How To Remove Ink Stains From Clothes

Ink stains on clothes can be a real nuisance, and removing them can totally be stressful when you don’t know the right method or have the right products. Whether it’s a pen leak in your pocket or an accidental brush against a freshly inked document, the result is the same: an unsightly stain.

With various types of ink and fabrics involved, it’s crucial to handle these stains carefully to avoid permanent damage. Thankfully, by identifying the type of ink, blotting the stain, and using the right stain-removing product, removing the stain can be easy peasy.

This article will teach you everything you need to know to tackle those stubborn stains!

Know What Type Of Ink You’re Dealing With

Before attempting to remove the ink stain, it’s essential to understand the type of ink you’ll need to remove from your fabric, as different inks require different removal methods:

Water-Based Ink

Ink from fountain or gel pens is usually water-based, making it much easier to remove. They come in a variety of colours and are thin and non-greasy in consistency.

Ballpoint Ink

Ballpoint ink, usually from ballpoint pens, is thick, oil-based, and made of grease and dyes that can be quite challenging to remove due to their water-resistant properties. They are best dealt with by using acetone or alcohol-based products.

Permanent Ink

As its name suggests, permanent ink can be quite difficult to remove and will require tougher products as it is often water-resistant. This is the ink that’s used in marker pens and is highly pigmented.

Tips When Treating Ink Stains On Clothing

person thinking about how to remove ink stain on clothing

Here are the things you should know and do to make the treatment process much easier:

  • Act Quickly
    The sooner you address the ink stain, the easier it will be to remove.
  • Blot, Don’t Rub
    Use a clean, dry cloth or tissue to blot the ink stain gently. Rubbing can spread the ink and make the stain worse.
  • Remove The Culprit
    Make sure to store whatever caused the stain in its proper place. Whether it’s because of a marker or a pen, you have to contain the item to prevent it from staining other clothes or stuff in your home.
  • Check the Garment Label
    Always read the clothing’s care label for any specific instructions that might influence your choice of stain removal method. Dry-Clean Only fabrics are best cleaned by professionals, or you may accidentally ruin them for good.
  • Avoid Tumble Drying
    Once you’re done with the treatment, we recommend drying your clothing outdoors to ensure that if there are leftover stains, you will not be permanently setting them in the dryer.
  • Alcohol-Based Products May Be Your Best Friend
    Solvents such as rubbing alcohol, hand sanitiser, or even hairspray can effectively dilute ink stains, which could greatly help you bring back your garment to its former glory.
  • Check For Colour-Fastness
    When using products such as alcohol, it’s best to test a hidden area on your clothing first to ensure that it will not fade or ruin its colour. Let the solution sit for 3 minutes, blot with a paper towel, and if the colour is stable, you can proceed with pre-treating your clothing.

Effective Methods For Removing Ink Stains

Once you’re done identifying the type of ink you’re dealing with and blotting the stain, it’s time to seriously tackle the stubborn blots.

Step 1: Lay Out The Stained Garment On A Flat Surface

Place a towel under the bottom part of the stain to prevent any ink from seeping through.

ink stain

Step 2: Choose Your Cleaning Solution

Depending on the type of ink and the fabric of your clothing, different cleaning solutions can be effective.

stain removers

Here are a few common options:

  • For Water-Based Ink: Rubbing alcohol, hand sanitiser, or laundry detergent
  • For Ballpoint or Permanent Ink: Rubbing alcohol, acetone, hair spray, or shop-bought stain removers

Step 3: Test The Fabric

Before applying any cleaning solution to the stain, test it on an inconspicuous area of the fabric to ensure it doesn’t cause discolouration or damage.

rubbing alcohol on fabric

Step 4: Apply The Cleaning Solution

Once you’ve chosen your cleaning solution, apply it directly to the ink stain.

When using solvents such as rubbing alcohol, acetone, hand sanitiser, or liquid detergent, you can directly pour the solution or use a cotton ball or cloth to apply it, especially for bigger stains. Let it sit for a few minutes for the solution to penetrate the fabric.

For products like hairspray, spray directly onto the stain until it’s fully saturated. Leave for a few minutes.

