How to Get ink out of clothes

by Karen Jones

Ink stains can be pesky, to say the least. And they sure have a way of popping up when you least expect. Be it through unknown pen leaks, inadvertently grazing your sleeves or shirt while sketching, or your kid accidentally leaking ink on your clothes.

There are just so many ways it can happen. The truth is, we've all been there.

One interesting thing about ink stains and stains in general is that's the method of successfully removing them depends on the type of ink. Some ink is oil-based while others are water-based. The implication of this is that using the wrong removal method will only slightly remove the stain. This is not because the removal solvent wasn't powerful enough. The same goes for food stains on white fabric.

In addition, there are also stubborn stains that you just have to combine a removal solvent and detergent to remove.

Another thing to note is ink stains act differently depending on the type of material. We will discuss everything you need to know as well as the different methods on how to get ink out of clothes.

What makes ink stain clothes?

This is an interesting question, for many reasons. For one, we don't ever wonder why ink on paper can stay on it without ever fading off.

The only reason ink stain clothes rather than running off when it comes in contact with fabric is because of its composition. Ink is essentially just dyes mixed with oils and pigments.

When these dyes and pigments in the ink seep into clothes, coupled with the oil or water present, it causes discoloration. When left to dry, it quickly becomes very difficult to remove.

Things to note before removing ink stains from cloth

Before you start the removal process, you need to identify two things:

  • The type of fabric
  • The type of ink

The type of ink: Water Based ink or Oil Based Ink

The type of ink that seeped into your cloth influences how fast you can get the stain out. For the most part, there are only two common types.

Water-Based Ink is mostly used in making rollerball pens and certain temporary whiteboard markers. They are very easy to remove. A little bit of water, detergent, and scrubbing more often than not would get the job done. For better guidelines on how to remove Water-based ink stains from your cloth, read on.

Oil-Based ink stain is very difficult to remove. This is mainly because they dry so fast. Ballpoint pens are the most common type of pen that uses oil-based ink. Different solvents can help remove them. The most popular one is Alcohol.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As earlier stated, knowing the type of ink that stained your clothing will make removing it relatively easier and faster. Since you would not have to do any trial and error removal method.

The type of fabric

Of course, you already know there are different types of fabric. Ink stains work differently on different materials. Whether it is cotton, wool, synthetic fabric, or linen, you also need to identify this.

If you are not quite sure about the type of fabric you want to remove the stain from, you can always check the cloth label. Asides from telling you the type of material you are holding, it also gives important information about the cloth. For instance, you will see the appropriate water temperature suitable for the fabric. This means you won't mistakenly remove the stain on a dry clean only fabric with warm water.

Another reason to identify the type of fabric is that it helps you decide what method of washing is safe. For instance, wool clothes do not do well with normal detergent or particularly hard soap.

Top Stain Removers by Our Editors

Top 7 Best ways to remove ink stains

Top 7 Best ways to remove ink stains
Top 7 Best ways to remove ink stains

Having said that, let's look at different methods to get ink out of clothes. Some of these methods work only for Water-based ink stains while others are general stain removal methods.

NOTE: Certain methods on this guide work better than others. This is because some methods are only suitable for certain fabrics. Hence, why you should know the type of fabric you are trying to remove the stain from.

Remove ink stain with Rubbing Alcohol

Remove ink stain with Rubbing Alcohol
Remove ink stain with Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing Alcohol and other alcohol-based solvents are very effective stain removals. Whether it is ink, oil, or food stain. As a result, this method works for both oil and water-based stains.

Due to the harshness of alcohol, it is not suitable for just any fabric. Clothes made of silk, rayon, and other synthetic materials would react badly with rubbing alcohol.

GENERAL TIP: If you are not quite sure, you can always test the rubbing alcohol in a small hidden spot on the cloth. Doing this would give you an insight into Whether or not to use a specific method.


1. Place the stained part of the cloth in a bowl or inside a sink.

2. Get some of the rubbing alcohol onto a small clean cloth (preferably white to avoid color transfer). Repeatedly blot or scrub the stain using the cloth until the alcohol seeps into the fabric. You will know this when the ink starts to slightly fade.

3. Add some more rubbing alcohol onto the stained spot on your cloth. Leave for about five (5) minutes.

4. Rub the stained spot on your cloth again with a clean area of the small white cloth. Do this until the stain is completely gone.

5. Now rinse the affected area with cold water.

6. Wash the entire cloth to remove any residual scent left by the rubbing alcohol.

Use Stain Removers

Almost everyone has a type of stain remover in their house. This can also remove ink stains, especially if the stain remover is alcohol-based. You can always read the ingredients used in making the stain remover just to be sure.

