Use these methods to get ink stains out of clothing and fabrics, even if the stain is old or has been 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.
Identify the Type of Ink
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.
Steps to Get Ink Stains out of Your Clothes
Time Required: About 25 minutes
Use the information above to identify the type of ink and then follow the appropriate method to get rid of the stain. Keep in mind that the older an ink stain is, the longer you may need to let the stain-remover work.
Equipment You Need
- Paper towels
- Plastic cling film
- Shallow bowl (for large stains)
Materials You Need
- Liquid laundry detergent
- Color-safe bleach – (Oxyclean is one)
- White vinegar – for water-based stains
- Rubbing alcohol – for oil-based stains
Removing Fresh Water-Based Ink Stains
Use a clean paper towel to blot the ink. Be sure to dab, not rub–you don’t want to spread the ink–and rotate the towel if you need to, so you’re always blotting with a clean spot. Once you’ve got most of the ink up, turn the fabric over and hold it under cold running water with the ink facing down to flush out more of the ink.
Next, launder the clothing using the hottest water permitted on the care label. Let it air dry after laundering and check to make sure the stain is completely gone. (Sometimes, ink stains reappear as the fabric dries, and the dryer’s heat could make it harder to remove.) If it is, then you’re safe to wash and dry it as usual in the future. If not, repeat these steps.
Removing Old Water-Based Ink Stains
Spread a sheet of plastic cling film on your counter to protect it, and top it with a stack of paper towels. Place your clothing stain-side up on the paper towels and dab it with a little liquid laundry detergent on both sides. Let this pre-treatment sit for 5 to 10 minutes, but don’t wait so long that it dries.
Next, combine 2 tablespoons of warm water and 2 of white vinegar. Saturate a folded paper towel with this mixture and place it on the stain. Spread a sheet of plastic cling film over the stain to prevent evaporation. If it’s a larger stain, fill a bowl with equal parts warm water and white vinegar, then dunk the stained part of the garment in the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Either way, let it sit overnight, then rinse it under running water and launder using the hottest temperature on the care label.
Removing Oil-Based Ink Stains
Put a piece of cling film on your counter and top it with a stack of paper towels, then the ink-stained item, with the stain facing up. Use a folded paper towel dampened with rubbing alcohol to dab the stain–but don’t rub it, or you’ll spread the mess. Refold the towel as needed, so you’re always working with a clean spot.
Next, pour a little liquid laundry detergent on the spot and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then launder the item in the hottest water permitted by the care label. Let it air dry and check to make sure the stain is completely gone. If there’s any ink remaining, repeat the steps above or try one of the ink-removal methods 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.
Wet Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets contain oily surfactants to help them stop static cling. Those oily substances can also help dissolve oil-based ink stains. So, if you have any dryer sheets on hand, try getting one wet with warm water, then use it to blot the ink stain. Be sure you don’t rub, so you aren’t spreading the stain, and switch to a new dryer sheet as needed until the stain is gone. (Here are more uses for used dryer sheets, too.)
Out of rubbing alcohol? One of the many uses for hand sanitizer includes getting oil-based ink stains out of fabrics. Be sure the one you’re using is free of dyes, fragrances, and moisturizers because they can cause new stains on your clothes.
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 and that 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 these methods to get ink stains out of your clothing instead.