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How Do You Remove Black Ink From A White Shirt?

By Dr. Laundry January 29, 2016

Q:  I was wondering, how would you get a spot of black ink off of a white shirt?   A:  Ink varies in how difficult it is to remove because not all ink is created equal, and the type of ink matters more than the color.  Inks from gel pens and Sharpie markers are designed to be permanent on paper and other surfaces, and are generally permanent on cotton and other fabrics, as well.  Ball point pens, on the other hand, can be removed from most washable fabrics using a two-step process that I hope will help you.   Before you start, you’ll need to confirm that you can safely bleach your shirt by checking the care label.  You should always avoid bleaching spandex (as well as wool, silk, mohair, and leather) so if your shirt has a little spandex in it, I’ll get to how to deal with that later.  If the shirt is cotton or a polyester/cotton blend, then you can try the following:  
  1. Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  2. Wash in the hottest water allowed (check the care label) with detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  Allow the shirt to air dry and check for success.
  If your shirt contains a little spandex, you can use Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster as follows:  
  1. Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  2. Apply Clorox2® directly to the stain, wait five minutes, then wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent + more Clorox2®.  Allow the item to air dry and check for success.
  The biggest problem with a stain like this is when the ink is super concentrated, and may require multiple treatments to get the stain out.  For white, bleachable items you can also use Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel to pre-treat an ink stain directly as follows:  
  1. Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  2. Apply Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel directly the stain and rub it in using the soft scrubber tip, and then wash immediately in hot water using detergent + ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.
  For a super concentrated stain (especially one that’s been sitting around for a while), you will likely need to repeat the treatment for complete success, so be sure to keep the item out of the dryer while you are working on it.   Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing!   –Dr. Laundry