Below is a general step to follow when using Stain remover on cloth:

1. Soak the stained area of your cloth in cold water.

2. Next, apply the stain remover to the stained area of the cloth.

3. With a soft brush or a small clean white cloth, rub the stain remover into the fabric.

4. Leave for about 5-30 minutes. How long you leave it depends on the instructions on the stain remover. That is, how long it takes for the effects of the stain remover to kick in.

5. Next, soak the stained part of the cloth in water and rinse.

6. If the ink stain is gone, wash the entire cloth like you normally would. However, if the stain is still visible, repeat the whole process. If the stain persists after this, you will need to try a different method.

GENERAL TIP: If you are not quite sure, you can always test the removal solvent on a small hidden spot on the cloth. Doing this would give you an insight into whether or not to use a specific method. This can help you avoid damaging your cloth especially if the method ends up not removing the stain.

Remove stain with Glycerin or Glycerin based products

Glycerin is best for oil-based ink stains. The recommended material or fabrics to use glycerin are cotton and polyester materials.

TIP: You can always test on a small spot to see if glycerin affects the material in a damaging manner.

For suitable material, you can follow the following steps:

i. Soak the stained spot in water (cold).

ii. Apply glycerin on the affected spot. Leave for 10 minutes so that the glycerin can permeate the fabric.

iii. Add detergent to the stain (Preferably mild detergents).

iv. GENTLY scrub the stained area until it forms lather.

v. Rinse the area with lukewarm water.

NOTE: Glycerin also works on washable wool. The only thing to note is that you are not to rub the glycerin in. Instead, you have to dab it on the wool using a small clean cloth. Do not rinse when it lathers. Continue dabbing it with a small clean cloth. Once there are no more suds, you can then wash as normal.

vi. If all the stain is removed, wash as normal.

Remove Stain using normal Detergent

Dish soap is the most common type of detergent at home. Some of them are essentially alcohol-based. In other words, you can use them to remove any type of ink stain. Even if your detergent is not alcohol-based, it should effectively work on water-based ink stains.

i. Isolate the affected area. Blot the area using a small wet clean cloth (preferably white). Once the stain transfer begins, add a bit of the laundry detergent to it.

ii. Leave for about 5-7 minutes.

iii. Gently scrub in the detergent.

iv. Rinse with water (preferably lukewarm water).

v. If the stain is gone, wash as normal. If not repeat the process.

Remove ink stain with Hairspray

Remove ink stain with Hairspray (source: youtube)
Remove ink stain with Hairspray (source: youtube)

This method used to be quite effective, for one reason. Hairsprays, then, had very high alcohol content as an ingredient. The hairsprays available today contain a significantly small alcohol percentage. As a result, they are not as effective.

So, can you get ink out of clothes with hairspray? Yes, but it is mostly hit and miss because of the reasons given above.

How to remove stains with Vinegar

Vinegar is one of the most popular stain removal agents right now. Asides from being a natural stain removal solvent, it essentially works on all types of fabric. Added to the fact that is gentle on clothes, it is not so hard to see why people love it.

NOTE: Cornstarch is another effective natural stain removal. However, you have to use it alongside vinegar to get good results.

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Soak the ink-stained part of the fabric in diluted white vinegar. (diluted Vinegar simply means that you mixed it with a little bit of warm water).

2. Add half a teaspoon of laundry detergent.

3. Leave for 30 minutes in the diluted white vinegar.

4. Rinse the affected area of the fabric with water. Leave to dry

5. If the stain persists, moisten a small white cloth with alcohol and dab on the affected spot.

6. Once the stain is completely removed, sprinkle water on the area and dry with a clean dry cloth.

7. Wash as normal.

Remove ink stain with Milk

Yes, you read that right, milk! While it won't remove stubborn ink stains, milk can remove water-based ink stains. It is suitable for all types of fabric.

NOTE: You will have to wash the cloth after removing the stain to remove the odor.

1. Fill a bowl with milk. Enough to fully submerge the stained area of the cloth

2. Leave it for about 8 hours.

3. Rinse with warm water.

4. If the stain persists, you might want to try other methods listed in this guide.

Final Word

There are different ways to remove stains. The type of method you use depends mainly on the fabric and the type of ink. The different options and tips on this guide will help you work those stubborn stains out in record time!

About Karen Jones

For the last decade, Karen Jones has worked as a freelance writer and social media marketing consulant. As an gourmand and avid traveler, she publishes cutting-edge articles about traveling that really attracting readers into her wonderful journeys. If you can't find Ms. Jones around her friends and family, she's definitely busy in her home office refining her writing composition and printing press.

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