Ink stains almost always find the most prominent place in a garment – they are very accurate that way.
On the front bodice in shirts and blouses (because you let the pen open inside the pocket), on the leg of jeans (because the pen decides to scribble gibberish there), inside the bags (because the pen lost its cap inside the bag) etc.
But that is ok. If the Stains are dealt with immediately and with the right methods, most of them will vanish. Others, I chalk it up as misfortune and wear it anyway.
Some guidelines when using these experiments to remove ink stains from your clothes
- Remember that if the stain is set ( old satins ) it may not go completely ; a trace of it may still remain. So be prepared mentally. The best thing you can do is to tackle an ink stain as soon as it happens or close.
- Use chemicals like bleach and cosmetics with caution; ensure that you wash your hands after use. Do not let it get into your eyes or mouth
- Do not experiment with stain solutions on the garment surface. Choose an inconspicuous place of the garment like the turned underside of the hem, facing, etc to try out the solutions.
- When applying any of the solution mentioned in this article ensure that you have a cotton cloth under the stain so that the stain do not leak to the back of the garment as well.
- Water-based ink stains can be removed with a regular wash in hot water. Blotting the area with a cotton pad soon after the stain is made will remove the worst of the water-based inks. It is the ballpoint pen inks that bother with persistent stains and give you all the trouble.
- Very delicate fabrics like silk are better given to the drycleaner to tackle the stain.
How to remove ink stains from clothes
Other than using bleach, there are many methods recommended by experts all over the books and sites to remove ink stains.
A ballpoint ink is supposed to vanish with exposure to alcohol (nail polish remover and perfume sprays). A fountain pen ink will vanish with a wash with strong detergent. Presoak the clothing, after blotting with a clean cloth, for a minute or two for more power. Marking pen ink responds to alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide (3%). For permanent marker stains, you can try blotting with a dry cloth and then rub some acidic product (rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover) on the stain. Blot again with a dry cloth and then wash as usual. But generally Stamp pad inks and Permanent ink needs luck and nothing else to remove – you can try giving for dry cleaning.
Very delicate fabrics like silk are better given to the drycleaner.
Removing ink stains from leather
Leather needs special care for ink removal. Some leather like aniline leather is super absorbent and needs immediate attention if you want to remove the ink stain. Otherwise just chalk it up as bad luck.
Home remedies are mostly bad on leather though they may remove ink stains. Do not use any of the home remedies suggested below on leather – they will destroy the finishing and distort its looks.
The best way is to use a leather protector over your leather to protect it from stains. Prevention being better than cure and all that.
You can learn about basic leather care here.
I tried many home methods on a number of clothes. Some worked and some flopped. But the clear winner is – let us see.
Nail polish remover
Mix 2 tsp of water with 1 tsp of nail polish remover and rub it on the stain using a cotton swab or cloth.
Use your body spray on the ball point pen marks.
Spray in on old stains and the mark will get soaked – you can then wash it as usual and the stain will be gone – just like that.If the stain is fresh it will just disappear with this method.
Lemon Juice / Vinegar
Using lemon juice to erase pen stains from clothes is not effective. Same is the case with using vinegar. Vinegar made the mark a little faded but the lemon juice not even as much.
The stain is not gone after keeping the vinegar soaking on the stain.
I used a milk soak as mentioned in this site newscientist.com – it says ” It probably has something to do with the fat content of milk. Pen inks are made with an organic solvent which evaporates upon writing.
This means that the pigments in the ink are soluble in lipophilic materials – the fat in the milk falls into this category. Soaking the clothing in milk slowly returns the ink into solution, thereby removing it from the shirt.”.
As mentioned the fat in the milk is supposed to do the work in ink stain removal. It is magic and removed the whole stain.
Soak the stained area in milk for a minimum of 30 minutes. ( Some recommend overnight soak) and then wash normally. The stain is gone as you can see below.
On pleather which is the material of most bags, you cannot use any harsh treatments because it will peel off.
Leather is another matter altogether because it is so expensive I would not dare to do experiments on it. If you have a leather garment or accessory which has ink stains on it, Just give it to the professionals to clean up.
I have this pleather/fake leather bag with an ugly ink stain on its surface.
I let the ink stain soak in a little milk for some time.
The stain is faded after I wiped off the milk (Give a nice wipe because milk will stink after some time). But it is not gone altogether. Anyways I didnot expect more from this aged and set stain anyway. I will try to soak the milk overnight and see how it goes.
Another book on stain removal mentions using toothpaste (non-gel type) on the stain. Toothpaste does work – it is meant to clean stains on your teeth.
I had this Ayurvedic paste but I suppose the regular white one would be better. I risked putting this red concoction because the top was an old one. I suppose toothpaste may fade the surrounding area if used on stains on coloured fabric.
(On white fabric a colored toothpaste can leave its own stain)
After keeping the paste for 30 minutes I washed the garment with soap. The stain had vanished. So this tip works.
Then I used Hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is for my husband what tape measure is to me. I always have at least 4 tape measures all over the house at any time – the same way, he has hand sanitizer everywhere. Atleast 4 bottles are always working overtime keeping all of our hands clean and sanitized.
Using hand sanitizer on pen stains is a great genius idea. See how the stain vanished with just a blob of sanitizer on the stain.
After a wash with the detergent and the stain is gone forever.
I tried this method on a coloured cloth to know how it fared.
Just soaked the stain in some hand sanitiser for a few minutes.
I think I have found a way to get the ink stain out for good forever. I cannot even decide on where the ink stain was on the cloth.
Suede and other fabrics with a napped surface consist of so many filaments and the ink stain usually remains on the surface. You can remove this by lightly rubbing the stain with a piece of fine sand paper.
Try to Use an old toothbrush/nylon brush if you do not have sandpaper at hand.
Do not use more force than is necessary. You do not want the fabric to be destroyed. As already mentioned test on an inconspicuous area first.
Applying buttermilk and warmed glycerine are other methods which I have read about but have not tried.One tip which looks to be a good one says to mix equal parts of rubbing alcohol and vinegar and apply it on the ink stain and let it soak for 5-10 minutes, before washing it thoroughly.
If after all your efforts you cannot remove the stain consider patching the place. Check out this post on making clothing patches or a DIY embroidered fabric patch which you can use to cover these stains and also learn how to attach the clothing patches to clothes.
Updated on October 5, 2022 by Sarina Tariq