How to Remove Ink From Clothes

Fountain pen with ink stain
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Not all ink stains are created equally. If you have a water-based ink stain, count yourself lucky. These are some of the easiest ink stains to remove, and include inks like washable markers. Permanent ink stains,  including most permanent highlighters and markers, can be an absolute nightmare to remove. Ballpoint ink falls in the middle since it can be tricky to remove, but it responds well to most treatment methods.

Water-Based Ink Stains

Lay the stained clothing on top of a clean, dry towel or cloth. Apply water to the stained area and blot with another clean cloth. While you blot, the stain will begin to transfer onto the cleaning cloth. Apply a small amount of liquid laundry detergent onto the ink stain and allow the fabric to sit for 3-5 minutes. Dish soap is not a great substitute in this case.

Wash normally, using the hottest water recommend for the fabric type. Before drying, check to make sure the entire stain was removed. If any trace of the stained area remains, repeat the steps above. If the stained area dries before the whole stain is removed, it will make it nearly impossible to clean later.

Permanent Ink Stains

Permanent ink is a very difficult stain to remove. If the fabric can be bleached, there might be a chance at removing the ink. Other than that, the following tips may help to at least fade the stain.

Try rubbing alcohol. Grab a clean white towel and put the stained item on top. Test any solution on a hidden seam of the fabric. After testing, blot the stained are with rubbing alcohol. The towel underneath may become wet and discolored from the ink leaching out. Try moving the garment to a clean, dry section of the towel to prevent the area from picking any of the removed ink back up.

Continue until no there's no more to remove. Rinse the stained area completely free of the rubbing alcohol; multiple rinses may be necessary.

Use nail polish remover. This stuff is heavy duty, and there is a chance that it will damage the fabric. Test it on an inner seam or a hidden area of the clothing and blot in the same way as you did with the rubbing alcohol. Be sure to move the stained area to a clean, dry section of a towel as the ink stain is removed. When finished, rinse the rubbing alcohol completely from the fabric.

As a last resort, you can try acetone, although this can destroy a lot of fabrics. Do not use acetone on acetate and rayon fabrics and always test first on a hidden seam. Place the stained fabric on a clean, dry cloth, blot with acetone and rinse when finished.

Ballpoint Ink Stains

Ballpoint stains are moderately difficult to remove. Just like in the examples above, start by laying your stained fabric on top of a clean, dry cloth. Dab rubbing alcohol onto the ink stain and begin blotting with a clean cloth. Continue until no ink stain remains and then rinse the clothing thoroughly. Apply regular liquid laundry detergent onto the area and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Wash in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.

If rubbing alcohol doesn't work, try nail polish remover, following the same instructions above. Be sure to rinse the fabric completely between using rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover. These items shouldn't be mixed.

Before drying, make sure the stain is completely gone. If not, repeat the previous steps until the stain is removed or you've decided to call it quits.