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How To Remove An Ink Stain

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Ink stains are easy to come by, and while they may look permanent they can actually be quite straightforward to remove out of clothing. 


If you’ve gotten a spot of ink on your clothes that you’d like to remove, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got some helpful remedies to effectively remove ballpoint ink, felt tip, or old ink stains. 



There are two types of ink that commonly stain clothing; oil-based ink and water-based ink. Their chemical compositions stain clothing differently, and require different treatments for removal. Oil-based inks, such as ballpoint pens and permanent markers, cannot be rinsed out with water, so they rely on solvents to break up the ink. Water-based inks, found in gel pens, can be easily removed with a little water and detergent. 


Ballpoint Pen Ink


Ballpoint pens are one of the more common ink stains in the office and their stains are a common workplace hazard. They use a thicker, oil-based ink to reduce smudging while writing, which can be quickly removed from clothing with a few easy to follow steps.


All you’ll need is rubbing alcohol and a little bit of pre-wash stain remover.


  1. If fresh, blot the stain with a towel or tissue paper to absorb any excess ink.
  2. Apply the rubbing alcohol directly to the ballpoint ink mark and allow it to dissolve the stain. This will take about 15 minutes.
  3. Blot the stain again until the ink has been removed.
  4. Once removed, rinse with cold water. If the stain persists then saturate the affected area with a commercial stain-remover of your choice.
  5. Wash on the hottest possible setting that is safe for the fabric.
  6. Once the cycle is finished and the stain is completely gone, add to the dryer.


If you don’t have any rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover or dish soap will get the job done as well. 


Felt-Tip Pen Ink


Felt-tip pens distribute oil-based ink through a soft, fiber tip that is easily transferred onto fabrics. Their wide range of bright colors make them great for illustrating, but bad for clothing.


  1. Place your stained item under cold running water to rinse out the pen mark. The key is to wash out as much of the ink as possible before treating.
  2. Mix a liquid laundry detergent (make sure it’s bleach-free) into a basin of hot water until just covered. Add a few capfuls of ammonia to break up the stain and release the ink out of the fibers.
  3. Massage the stain with your fingers and allow the garment to soak for up to an hour.
  4. If the stain remains, let it soak overnight with a little more detergent and ammonia.
  5. Rinse then air dry.


Old Ink Stains


While fresh ink is easily absorbed if blotted, dry ink requires a little more elbow grease as it’s no longer hydrated. This can prove trickier, but not impossible, for stain removal.


Start by applying rubbing alcohol to your old ink stain and soaking the affected area for 15 minutes. Remove the item, work in the rubbing alcohol, and soak it again. Repeat until the stain has cleared, then rinse and dry.


If the rubbing alcohol or ammonia doesn’t work, it’s time to turn to strong commercial stain removers. There are many stain removers on the market specifically for ink stains, so keep an eye out for them at the store. These should work to remove the stain. 


Stained dry clean-only items should always be laundered by a dry cleaner. Be sure to point out the affected area, let us know what has been used for treatment, and we’ll do our best to remove your ink stain.


Gotten an ink stain on your rugs? We can handle those, too. Drop your rug off at one of our four locations and we’ll be happy to remove ink or any other stains it might have.