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How to get ink out of clothes

Looking for ink stain removal tips? This article is full of useful advice on removing ink stains, from water-based inks to permanent marker.


By Cleanipedia Team

Key steps to cleaning ink stains:

  • Act fast: The quicker you tackle a fresh ink stain, the easier it will be to remove.

  • Blot, don’t rub: this can cause the stain to spread.

  • Avoid heat: Do not put your garment in the dryer if the stain has not been completely removed, as heat can set an ink stain – making it harder to remove.

If you do fall victim to an ink stain, don’t panic. Ink stain removal is actually very simple: all you need is a good ink remover, a little time, and the following useful tips on removing ink stains.

Ink stains on clothes are a remarkably common occurrence, and can happen in a variety of ways, from unwittingly carrying a leaky pen in your pocket, to letting kids run wild with felt tip pens.

You will need:

  • microfibre cloth
  • laundry detergent
  • warm water
  • rubbing alcohol


How to remove ink stains from water-based pens in 5 steps

Many everyday writing pens use water-based inks, and these are incredibly easy to remove from clothing. In fact, in many cases you don’t even need a dedicated ink remover, as regular laundry detergent, like Persil Bio and warm water should get the ink stains right out. For more stubborn stains, you might consider using a pre-treatment before putting soiled clothes through the washing machine.

  1. Blot with a microfibre cloth

    When removing ink stains that have pooled on a garment, use a washable microfibre cloth to blot the mark.

    Don’t be tempted to wipe or scrub: just blot until the ink dries and stops transferring off.

  2. Apply a water-based stain remover

    If the stain is very big, use a water-based stain remover to help break down the ink stains. Leave for 10 minutes, or follow the instructions on the product.

  3. Blot the stain a second time

    Pick up the microfibre cloth again to blot your stain. You should find that you are able to remove even more of the stain now that the pre-treatment has had time to work.

  4. Wash the garment

    Place the garment in the washing machine, preferably by itself. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to boil your clothes, just use the same temperature you usually would for that garment.

  5. Inspect before drying

    Ensure that the ink stains are gone before drying. If remnants of the stain remain, blot, treat, and wash once more.

Removing ink stains made by permanent marker pens: a 4 step guide

Wondering how to get ink out of clothes if it hasn’t come from a water-based pen? This is a little trickier, but it’s not impossible. Permanent markers and similar pens use oil-based inks, which means water and detergent won’t do much to remove them. What you need is an ink remover that can break down the oils in the ink stains, making them easier to lift off.

  1. Blot with a microfibre cloth

    Begin by blotting the stain and removing any excess liquid. It’s important to use a microfibre cloth rather than paper towels, as small bits of paper could become caught in the garment’s fabric.

  2. Apply rubbing alcohol or hairspray to the stain

    Apply rubbing alcohol, or an aerosol hairspray, directly to the stain. The alcohol in these products is an excellent ink remover because it’s very effective at breaking down the oils in permanent markers. Some people also find that an antibacterial hand wash is a good alternative.

    Always wear protective clothing when handling these substances and use them in a well-ventilated room.

  3. Wash the garment

    While the rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or hand wash is still wet, place your garment in the washing machine, and wash it at the usual temperature with your regular laundry detergent. Again, wash the item separately from other clothes if possible, to avoid colour transfer.

    Wash separately to avoid colour transfer.

  4. Inspect before drying

    Ensure the stain has been removed before drying. Air-dry if possible for optimal results.

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How to remove ink from clothes after drying

One of the most important things to remember when removing ink stains is that heat can actually set the stain, making it far more difficult to remove. This is why it’s vital to always check that the stain has been completely removed from the garment before it dries.

Accidents can happen, though, and stained clothes sometimes get put through the dryer. If this is the case, use a good quality stain remover from the supermarket to tackle the stain. You can apply it as a pre-treatment, and add some to your wash too. It might take a few tries to get it all out, but it will happen if you persevere!

Cleaning ink stains – 3 top tips

Make removing ink stains easier by following these steps:

  1. Treating the ink stains as soon as possible. Like with any tough stain – such as blood or oil – the fresher it is, the easier it will be to remove. It’s when the ink stains dry and become ground into the fabric that removing them becomes more of a challenge.

  2. Never rub or wipe an ink stain. Rather than removing it, you’ll simply spread it around the garment, soiling more of the material. Blotting is the best way, as it removes the stain, while protecting the rest of the clothing.

  3. Slowing down the process. Apart from alcohol-based solutions that should be put through the wash while they’re still wet, other types of ink remover actually need time to work. Always read the instructions on the packaging, and leave the solution on the stain for the correct amount of time.

With your ink stain easily removed, and disaster swiftly averted, you can breathe a sigh of relief. So relax the next time a pen leaks or a felt tip smudges: with these quick tips, you have it sorted.

Originally published