If You See a Hole in a Pen Cap, This is What It Means

Find out why there's a little hole in your pen cap and how it helps both you and your pen.

You’ve been using pens your whole life—to take tests, write checks, and create grocery lists. And though you may know that the act of writing helps to improve memory and penmanship, you probably never thought much else about ballpoint pens, including the fact that there’s a hole in the cap. What in the world is it doing there? Is it a mistake?

It’s no mistake. In 1991, companies including BIC began designing each ballpoint pen cap with a tiny hole at the top, leaving many to wonder what it means and the purpose it could possibly serve.

Here’s the deal: Not only is the hole in the cap protecting the ink in the pen, but it’s also protecting the user from potential safety hazards. (Can these common home safety hazards actually kill you?)

Quality protection

You might imagine that adding a hole to the pen cap would cause the ink to evaporate, but apparently the opposite is true: The ventilation created by the hole actually stabilizes air pressure and keeps the ink from drying out. Who knew? So the best way to make your ballpoint pens last a long time is to be sure to replace the cap after every use. (Discover more mind-blowing facts you’ll think are made up—but aren’t!)

Safety hazard eliminated

The second reason companies drill that tiny pen cap hole is for safety. If you’ve ever gotten nervous or bored and found yourself chewing on your pen, then you can imagine how the cap could get swallowed accidentally. Or in the case of small children, it could possibly get swallowed on purpose. Either way, the hole is there to prevent choking. “The reason that some BIC pens have a hole in their cap is to prevent the cap from completely obstructing the airway if accidentally inhaled,” according to the company website.

So next time you’re jotting your to-dos, signing a form, or writing in your journal, you can be grateful that the pen manufacturers have taken steps to keep the ink flowing—and keep you from choking, all with one teeny tiny hole.

Next, check out this healthy home checklist to improve your well-being, room by room.

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