How to Remove Ink From Clothes

woman dampening a shirt in a laundry room sink as part of how to remove ink from clothes

How to Remove Ink From Clothes

When an ink-based accident occurs, it seems like Murphy’s Law is always there to ensure your favorite clothes are involved.  Whether your ink pen at work is the culprit or your toddler found the one permanent marker that exists in your home, there is a laundry hack out there to remove those nasty stains and salvage your clothing. Knowing how to remove ink from clothing can help you act quickly. This guide explains how to remove ink from clothes in a variety of different circumstances.

Supplies You Need to Remove Ink From Clothes

No matter what type of ink or fabric you’re dealing with, you need some basic supplies to tackle the job. You may also require some advanced supplies for tougher jobs, depending on the ink and the stained fabric. Keep these tools in your laundry room for quick stain removal.

Basic Supplies

  • Clean cloths or towels (white is best)
  • A bowl or basin of clean water
  • Liquid laundry detergent

Supplies for Tough Jobs

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Color-safe bleach products
  • Dry cleaning solvent
  • Ammonia
  • Dish soap

Alternatives for Last Resort Stain Removal

  • Hair spray
  • Nail polish remover
  • Milk
  • Vinegar and cornstarch
PRO TIP

If you’re hesitant about any particular method of how to remove ink from clothes, then it’s always best to test cleaners on the inside seam of a garment first.

Types of Ink

All types of ink aren’t created equal. Whether you need to know how to remove pen ink from clothes or a much more challenging marker stain, it all starts by identifying the stain. These are the most common types of ink you’re likely to come into contact with:

  • Oil-based Ink: This is the type of ink found in ballpoint pens. It dries quickly and is difficult to remove from fabrics.
  • Water-based Ink: Sometimes found in a variety of colors, water-based ink is found in washable markers, gel pens, fountain pens, and rollerball pens.
  • Alcohol-based Ink: The most difficult to remove from clothes, alcohol-based ink is found in permanent markers. Knowing how to remove ink from clothes quickly is essential alcohol-based inks.
PRO TIP

For best results, always attempt to remove ink stains as soon as possible. Never launder and dry an item before attempting to remove the stain.

How to Remove Ink From Clothes

Ink stain removal depends heavily on the type of ink and fabric involved. It also depends on how quickly you noticed the stain. Removing wet ink will be substantially easier than waiting until the stain is dried and set. To remove wet ink from clothing, cover the stain with salt, and then dab it with a clean wet paper towel and brush the salt away. Repeat this method until the stain disappears.

Unfortunately, most types of ink dry quickly. Try these steps to remove dried ink from clothes.

1. Determine the ink type.

Understanding the type of ink that created the stain will help you determine how to remove ink from clothes (see ink types above). Water-based inks might be removed with only water and a liquid detergent. Other types will probably require tougher treatment.

2. Create a cleaning environment.

Always lay your garment on a clean, dry towel to prevent ink transfer to the surface underneath. For most garments, this means the towel should be placed inside the garment to prevent the ink from bleeding to the other side of the clothing. For best results, use a clean table or surface to hold all of your supplies and allow the garment to lay flat for easier cleaning.

someone blotting ink from stained fabric with a clean cloth

 3. Blot the ink stain.

First, use a clean, dry cloth to blot any excess liquid from the area. Gently blot the stain. Remember not to scrub since this will just spread the stain and make it larger. As you work, the ink will be transferred to your cleaning cloth. For water-based inks, dampen the cloth to continue cleaning. Move to a clean portion of the cloth or get a clean cloth when necessary. Keep working this way until ink stops transferring to your cloth.

4. Add detergent or other solutions.

This step depends on the ink stain you want to remove. 

For water-based inks:

  • Apply a small amount of liquid detergent to the remainder of the stain.
  • Allow the garment to sit for 5 minutes. 
  • Blot the fabric again. You should be able to remove more ink after the detergent has helped break down the stain.