For shop-bought stain removers, it’s best to properly read the instructions and follow them correctly. Most stain removers like Dr. Beckmann Stain Devils Pen and Ink are applied directly on the stained area and left to sit for at least 10 minutes.

Dr. Beckmann Stain Devils Pen and Ink, 50 ml
  • Specifically formulated stain remover
  • Removes tough stains in 3 minutes

Step 5: Blot And Rinse

After allowing the cleaning solution to sit, gently blot the stain again with a clean, dry cloth. This helps to lift the ink from the fabric. Rinse the stained area thoroughly with cold water.

Step 6: Launder As Usual

Wash the garment according to the care label instructions, preferably in the hottest water safe for the fabric.

60 Degree Wash Cycle

Avoid using the dryer until you’re sure the stain is completely removed, as heat can set the stain permanently.

Step 7: Repeat If Necessary

If you just noticed that there are still some stains after washing, repeat the treatment process. Sometimes, it may take several attempts to fully remove an ink stain, especially if it’s oil-based or has been set for a while.

Once your garment is clean and stain-free, remember that it’s best to air dry!

Basic Guide To Removing Ink On Different Fabrics

If you get ink on your clothes, knowing how to get it out will also depend on what your clothes are made of.

Here’s a simple guide that shows you what to do for different types of fabric:

Fabric TypeTreat WithAdditional Steps
Shirt, TrousersRubbing alcohol, hair spray, or hand sanitiserUse a soft-bristled toothbrush, let sit for at least 30 mins
JeansRubbing alcoholGently scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush, rinse in cold water
CottonHair spray, clear washing up liquid, white vinegar, warm waterSpray, soak for 30 mins, rinse, dab with alcohol if persists, air dry
Polyester/NylonRubbing alcoholStretch over jar, drip alcohol through, rinse, repeat if needed, air dry
SilkCold water, hair spray, white vinegarBlot, spray, and scrub gently if needed
Spandex/LycraRubbing alcoholStretch over jar, drip alcohol through, rinse, repeat if needed, air dry
Canvas/LinenRubbing alcoholApply with cotton swab/cloth, place stained area face down over jar, drip alcohol through, rinse, air dry
SuedeDry cleaning solventDab gently, consult a professional for best results
VelvetClear washing up liquid, white vinegar, rubbing alcoholSoak for 30 mins, rinse, dab with alcohol if persists, air dry
WoolCool water, hair spray, white vinegarBlot, spray, scrub gently with a toothbrush, dab with cold water, blot dry

TIP: Of course, always follow the care label of your garment! Some clothes are made with a combination of fabrics and may require special care.

Tips For Preventing Pesky Ink Stains

Ink stains on clothes can be frustrating, but they don’t have to be permanent. With prompt action and the right cleaning techniques, you can remove most ink stains and save your clothing from the rubbish bin.

Remember, patience and persistence are key when dealing with tough stains. Before we go, here are additional tips to prevent those annoying stains:

  • Always keep pens and markers properly capped when not in use.
  • Carry pens in a case or separate compartment to avoid leaks on clothing.
  • Check pockets for pens before washing clothes.

Do you have questions? Ask away!

SEE ALSO: Can You Put Muddy Clothes In The Washing Machine?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove pen ink from clothing?

To remove pen ink from clothing, blot the stain, identify the type of ink, test a cleaning solution like rubbing alcohol on an inconspicuous area, apply the solution directly to the stain, let it sit, blot, and rinse. Wash as normal.

What is the best home remedy to remove ink from clothes?

The best home remedies to remove ink from clothes are rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, hair spray, acetone, or a mixture of washing up liquid and warm water. Apply directly to the stain, let sit, blot, and rinse.

Does vinegar remove ink?

Yes, white vinegar may help remove ink stains from some fabrics like cotton and silk. Spray it on the stain, let it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse.

Can bicarbonate of soda remove pen ink?

Bicarbonate of soda may help remove some water-based ink stains. Make a paste with water, apply to the stain, let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse. It likely won’t remove oil-based ballpoint or permanent ink stains.

Does ink permanently stain clothes?

Ink doesn’t have to permanently stain clothes. If treated quickly with the proper cleaning method for the fabric and ink type, ink stains can often be completely removed. However, untreated ink stains that are set in by drying can become permanent.

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