Remove Ink Stains from Fabric

Remove Ink Stains from Fabric

Choosing a Cleaning Solution

  • Opt for alcohol-based solvents for most permanent ink stains. Permanent inks are usually oil-based and can be broken down by applying an alcohol-based solvent. There are many common household items that will work. Choose hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, or an acetone nail polish remover.
    Hairspray used to be the most recommended product for cleaning ink from fabrics. Today, however, most hairsprays are made with much less alcohol and will not be very effective at breaking down an ink stain.
    Don’t water down or dilute the solvent in any way. You will apply it directly to the stain. See also
  • Use soap and water to clean water-based ink stains. For semi-permanent and non-permanent water-based inks, you should be able to clean it up using dish soap, shampoo, or laundry detergent. To make the solution, just mix about 1 cup (240 ml) of warm water with a few drops of soap in a bowl.
    A mild laundry detergent will work best, but you can use a dye-free shampoo or soap as well.
  • Make a vinegar and water solution to tackle tough stains. Vinegar can act a stronger solvent than some of your other alcohol-based cleaners, but it is also very acidic and corrosive and should be used with caution. Dilute the vinegar with water in a 1:1 ratio. Either make the solution in a bowl and dip your cleaning cloths in it, or fill a small spray bottle with 1 part vinegar and 1 part room-temperature water.[4]
    Don’t use water that is too hot as it may damage your fabric when you apply it.
  • Choose chlorine bleach on white fabrics as a last resort. If you have not been able to salvage the fabric with other methods, you can try a chlorine and water solution. Make the solution in a bowl or spray bottle with 1 part water to 1 part bleach.
    Chlorine bleach not only removes dyes from fabric, but it’s also a harsh chemical that can break down the fibers and cause damage. Making a mistake with chlorine bleach is usually irreparable, so only use it with extreme caution.
    Color-safe non-chlorine bleach is not always as safe for fabric as it is advertised. Use it with caution and spot test a hidden part of the fabric first if you want to use it.

Cleaning the Ink Stain

  • Soak up any wet ink as soon as you can with dry paper towels. If you get to the stain immediately after it happens, the first thing to do is quickly soap up as much ink as you can. Use dry paper towels or clean white rags and blot the spill until the stain no longer looks wet.
    If you are able to turn the fabric over, blot up excess ink that leaked through the reverse side as well.
    Keep blotting up the ink until no more comes off on the towel when you gently press on the stain.
  • Spot-test the cleaning solution on an inconspicuous part of the fabric. Choose an inside hem on an item of clothing or a hidden corner of carpet or upholstery and apply a little of the cleaning solution. Let it sit for a few minutes and make sure it doesn’t fade the color or cause pigments in the fabric to bleed.
    If it does bleed or fade, choose a different cleaning solution and repeat the spot test.
  • Wet a cotton ball or clean cloth with your chosen cleaning solution. Don’t apply the cleaning solution directly to the fabric, as that may cause it to spread and make the problem worse. Instead, apply the solution to the cotton ball or cloth first. You want it to be wet enough that the cleaning solution is soaked in, but not dripping wet.
  • Blot the stain with the solution until it’s gone. Apply repeated gentle pressure on the stain, moving from the outside of the stain to the inside. Rotate the cloth or cotton ball as you dab to ensure you are using a clean part of it. Replace the cotton balls or cloth with new ones when they become saturated with ink to avoid spreading the stain farther. Repeat the process until no more ink comes out of the fabric and the stain disappears.
    If you are cleaning clothing or linens that you can easily move around, place a clean towel or paper bag underneath the fabric as you blot the ink so it can help to soak up any pigment that is soaking through the fabric.
    Never rub an ink stain—always blot—otherwise you will spread the stain around and make it worse.
  • Wash away the cleaning solution with soap and water. If your fabric is clothing or linens and can be washed in the washing machine, launder as you normally would. If you are cleaning a carpet or upholstery, dab away the cleaning solution with a damp, slightly soapy cloth. Only use one or two drops of soap on the cloth so that you don’t leave behind a soapy residue on the fabric’s surface.
    Don’t put clothes or linens in the dryer until you are certain all the ink has been removed. If there are still traces of ink, the heat from the dryer will set the stain and they may be impossible to remove after that.
  • Dry the area by dabbing it with a clean towel or let it air dry. If you aren’t drying the fabric in the clothes dryer, you can either dab it with a clean towel or just let it air dry. Take care not to walk on carpet or sit on upholstery while it is still damp as dirt and oils from your clothes, shoes, or body may transfer into the fabric, creating another mess for you to clean up.


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