How To Remove Ink From Clothes

Find out how to remove ink from clothes based on the type of ink that caused the stain.

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Whether it’s an office mishap or a marker-wielding rogue toddler, getting ink on your clothes is annoying. But the good news is an ink accident doesn’t mean your favorite shirt is ruined. With the proper stain treatment your garment will be as good as new. Ready to find out how to remove ink from clothes once and far all? Read on for a few simple tips and tricks.

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Determine the Type of Ink

Not all pens and markers are made with the same type of ink. And, in order to treat the stain effectively, you’ll need to know what type of ink you’re dealing with. Here are a few every-day pen inks you might come in contact with.

Oil-Based Ink: Ballpoint pens use oil-based ink. Oil-based ink is a little tricky to remove and it’s fast drying, making the job even more challenging.

Water-Based Ink: You’ll find water-based ink in fountain pens, rollerball pens, washable markers and gel pens.

Alcohol-Based Ink: This is the type of ink used in permanent markers and is the most difficult ink to remove from clothes.

How to Get Pen Ink Out of Clothes

Now that you’ve determined what type of ink needs to be removed, you can attack it with the right treatment method.

Oil-Based Ink Stain

The secret to removing oil-based ink stains is a common solvent called ethanol. Wondering how to get your hands on some? You probably already have it in your cabinet: it can be found in rubbing (aka isopropyl) alcohol, aerosol hairspray and hand sanitizer. Any of these products can be used to remove an oil-based ink stain. Here’s how:

  1. Lay your garment on a flat surface and place an old towel under the layer of fabric that contains the ink stain. So if the stain is on the front of you shirt, place the towel inside your shirt between the front and back layers. (This is important so the ink and solvent don’t bleed through to the back.)
  2. Apply the ethanol product of your choice, saturating the stained area. Let the product sit for about five minutes.
  3. Blot the stain with a clean white cloth, pressing down on the towel underneath the garment. Reapply solvent and repeat as needed until the stain is removed ,as much as possible.
  4. Launder as usual. Before washing the garment, you can apply a little detergent directly to the spot for extra stain-fighting power.

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Water-Based Ink Stain

Would you believe you can remove ink with milk? It’s true! Here’s how to treat a water-based ink stain with a bowl of milk:

  1. Fill a bowl with milk and submerge the portion of the garment that is stained. Let it soak for about an hour.
  2. Scrub the stain with an old toothbrush and then rinse with warm water.
  3. Apply detergent directly to remaining stain, let it sit for another hour, and then launder as usual.

Tip! If the stain is still noticeable after washing, don’t dry the garment. This will only set the stain making it impossible to remove. Repeat steps 1 and 2 and then wash the garment again.

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Alcohol-Based Ink Stain

Permanent marker is difficult to remove, but not impossible. Try this the next time you have a Sharpie emergency:

  1. Lay your garment on a flat surface and place an old towel under the layer of garment that contains the ink stain.
  2. Using a clean cloth, blot the stain with rubbing alcohol. Continue blotting until stain is removed. If rubbing alcohol doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, try Amodex Ink & Stain Remover.
  3. Spot treat with laundry detergent and then launder as usual.

Here’s more on how to remove permanent marker from any surface.

How to Remove Ink Stains That Have Been Dried

Uh oh, you didn’t notice the ink stain until after your clothes ran through the dryer? You might still be able to remove the set-in stain. Apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for about five minutes. Wash the garment on the hottest water setting using detergent and 1/2 cup of color-safe bleach, and hope for the best!

Psst! Here are a few things that should NEVER go in the dryer.

Erica Young
Erica Young is a freelance writer and content creator, specializing in home and lifestyle pieces. She loves writing about home decor, organization, relationships, and pop culture. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.