Ink is designed to stain paper, so it’s no surprise that it can be a real challenge to get out of your clothing. It’s hard enough to wash ink off of your hands, and removing it from clothing is a whole lot more difficult.
It’s not impossible to remove ink stains from clothes, here are some recommended tactics.
With everything in this article, just be careful to test a small, hidden patch of the clothing with the cleaning method before accidentally damaging your garment.
Know Your Stain
An ink’s color come in two forms: a dye or a pigment. A dye is liquid-based, as you’d find in a rollerball pen, and a pigment is a powder that is suspend in a liquid, like you’d find in a gel pen. Dyes are meant to run when they hit water while a pigment is designed to be water-resistant, possibly even water-proof.
You also need to know your pen’s ink type. Ballpoints use an oil-based ink while gel and rollerball pens use water-based ink. Hybrids have both types combined.
Soap and Water
Dishsoap and some warm water is always the best starting point. It’s essentially free and it’s always on hand, so this combination can be gotten at while the ink is still wet. Removing ink before it stains (before it sets) is not critical, but it will make the stain removal much easier.
This should work for most water-based stains, like markers and fountain pen ink. If the ink is persistent you can try dabbing the spot with some rubbing alcohol.
A bit of rubbing alcohol — the normal kind you might keep in your house — is quite good at removing ballpoint pen stains. Ballpoints might use dye or pigment, bit that’s less important than the water that their oil-based ink is usually cut right through by alcohol.
If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, you can try hairspray or hand sanitizer. Just like with the alcohol, test a small patch of you clothing in a not-so-visible area as these can remove the color from the garment along with the ink if the clothing isn’t color-safe.
Amodex Ink Remover
If you need a strong solution then you can try Amodex ink remover. Amodex is strong but non-toxic and is designed for removing ink as well as other common stains, like wine, blood, and grease. As an added bonus it works on permanent marker stains as well. Permanent markers usually use alcohol-based inks and are — by design — hard to get out of garments.
The best part about it, for our purposes, is that it works with both ballpoint and gel pens. Gel pens are hard because they have a water-based ink that carries pigments which are designed to not be washed away with water.
A serious cleaner like this will be the go-to method for permanent markers, like Sharpies, as well as anything waterproof that doesn’t wash out immediately after the stain is created.