Home Remedies for Cleaning Ink Stains

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home remedies for removing ink stains

From an exploded ink pen in your shirt pocket to brushing a ballpoint across your pants, you never know when a tough stain will form on your favorite garments. Ink stains are some of the most difficult to remove because of the components involved. To treat this dreaded discoloration, consider the usefulness of home remedies for ink stains.

About Ink Stains

Ink stains can be tricky to remove because there are many different substances that go into making various kinds of ink. The main types of ink stains include:

• Permanent ink marker stains – Pens, such as highlighters and permanent markers, are meant to leave behind permanent marks that make it even more difficult to address.

• Water-based ink stains – Some of the easiest to remove because some inks contain washable components. One of the first things to do with a water-based ink stain is to lay the garment on top of a clean dry towel or cloth so that you can apply water and blot the excess liquid with a clean cloth. As you blot, the stain will start to transfer to the cleaning cloth.

• Ballpoint ink stains – They are usually tricky to treat, but still responds well to certain treatments.

Ink Stain Home Remedies

Act quickly to treat ink stains before the discoloration sets in permanently. To minimize the damage, it is suggested to remove the excess ink. Surface ink is much easier to address than liquid that has seeped into the deep fibers of the fabric. After figuring out the best course of action, the following home remedies for ink stains can help clean up your mess:<

a) Hair Spray:

To remove ballpoint pen ink, spray on enough alcohol-based hair spray to saturate the spot. An absorbent paper towel or rag placed under the stain will prevent excess from staining the other side of your garment. Blot the stain with a rag to remove the stain. Repeat this process until the ink is completely removed. Place in the laundry as usual. Some fabrics become damaged when hair spray is used so test a hidden swatch before performing this remedy.

b) All-Purpose Cleaner:

An all-purpose cleaner is effective in removing stains left behind by water based inks. Do not forget to put an absorbent paper towel or rag under the stain to prevent a new stain on the other side of the clothing. It is best to test a concealed piece of material to make sure this cleaning solution will not damage the fabric.

c) Talcum Powder:

For fresh ink stains, absorb the excess by applying talcum powder, which also helps stop the stain from spreading. Remove the powder residue and use more until it stops absorbing the ink.

d) Blotting Paper:

Remove excess ink on a shirt before applying a cleaning by using blotting paper. Reapply new paper to the stain until no more excess is lifted.

e) Chalk:

Treat fresh ink stains and stop the spot from spreading by putting the absorbent nature of chalk to good use.

f) Vinegar:

To erase ink stains from your painted wall, dab a small amount of undiluted white vinegar using a sponge or clean cloth. Repeat the process if the stains still linger.

g) Cornstarch:

The absorbing power of cornstarch (when applied to a fresh ink stain) can help stop the damage from spreading.

h) Cornstarch and Milk:

Add enough milk to a small amount of cornstarch to make a paste that when applied to a carpet can reduce the damage. Apply the paste to the stain and leave on the carpet for a few hours. Brush off the dried residue before vacuuming up the stain.

i) Nail Polish Remover:

When a broken pen has left ink on your skin, wipe away with a cotton ball saturated in nail polish remover. Once the ink is gone, follow up by washing with soap and water. If you have ink stains on the drum of your clothes dryer, use nail polish remover to clean. Apply a small amount to a cotton ball and wipe across stains. This remedy is good for ballpoint ink pens.

j) Toothpaste:

Remove ink from fabric by putting toothpaste (the non-gel kind) on the stain, and then vigorously rubbing the fabric together. Rinse the spot with water, and repeat the process if you still see a lingering ink stain.

k) Salt:

To treat ink stains that are still wet, use salt to absorb excess ink and keep the damage to a minimal.

l) Sour Milk:

It is said that if you soak an ink stain made by ball point pens, marking ink, or dried ink in “sour” milk, you can quickly remove discoloration. While fresh milk is also effective, sour milk works faster.

m) Butter [1]:

If your child has drawn on a doll’s face with pen, you can rub butter on it. Leave the doll facing upwards in the sun for a couple of days, and then wash off the butter using soap and water.

n) Rubbing Alcohol:

Save your favorite shirt when an ink disaster strikes by soaking the spot in rubbing alcohol for a couple of minutes before putting the garment in the wash. This remedy works especially well with ballpoint ink. You can also use this method for treating permanent marker ink stains.

o) Mason Jar:

Holding a portion of your garment tight over the top of a Mason (or glass) jar is the first step to zeroing in on an ink stain. Slowly pour rubbing alcohol over the stain and into the container. Rinse and wash the piece of clothing as usual.

p) Spray Bottle:

Quickly treat stained clothing before the damage worsens by having an empty spray bottle filled with your homemade stain removal.

q) Paper Towel:

To blot an ink stain, use plain white paper towels.

r) Toothbrush:

To remove soaked-in stains, a soft-bristled nylon toothbrush can help reach the substances that have stained the soft fibers of a garment.

s) Sandpaper:

To remove ink stains from suede, take a small piece of fine-grit sandpaper and gently rub across the stain. You can also bring up the nap of the material after the cleaning by using a toothbrush.

t) Shortening:

To clean your hands of a messy ink mishap, rub a small amount of shortening in between your palms, and then wipe off with a paper towel or rag. This remedy also removes ink stains off of vinyl surfaces.

u) WD-40:

WD-40 can help pretreat stubborn stains left behind by ink. Spray directly on the spot and wait a few minutes before washing in the laundry as usual.

v) Eye Dropper:

To treat stains that only need a small amount of remover, an eye dropper can come in handy.

w) Old T-Shirt:

Since 100% cotton cloths (like old T-shirts) is considered one of the most absorbent item you can use when treating stains – it is suggested to have a few on hand. Old towels will also achieve the same results [2].

x) Cotton Swab:

If you are trying to remove a small liquid stain that you do not want to spread – opt for the small size of a Q-tip that also absorbs excess ink with its cotton.

y) Bleach:

To remove some ink stains, you may need to bleach the fabric. Before using this remedy, make sure that the material will not get ruined with the use of bleach.


[1] Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things by Reader’s Digest’ pg. 102.
[2] Stain Rescue by Good Housekeeping Research Institute; pg. 39.