How to Remove Pen Ink from Clothes

remove pen ink

Whether you forgot to remove the pen from your pocket, had a mishap at the office, or your little one decided to draw you a picture—on your shirt!—ink stains are never a welcome sight. And removing ink stains from clothing can be a challenge, especially depending on the type of ink you are dealing with. So, Here are the various methods to remove pen ink from clothes.

Type of Ink

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. On the other hand, a permanent ink stain, including those from most permanent highlighters and markers, can be an absolute nightmare to remove. Ballpoint ink falls somewhere in the middle since it can be tricky to remove but responds well to most treatment methods.

Each type of ink reacts to different types of cleaning methods, which mainly focus on products you have in your home. From the traditional water and laundry detergent combination to unexpected items such as milk or salt, there are plenty of options to try when you discover that dreaded ink stain. The first step is to determine the type of ink and then match the solution that will best treat it. And one important tip for success is to not wash and dry the clothing beforehand—the dryer will set in the stain and make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

Remove Pen Ink

As we discussed earlier, all inks are not the same. There are various type of inks such as oil-based ink, water-based ink, highly-pigmented ink.

Let’s start with one of the most tedious stains to remove pen ink.

Oil-Based Stain

  • Find a fabric-friendly solvent. What’s the key ingredient to removing stubborn oil-based pen stains? Ethanol. This can be found in many household products, such as rubbing alcohol, aerosol hairspray, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Place the garment over an absorbent surface. Putting a soft surface, similar to a towel, under the stain will prevent the ink from spreading around the garment as you scrub it. Make sure that only one layer of the garment’s fabric lays against the absorbent material. This will prevent the ink from seeping into the opposite layer of the garment.
  • Apply the solvent. If rubbing alcohol is your weapon of choice, soak a cotton ball in it and dab it on the stain. If you went with hand sanitizer, squirt a decent amount onto the stain and gently rub it into the fabric. Lastly, if hairspray is the lucky winner, spray it onto the stain until the material is saturated.
  • Let it sit. Depending on the age of the ink, the solvent may need time to break down the ink’s oils. Let the solution sit for 3-5 minutes, while continuously applying it to the stain to keep it damp.
  • Blot the stain. Blotting the stain with a clean, dry cloth presses the ink out of the garment and into the absorptive surface. Blot the stain until the solvent removes the stain.
  • Repeat, if needed. Those oil-based pen stains are determined little suckers, so if the stain wasn’t completely removed, move the garment to a clean part of the adsorbent surface and repeat steps 3-5 until the stain is 90-100% removed.
  • Apply detergent. To get the last remaining remnants of the pen stain, rub a small amount of detergent into the fabric and let it soak. Finally, rinse the material with warm water.

Water-Based Stains

  • Soak the garment. As strange as it sounds, whole milk and vinegar act as a magic eraser for water-based pen stains. Just fill a large bowl with two parts whole milk and one part vinegar and toss in the garment.
  • Hang it to dry. Once the garment has soaked in the milk and vinegar mixture overnight, hang it up and let it air dry.
  • Wash it. Can’t have your favorite shirt smelling like milk and vinegar, right? After the garment has dried, put it in the washer to get rid of the smell and to remove any remains of the pen stain.

Highly-Pigmented Ink

  • Hand wash the stain. Start by pulling out the big guns; reach for the soap or detergent. After placing the garment over an absorbent surface, add a small amount of soap or detergent to the stain. Rinse with warm water, then blot the ink with a napkin or paper towel.
  • Treat the stain with ammonia. Dissolve one teaspoon of household ammonia in warm water. Next, soak the garment in the mixture for one hour. Rinse thoroughly while scrubbing the stain with a soft brush. Repeat this step until the stain is nearly gone.
  • Treat it with an alcohol and vinegar solution. If the ink stain still refuses to come out, mix one cup of vinegar with a cup of rubbing alcohol. Then place the garment over an absorbent material and apply the solution to the pen stain until the fabric is saturated.
  • Allow the solution to soak. Allow the solution to the area for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pour table salt over the ink. Allow the salt to sit for 10 minutes. Then scrub with a soft brush and rinse with warm water. Repeat this process until the stain is gone.

From ink-stained to spot-free, you can successfully remove those blotches from your clothes quickly and successfully. While I may never trust my niece with a pen again, I’ll be prepared for the day she gets her tiny hands on one in the future.


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