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Removing ink stains from clothing

Removing ink stains from clothing

Have you got ink on your favourite garment and want to know how to remove it? In this article we tell you how removing ink stains from clothing

Whether you’ve forgotten to take your pen out of your jeans pocket, you’ve had a mishap at the office or your child has decided to draw a picture on your shirt, ink stains are never welcome.

Luckily, it is possible to remove ink stains from clothing with common household products.

Never wash and dry clothes before removing the stain: the tumble dryer will set the stain and make it much harder to remove.

What do you need to consider before removing an ink stain from your clothes?

The first step in removing ink stains from clothing is to determine the type of ink that has caused the stain. Water-based ink stains, such as those from washable markers, are some of the easiest to remove.

Permanent ink stains (including those from most permanent markers) can be more of a challenge, but ballpoint ink responds well to most methods.

Fresh ink stains are easier to remove than dried ones.

If you are lucky enough to find an ink stain before it dries, cover the stain with salt, gently wipe it with a damp paper towel and then brush off the salt.

Repeat until the stain is gone.

Before you apply any of these methods to remove ink stains from your clothing

  • Remember that if the stain is set it may not disappear completely and some trace may remain. The best thing to do is to treat an ink stain as soon as it occurs or comes close.
  • Use chemicals such as bleach and cosmetics with caution; be sure to wash your hands after use. Don’t get it in your eyes or mouth
  • Do not experiment with stain solutions on the surface of the garment. Choose an inconspicuous place on the garment, such as the bottom hem, front, etc., to test the solutions.
  • When applying any of the solutions mentioned in this article, make sure you have a cotton cloth under the stain so that the stain does not seep through to the back of the garment.
  • Water-based ink stains can be removed with a normal wash in hot water. Drying the area with a cotton cloth shortly after the stain occurs will remove the worst of the water-based inks. It’s the ballpoint inks that bother with stubborn stains and give all the trouble.
  • Very delicate fabrics, such as silk, are best taken to the dry cleaners to be taken care of.

Removing water-based inks from clothing

Removing ink stains from clothes if they are water-based may be a little easier.

Place the stained clothing on a clean, dry towel or cloth.

Apply water to the stained area and blot with another clean cloth.

As it dries, the stain will begin to transfer to the cloth or towel you use.

Apply a small amount of liquid laundry detergent to the ink stain and allow it to sit on the garment for three to five minutes.

Wash normally, using the hottest water recommended for your garment’s fabric type.

Before drying, check that all the stain has been removed. If any traces remain, repeat the above process.

Remove permanent ink stains from a garment

Rubbing alcohol is usually effective for permanent ink stains.

The liquid may not remove the stain completely (it’s called “permanent ink” for a reason), but it will at least help fade the mark.

If the fabric can be bleached, you may have a better chance of removing the stain completely.

Removing ink stains on clothing if it is permanent ink is more difficult.

Take a clean white towel and place the stained garment on top of it. Try rubbing alcohol on a hidden seam in the fabric.

If the garment does not appear to be damaged or discoloured, move on to the next step.

Use a paper towel or clean cloth to blot the stain with alcohol. This will dilute the stain and make it easier to remove in the wash.

The towel underneath may become wet and discoloured from the ink seeping through; if this happens, move the garment to a clean, dry section of the towel to prevent the area from reabsorbing the removed ink.

Continue this process until there is no more ink to remove. Rinse the stained area until it is completely free of alcohol; several rinses may be necessary.

If you are trying to remove ballpoint ink, after using alcohol, apply a normal liquid detergent to the area and let it sit for three to five minutes.

If the stain disappears, wash the garment in a normal cycle using the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.

If the stain remains, mix an oxygen-based bleach solution and cold water.

Follow the instructions on the bottle for the amount of product to use per litre of water.

Soak the garment completely and leave it to soak for at least eight hours.

If the stain persists, mix a new solution and repeat the operation. Remember to check that the stain has been completely removed before drying the garment.

Other treatments for removing stubborn ink stains from clothing

Fingernail polish remover

Although it may work on permanent ink stains, nail polish remover can damage fabrics.

Test on an inside seam or hidden area of clothing first.

If all goes well, dry in the same way as with methylated spirits.

Make sure to transfer the stained area to a clean, dry section of a towel while the ink is being removed.

When finished, thoroughly rinse the nail polish remover from the fabric and wash the garment as recommended on the care label.


Most lacquers contain alcohol, which helps to dissolve the ink and remove the stain. Try to find a hairspray with a high alcohol content, often the less expensive brands are the best.

Place a clean towel under the fabric where the stain is, spray the stain thoroughly with hairspray and blot with another clean towel until the stain is gone.

Wash the garment once the ink stain has disappeared.


Fill a shallow bowl or other container with enough milk to cover the ink stain when the fabric is submerged and soak overnight.

Remove the next day and wash the garment.

Vinegar and Cornflour to removing ink stains from clothing

First, soak the ink stain in the vinegar. Next, create a paste of two parts vinegar to three parts cornflour and apply it to the fabric.

Let the paste dry completely before washing the garment.

As you can see, there are a number of homemade solutions to get rid of ink stains on your clothes.

Always remember to take into account the characteristics of the fabric you want to remove the ink stain from.

Whenever possible, we recommend that you take your clothes to a professional dry cleaner, as they have much better means of dealing with the different types of stains and you won’t run the risk of ruining your favourite garments.


Richard H.

With a lifelong dedication to the printing industry, I have collaborated with various print houses, honing my expertise in pre-print design, material selection, and technical intricacies. As a seasoned professional, I bring to "The Color Blog" deep insights into materials and the world of printing, aiming to shed light on the craftsmanship and nuances behind each printed masterpiece.View Author posts

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