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How To Remove Ink Stains From Clothes

Ink stains can be a pain, but they also are very simple to deal with. Here's how to remove ink from garments & how to treat stains from permanent markers.

Key Steps:


  1. Act as soon as possible!
  2. If you’re not at home, quickly grab a paper towel or napkin and blot the ink – do not rub the stain.
  3. Keep the stain wet until you can treat it properly.

Whether there’s been an unfortunate pen leak or your toddler’s gotten enthusiastic with his markers, ink stains can dramatically change the appearance of an outfit. Luckily, they’re also very simple to get rid of. This article explains how to remove ink from different garments, covering dry clean, delicates and standard clothing.

Essential Tips on How to Remove Ink Stains

Regardless of the kind of ink or fabric involved, there are a few basic tips you always need to follow when trying to remove stains:

Treat the stain right away — Don’t wait until a few hours after school or work to treat the stain, as it will be much harder to remove.

Keep the stain wet — If you’re in an awkward place or if it is an article that requires dry cleaning only, then at least keep the ink stain wet until you can treat it properly. A dried ink stain is much tougher to treat.

Dab at the stain, don’t rub — When the stain first happens, take a paper towel and hold it firmly against the stain to soak up any excess ink. But do NOT rub the stain, as that may only work the ink further into the fabric.

Put a clean towel underneath the stained fabric – This is to absorb any ink underneath and prevent it from staining the next layer of fabric. Keep the towel here when you treat the stain using one of our remedies below. Just make sure it’s a towel or cloth you don’t mind getting dirty.

How to Remove Ink Stains: Water-based Inks

Water-based inks are the easiest to remove and shouldn’t cause any panic for you. If the stain is affected by water, then you know it’s water-based and can follow the steps below.

  1. Place a clean towel underneath and gently blot out the excess ink, as described above.
  2. Use a clean cloth or sponge to apply a few drops of laundry detergent like Surf excel Liquid Detergent, or a specialist stain remover (we like the Surf Excel Bar). Read the directions on the label of the product, and test it in a small, inconspicuous area first. Dab at the stain (do not rub) repeatedly, and the stain should come off.
  3. If it does not, let the stained garment soak for ten minutes in a mixture of water and laundry detergent. This pre-treatment will help to loosen the stain.
  4. Blot at the stain again with a clean damp cloth or sponge until it comes off. Make sure all traces of the stain are gone before you move to the next step.
  5. Wash the clothing in the washing machine at the standard temperature for the garment (check the care label).

How to Remove Ink Stains: Permanent Ink

These stains are significantly harder to remove, but there’s still no need to despair. For all of the suggestions below, make sure to test the treatment on an inner seam of the clothing first, to make sure you are comfortable applying it to a visible area.

  1. After you’ve dabbed off the excess ink and placed the towel underneath, start with a commercial stain remover or laundry detergent, to see if it has any effect.
  2. If not, alcohol is very effective at breaking down the oils in permanent inks. Try applying rubbing alcohol to the stain. Otherwise, aerosol hairspray or hand sanitizer also work. Make sure to saturate the stain completely, and dab away. Do not use alcohol on acetate, rayon, or triacetate, as it can damage those materials.
  3. Is it working? If alcohol does not work, the next step up is white vinegar. Saturate the stain in white vinegar, and rub in a spoonful or two of cornstarch. Let the paste sit for 30 minutes, then dab with water to see if the vinegar had any effect. Repeat and dab away until the stain is gone.

How to Remove Ink Stains from Clothes Requiring Dry Cleaning

Delicate clothes which require dry cleaning are another matter and should be taken to your dry cleaners to treat any serious ink stains. However, remember to keep the stain wet until you get to your dry cleaners. If it is permanent ink or ballpoint pen, you can apply a small amount of hair spray, rubbing alcohol, or hand sanitizer to prevent the stain from setting.

With these tips, you should be able to prevent ink stains from ruining your clothes.

Top Tip

Ink stains can happen when you least expect them – but they are easy to get out if you use the right laundry detergent, like Surf excel Liquid Detergent. The faster you can treat the stain, the better the result. Just remember to follow the instructions on your product’s label carefully.