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How to Get Ink Stains out of Clothes

It’s inevitable that, if you use pens, ink is going to end up on your clothing somewhere. If you get ink stains on your clothes, it’s not the end of the world. That favourite shirt or top probably can still be salvaged.

The key is to treat the stain immediately before you wash it. Do not throw a stained item of any sort straight into the laundry. Once it’s been through the wash and the dryer, the stain is set into the fabric and is much more difficult to remove.

When you get ink on your clothing, remove the item and lay it out flat so you can work on the stain. This is important: Before you do anything else, put absorbent paper towels or an old cloth or towel underneath the stained area to act as a blotter while you work.

Then you will need something with which to treat the stain. There are several options.

  • WATER: Many rollerball and fountain pens use water-based ink, so you might first try spraying the affected area with water. This will help to dilute and lift the ink.
  • HAIRSPRAY: This is the No. 1 recommended solution for removing ink from clothing. Spray it directly on the stain and allow it to soak for several minutes. The alcohol in the hairspray will dissolve the ink.
  • SURGICAL SPIRIT/RUBBING ALCOHOL: Same as hairspray, only more concentrated.
  • OXICLEAN: Spray this on the stain and let it work. The hydrogen peroxide-based solution lifts the ink out of the fibers and makes it easier to blot away. Or, make your own by combining a quart of peroxide and two tablespoons of baking soda and shaking until the powder dissolves.
  • LIQUID DISH DETERGENT: Spread it gently over the surface of the stain and allow it to work for several minutes. The detergent is a surfactant that will get between the ink and the fiber and make the ink easier to pull up when you blot or wash.
  • COCA-COLA: The carbonic acid in Coke can help dissolve the ink, so that it is easier to wash out. Of course, regular carbonated water will also work.

Once you’ve treated the stain, you need to dab at it with a damp cloth or paper towel, working from the outside edges in toward the middle. Do not rub! This only spreads the stain and helps to work it deeper into the fibers.

Blot away as much of the stain as possible. Then put the garment into the washing machine with regular laundry detergent. Wash with warm water.

After it’s been through the wash, check the stain before you put the item into the dryer. If it’s still there, give it another round of treatment and then wash again.

Don’t dry the garment until the stain has been completely removed.

4 thoughts on “How to Get Ink Stains out of Clothes”

  • Scott Sampson

    Nice, useful info that.

    Thanks very much :)

    • TonyB

      Thanks. If there's anything pen- or pencil-related you are curious about, let us know, and we'll see what we can do to find the answer.

  • Nancy Berland
    Nancy Berland May 31, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    How about removing Pentel EnerGel Liquid Gel Ink. Husbands pen saturated spot on lavender-checked shirt, so we're not talking white fabric here. And just told me about it--happened four days ago.

  • Robert Adams

    Nancy, did you have any luck removing the Pentel gel ink? My shirt pocket has a big blue problem.
    Thank you,
    Robert Adams

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