrow tips generally "skip" more than wide ones. Perhaps someone could do a trial with gel-pens, pens with "textured" balls, narrow vs. wide tips etc. and report it here? Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


I've rubbed something slightly abrasive over the paper, such as another piece of paper, to roughen up the surface with much success in the past. Whether I was 'curing' the problem, who knows, but my crappy ball point pen did indeed write on that surface when done.


Have you tried using another pen?
I own a SpacePen, which works on almost any surface in any conditions. It's more expensive than a regular pen of course, but in certain situations this is a very useful tool.

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