What does capillary action have to do with drywipe markers? - Show-Me Direct UK
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What does capillary action have to do with drywipe markers?

“Capillary action is defined as the spontaneous flow of a liquid into a narrow tube or porous material. This movement does not require the force of gravity to occur. In fact, it often acts in opposition to gravity.”


The way in which drywipe markers work is through capillary action. The ink, that is stored in a fibre reservoir, is transported to the nib and onto your whiteboard. If, like the Show-me Drywipe Markers that are refillable, this is the way the process happens.

When we are dealing with a very small fibre it can be very hard to see what is happening, unless like us in the lab, you have access to a microscope.

Refilling a drywipe marker/whiteboard pen

As you can see from the video, the liquid ink flows through the fibres of the nib and reservoir saturating the gaps rather than the fibres themselves.

It’s easy to see the different parts of a liquid ink when you change the concentration of the alcohol base and the pigments. The small flecks of ink run through the fibres on a river of alcohol.

What does this mean for refillable drywipe markers?

This means that for the majority of cases all drywipe markers could be refillable, however, we do need to take a few things into consideration.

How long has the marker been without ink?

This may not be something you have considered but it does, from our testing, make a big difference to the ability of a drywipe marker to be refillable.

We used a random selection of Show-me Drywipe Markers from one of the recent recycling scheme returns and discovered that the marker has to be recently depleted for the refill systems to work correctly. Of all the markers tested, none of them would refill when following the manufacturer’s instructions. This was due to the fibres being clogged up with dried on drywipe ink, therefore preventing the new liquid ink flow.

To get around this we needed to dissolve the ink so that the liquid ink could flow through the nib and into the reservoir. We tried a couple of approaches before settling on the solution that is the easiest for you to complete. You’ll need a small container that is solvent safe and will only be used for this purpose, as well as a bottle of Show-me Magix.

  • Place the marker with the nib facing down into the container (we used an old mug)
  • Add enough Magix to cover the nib of the marker – 5ml should be fine
  • Leave the marker soaking in the Magix for at least ten minutes
  • After this, place the marker into the inkwell to start refilling
  • If the marker does not hold on to much ink, this indicates that the fibres have been dry for too long and the marker is not really suitable to be refilled

If you’re not put off by trying to refill the markers, despite the extra work involved, then you can release the dried-on ink by applying Magix directly to the reservoir.

To do this:

  • Remove the nib by pulling it out of the nib stop, being careful not to damage the fibres
  • Pour Magix into the marker body – you’ll only need 2ml and you could use a syringe that comes with children’s medicine
  • Wait 10 minutes for the fibres to soak through
  • Replace the nib and follow the previous method to refill the ink using a liquid inkwell