Found an ink stain on your clothing? Don’t worry, you can get it out. Follow these steps to remove ink stains from fabric, even old stains that have gone through the dryer.
The best method to get ink stains out of clothes depends on the type of ink you’re dealing with. Some inks are water-based. It’s easy to get those stains out. Others are oil-based and may take a bit more effort.
So, start by identifying the type that caused the stain. Then follow the steps below to get the stain out of your clothes.
What Kind of Ink Stained Your Clothes?
If you aren’t sure what type of ink your pen uses, find it on the list below.
- Rollerball pens
- Gel pens
- Fountain pens
- Drawing (dip) pens
- Kids’ washable markers
- Ballpoint pens
- Permanent markers (Sharpies)
- Dry-erase markers
- Highlighter pens
- Felt-tip pens
If you still have the pen that caused the problem, it’s easy to figure out what type of ink you’re dealing with. But what if it’s an old stain, maybe one that’s been through the dryer a few times? If it’s lasted through the wash, it’s probably an oil-based ink stain.
How to Get Ink Stains out of Clothes
- Paper towels
- Plastic cling film
- Shallow bowl (for large stains)
- Liquid laundry detergent
- Color-safe bleach – (Oxyclean is one)
- White vinegar – for water-based stains
- Rubbing alcohol – for oil-based stains
- To remove fresh water-based ink stains: use a clean paper towel to blot the ink. Dab but don't rub – you don't want to spread the ink. Rotate the towel as needed, so you're always dabbing the stain with a clean spot.Then, hold the fabric under cold running water with the ink facing down. Doing it this way lets the water pull away more of the stain as it falls into your sink. Finally, launder the clothing or wash it by hand. Use the hottest water permitted on the item's care label. After washing, let it air dry then check to make sure the stain is completely gone.
- To remove older water-based ink stains from clothes, you may need an overnight soak. For larger spots, position the item so the stained area rests in a shallow bowl. For smaller stains, spread a sheet of plastic cling film on your counter and top it with a stack of paper towels. Place your clothing stain-side up on the paper towels.First, dab a small amount of liquid laundry detergent on both sides of the stain with a paper towel. Let that sit for 5 to 10 minutes.Then, combine 2 tablespoons each warm water and white vinegar. Saturate a folded paper towel with this mixture and place it on the stain. Spread a sheet of plastic cling film over this to prevent evaporation, and let it soak overnight. (For larger stains, mix equal parts water and vinegar and pour it over the item in the bowl.)Finally, rinse the item under running water. Use the hottest temperature permitted on the item's care label. Check to make sure the stain is completely gone, then immediately launder the entire item.
- To remove fresh oil-based ink stains, fold a paper towel several times and use it to blot the stain. Dab, but don't rub — you don't want to spread the ink. Refold the towel as needed, so you're always working with a clean spot. Then follow the steps below to remove the remaining ink from your clothes.
- To get older oil-based ink stains out, lay a piece of cling film on your counter and top it with a stack of paper towels. Place the item inky-side up on the paper towels. (For larger stains, skip the paper towels and put a shallow bowl on top of the cling wrap. Then, position the item so the stain is in the bottom of the bowl.)First, fold a paper towel several times and get it damp with rubbing alcohol. Use this to dab the stain. Refold the towel as needed, so you're always dabbing with a clean spot. The ink may bleed through the back of the thing you're cleaning. To keep the stain from spreading, reposition the item onto a clean spot every few minutes. Continue until the ink is gone. (For larger stains, pour the rubbing alcohol over the stain in the bowl and let it soak 15 minutes.)Then, once you've got the ink stain out of your clothing, dab a small amount of liquid laundry detergent on the spot. Let this sit 5 to 10 minutes and then rinse the fabric under running water. Use the hottest temperature permitted by the item's care label.Finally, let the item air dry and check to make sure the ink stain is completely gone. If so, immediately launder it. If there's any ink remaining, repeat the steps above or use one of the alternative methods covered in the article below.
Other Ways to Get Ink out of Clothing
If you don’t have the equipment or supplies needed to use the methods above to remove ink stains, don’t give up hope. Here are a few alternative laundry hacks to get ink out of clothes. Remember, no matter the method you use, launder the item once you can’t see the stain. Then check again before you put it in the dryer, to make sure the stain hasn’t reappeared.
Out of rubbing alcohol? You can use hand sanitizer to get rid of oil-based ink stains on fabrics. Be sure the one you’re using is free of dyes, fragrance, and moisturizers — all can cause new stains on your clothes. Then follow the steps above to get the ink stain out. (Related: Surprising Uses for Hand Sanitizer.)
Grandma’s secret to getting ink out of clothes: an overnight milk soak. This method works best with water-based inks. It’s as easy as filling a shallow bowl with enough milk to cover the fabric’s stained part. Some people add an equal part of white vinegar to the milk or use buttermilk if you have any in the fridge.
Nail Polish Remover
You can often get permanent marker stains out of clothes with nail polish remover. This method can also damage clothing too. So, be sure to do a spot test with a small amount of nail polish remover on a cotton swab in a hidden spot. (The inside of the bottom seam is one such place.) If the item is color-fast, use nail polish remover instead of rubbing alcohol in the method above.
Chemically, glycerin is a type of alcohol which makes it an excellent stain remover. To get out ink stains with it, mix a tablespoon each of glycerin and powdered oxygenated bleach. Stir in a few drops of liquid dish detergent, and dab this onto both sides of the ink stain. Wait for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse the item using the hottest temperature permitted by the care label. Air dry and check to make sure stain is gone, then launder as usual.
Why Not Just Use Hairspray?
It used to be that a generous spritz of hairspray could remove ink stains from clothing. That’s because older hairspray formulas contained a lot of alcohol. These days, we know that dries out hair, so modern formulas use a much lower amount. So, if you tried hairspray and it didn’t work, use one of the methods above to get ink stains out of your clothing. They work!
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