How to Remove Different Types of Ink Stains from Clothes

Published
March 8, 2020

Despite the advent of technology and the rise of instant messaging and digital note-taking, ink is still everywhere. Ink pens are still essential for daily life, as we need a pen for various everyday tasks, from writing down grocery lists to signing documents at work. The downside? Unlike the note-taking app on your phone, an ink pen sometimes bleeds into your shirt, causing a nasty pen stain. 

If you spot an ink stain on your clothes, then don't fret about it being permanent. With the right tools and information, it'll be pretty easy to remove ink from most surfaces. Here's our comprehensive guide on how to remove ink stains:

Why does ink stain in the first place?

Since technically, ink is supposed to be permanent on paper, ink is composed of ingredients that make it a bit tougher to remove than other colored liquids. Usually in a liquid or a paste form, ink is chock-full of dyes and pigments, making it especially awful when you find an ink stain on your favorite shirt. 

Before we delve into how to remove ink stains, first know that there are different types of ink, namely:

  • Water-based ink
  • Permanent ink
  • Ballpoint ink

Each of these types of stain require different approaches for removal, so consider the type of ink stain before proceeding with the removal method.

Removing Water-Based Ink Stains

Water-based ink stains are the easiest type of stain to remove from your clothing, especially since most t-shirt prints are made from water-based ink! If you're trying to remove a water-based ink stain from your clothing, then you'll first need to place a paper towel or a dishrag underneath the stain to prevent it from soaking through the fibers. 

Then, start blotting the stained area with a clean cloth. You want to make sure to blot or dab and not rub, as the goal of blotting is to remove the ink and transfer it to the cloth you're using—NOT to rub the ink into your clothing further. 

After blotting the stain, you can use a cotton ball doused in rubbing alcohol to get the stain out. Place the cotton ball onto the spill and press firmly. What this does is dilute the stain to make it easier to remove it once it's in the wash. Take note though that the dishrag underneath might get stained from the ink leaching out of the fabric, so don't use a cloth you're particularly fond of. Once the stain has been mostly absorbed by the cotton ball, rinse the fabric in warm water.

If a faint stain still remains, then you'll want to add a bit of liquid laundry detergent to the ink stain and leave it there to sit for around five minutes. Rinse the fabric out in hot water—the hottest water that you can use on the fabric type of your clothing item. If any trace of the stain persists, repeat the process. Remember to check if the stain is completely gone before you dry out your clothes in the dryer, otherwise the heat from the machine will make the stain set in completely.

Removing Ballpoint Ink Stains

Stains from a ballpoint pen are a bit more difficult to remove than water-based ink stains as ballpoint ink is thicker. However, it's still quite easy to remove as ballpoint ink is slow-drying, so you have more time to remove the pen ink.

When it comes to ballpoint ink removal, you'll want to repeat the process done for water-based ink stains. Place a paper towel or an old dish rag on the underside of the cloth and soak the stained area with rubbing alcohol. If that doesn't work, you can also apply liquid laundry detergent and then rinse out the fabric in hot water. 

If nothing else works, keep on reading for our list of household solvents you can use to remove ballpoint pen ink!

Removing Permanent Ink Stains

Removing permanent ink is probably the hardest ink to tackle, but if you act quickly, your clothing will still be salvageable. If the stain has been sitting there a while, then unfortunately, even with a thorough cleaning you may still have a faint stain or some residue behind. Your success rate will largely depend on how quickly you act and how large the stain is. 

If the stain is fresh, then you can utilize the alcohol method first. If that doesn't work, skip the detergent and use nail polish remover instead. Nail polish remover is great for breaking down oil-based liquids, and as such is much more abrasive than regular rubbing alcohol. 

If even the nail polish remover doesn't work, you'll need to break out the big gun: oxygen-based bleach. This isn't recommended if your clothing item is any color other than white, so remember not to apply this method on any of your colored clothing. Simply mix a solution of cool water and bleach—follow package instructions on the ratio of bleach per gallon of water. Then, submerge your garment in the solution overnight. If the stain persists, then repeat the process until the stain is completely gone. 

How To Remove Ink Stain from Shirt Using Household Items

1. Rubbing Alcohol

This is a staple for removing pretty much any type of ink stain. Alcohol dilutes the stain and makes it easier to remove it in the wash, and in most cases can remove a fresh stain completely from the fabric. Not to mention, alcohol is readily available—most people carry alcohol in their pockets! It dries quickly as well, so if your pen bleeds into your crisp white button-down during work hours, you can use alcohol to get rid of it in a jiffy. 

2. Hand Sanitizer 

Hand sanitizer is a great alternative to rubbing alcohol, and probably something that you're more likely to have in your bag. As there's less alcohol content in hand sanitizer, it may not be as potent as rubbing alcohol, but dousing a fresh ink stain in hand sanitizer should do just as well for stain removal on-the-go.

3. Body Spray

If you don't have hand sanitizer in your bag either, body spray should do the trick on a fresh stain as well. You'll probably need to spray a generous amount and put some elbow grease into your blotting, but the alcohol content in a commercial body spray should work on the stain. Plus, not only will it dilute and get rid of the stain, it'll make you smell fresher too! 

4. Nail Polish Remover

While nail polish remover is perfect for permanent ink stain removal, it can damage more delicate fabrics, so use it sparingly. Before dousing a fabric in acetone, place a few drops on a small part to test for damage. If the fabric and the fabric color remains intact, then proceed with stain removal by blotting the ink stain with a cotton ball soaked in acetone. 

5. Hairspray

Hairspray, especially the inexpensive brands that you can find in the supermarket, have high alcohol content. This makes it a great option for ink stain removal. If you're in immediate need of an ink stain remover, you can run to the nearest grocery or department store to purchase a can of hairspray to get the stain out quickly.

6. Milk

One of the best household ink stain removers you can find! Surprisingly, milk is extremely good for removing ink stains, due to their high fat content. Pen inks are soluble in liquids with a high fat content, so soaking a stained fabric in milk for half an hour will remove ink stains completely.

8. Toothpaste

Toothpaste is technically a stain remover—just for your teeth. So it's no surprise that toothpaste is also great at removing  ink stains on your clothes. Just smear the toothpaste onto the stain and leave it there for half an hour before rinsing off. Remember to use regular, white toothpaste for stain removal and not the gel type! 

Housekeeping Made Simple

Finding ink stain removal time consuming? If you're constantly finding ink stains or other types of stains on your clothing or on your upholstery, then perhaps it's time to hire a professional cleaner to remove them for you. If that's the case, then give us a call at HomeFresh! We have a team of highly-trained professional cleaners that will get ink and other types of dirt and stains  out of your personal items. Book us today!

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