For oil- or alcohol-based inks:

  • Saturate the stain with alcohol or hand sanitizer. 
  • Blot the ink with another clean towel until the stain fades as much as possible. 
  • Dry any remaining alcohol from the fabric.
  • Apply liquid detergent to the spot and let sit for 5 minutes.

5. Launder as usual.

Use the hottest water suggested for cleaning and launder the item as usual. However, wash the garment alone to avoid color transfer. Check to see if any trace of the stain remains before drying. However, it might be necessary to let the garment air dry for better visual detection of any remaining stains. If you need to know how to remove ink from fabric items besides clothing, like cushions or curtains, then follow these steps but allow the item to air dry.

6. Repeat.

If the stain remains after washing, then it’s time to start over. Repeat the cleaning steps above.

PRO TIP

If items are dry clean only, then point out the stain and identify the ink type for your professional dry cleaner. They will know how to remove ink from clothes with special requirements, or they can recommend alterations that may help.

How to Remove Ink From Clothes: Difficult Stains

Removing stains from water-soluble markers designed for small children might not be a big deal. Unfortunately, those aren’t the ink stains most people usually face. There are a variety of circumstances that make ink removal considerably more difficult, if not impossible. But if you’re willing to be innovative and put in a little extra time, your favorite piece of clothing still stands a chance.

How to Remove Ink From Clothes That Have Been Dried

Can you remove ink from clothes after they’ve been in the dryer? Most likely. While it’s a more difficult task, you might be able to remove or at least significantly fade dried ink stains on your clothing, even after they’ve been run through the laundry.

Dried ink does pose a much larger challenge because the heat from your dryer sets the ink into the fibers of the fabric. This makes the stain much more difficult to remove. Still, if you didn’t notice an ink stain until after taking your favorite shirt out of the dryer, you do have options. Start by saturating the stain with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Allow it to soak in a few minutes before washing the item in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

If the stain remains, mix one and a half teaspoons of color-safe bleach with a gallon of water. Find an invisible area of your garment and test the solution to avoid damage to your clothing. Allow the garment to soak for 30 minutes to an hour before laundering.  

Can You Remove Permanent Marker From Fabrics?

Permanent marker is called permanent for a reason. Still, it can sometimes be removed from clothing.

Saturate the stain with alcohol and blot with a clean cloth until the ink no longer transfers onto the cloth. Sponge the area with a dry cleaning solvent. If the solvent removes the stain, pretreat the garment and launder as usual. If the stain won’t budge, mix a half teaspoon of dish soap, a tablespoon of ammonia, and a quart of water. Soak the stain in the solution for 30 minutes. When the stain fades, rinse the garment and launder as usual.

Can You Remove Ink From Leather?

Leather poses different challenges than most fabrics. However, it might be possible to remove ink without resulting in damage. 

What’s the best tool for cleaning ink stains from leather clothing? Try a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Saturate the cotton ball and find an inconspicuous spot on the item to ensure you won’t damage the leather. Place the cotton ball on the stain and gently rub in a circular motion. The stain will gradually disappear. Finish by drying the area completely and applying a leather conditioner.

Additional Solutions for Removing Ink From Clothes

If you’re tackling a tough stain or you don’t have certain chemicals on hand, then it’s essential to know how to remove ink from clothes with these alternatives:

  • Soaking ink-stained fabrics in milk from an hour to overnight can help remove stains.
  • Substitute hairspray for alcohol in a pinch.
  • Nail polish remover can remove some permanent ink stains. It can also damage certain fabrics, so it’s crucial to test the solution first.
  • Soaking fabric in vinegar and then blotting it with cornstarch can help lift stains.
  • If the stain proves impossible to remove altogether, then consider dyeing the garment a darker color or getting rid of it.

Removing ink stains from your clothing might take a little more effort than most laundry mishaps. Still, if you’re facing the idea of losing one of your favorite articles of clothing, then taking the time for cleaning is definitely worth the extra effort. Following each step of how to remove ink from clothes can restore them to their previous condition without even a shadow of the ink stain.

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