Ever wondered how to get ink stains out of clothes — even old ones — once you’ve found them? Here’s help!
Unless you’re a person who never forgets to put the cap back on the pen or you like the look of a pocket protector, you need to know how to get ink stains out of clothes.
It’s happened to all of us. Just the other day I tucked a ballpoint pen in the pocket of my favorite pink hoodie without putting on the cap. Sure enough, I found an ink stain on it when I was doing the wash. Fortunately, I’ve learned how prone my family is to ink stains, so I had the ingredients below on hand. Now you’ll know what to keep in stock, too.
How To Get Ink Stains Out Of Clothes
WHY DOES INK STAIN?
Ink isn’t simply coloring — it’s a paste-like oil-based dye delivery system. That means you’re not just trying to remove the dye, you’ve also got to tackle the oil-base, too. The reason there are two methods to getting rid of ink stains on clothes is that the chemical bond between the ink and your clothing depends on whether it’s been through the wash or not.
As with most laundry stains, it’s easier to get fresh ink out of clothing than ink that’s been set by the dryer. That’s why your grandma inspected every item of clothing, one at a time, as she dropped them into the machine.
Life is a lot busier these days, so if you can’t make inspecting clothes part of your laundry routine, don’t fret. I honestly don’t know too many people who take such pains before doing the wash. Me? I keep a stain treatment stick tied to my laundry hamper and do my best to remember to treat stains as I get undressed.
But ink stains need more than just a stain stick, especially if you didn’t see them before they went through the wash.
Fresh Ink Stains
When dealing with fresh ink stains, the oil-base of the dye hasn’t had a chance to bond with your clothing yet.
1. Blot up as much ink as possible. To do this, use a paper towel or old white rag and press against the ink stain. Lift the cloth, rotate it, then use a clean area to blot the stain again. Repeat this process until you can’t get any more ink out. It’s important not to rub or wipe while you’re doing this or you may cause the stain to spread.
2. Place the stained part of the clothing flat on an old towel or brown paper bag. Dip a clean cloth into rubbing alcohol (surgical spirits in the U.K.) until it’s wet and dab the stain. As before, rotate the cloth you’re working with, so you’re always using a clean section. Again, don’t rub or wipe or you’ll risk spreading the ink — the goal is to transfer the ink from your clothing to the rag.
3. Once you’ve done your best dabbing the stain, launder it on the hottest setting the fabric can handle. Check that the stain is fully gone before transferring it to the dryer.
4. If the stain is still there, try the method below for getting old ink stains out of clothes. (Handwashing in the sink is perfectly okay in case you don’t feel like running an entire load of clothes.)
WHY HAIRSPRAY NO LONGER WORKS
It used to be that you could use hairspray to remove ink, but that doesn’t work as well now that hairsprays tend to be low-alcohol. Know what does have a lot of rubbing alcohol in it still? Hand sanitizer! So, in a pinch you can try it but remember: added fragrances, moisturizers, and colorings may make the problem worse.
Also see: 17 Surprising Uses for Hand Sanitizer
Old Ink Stains
Getting an old ink stain out is much more difficult because by this point the oil-based part of the dye has chemically bonded to your clothing.
1. Try the method above first — it often removes even older ink stains.
2. If the stain persists, head to the pharmacy for a bottle of plain glycerin. Made from animal fat and vegetable oil, glycerin helps dissolve the oil-based bond because, chemically, like dissolves like.
3. Combine one tablespoon of glycerin and one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent in a small bowl.
4. Dip a cloth into this mixture and dab both sides of the stain. Let this sit for 5 minutes then dab more plain glycerin on the stain.
5. Launder after 10 minutes in the hottest setting permitted by the manufacturer label. Inspect the item before drying and repeat if necessary.
An Ounce of Prevention
Since it’s much easier and more efficient to get fresh ink stains out of clothing, you might want to consider keeping a bottle of colorless hand sanitizer in your purse, desk, or car for just such occasions. It’s alcohol-based so you can treat ink stains with a dab of hand sanitizer and tissue the instant they happen.