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I had a pen explode in my dryer during a load of whites!

By Dr. Laundry April 30, 2015

Q: I had a pen explode in my dryer during a load of whites. I have attempted to re-wash them and re-wash them with 3/4 cup of bleach added in. Nothing has worked yet! It ruined my favorite / most expensive clothes. Please help!!

A: If only your pen could have exploded outside of a dryer—that would make this so much easier!  But the fact that it happened in the dryer means the heat present when the stains got onto the fabric will make them much more difficult to remove.  Also, gel writing pens (unlike ball point pens) are designed to be permanent, so if that’s actually the type of pen that stowed away in your laundry, you will likely not be able to get the stains out.

Even so, assuming it was a ball point pen that exploded, you might still be successful at getting the stains out.  Thankfully it was a white load full of bleach-safe fabrics! (Note that you should always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex, and non-fast colors).  Start by squirting alcohol-based hand sanitizer onto the stains and letting it soak in for a few minutes.  This helps break up the ink a little so it is easier to remove.  After a few minutes, rinse the stains.

Next, pretreat the stains again, this time using Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel.  This product has the same great sodium hypochlorite bleach active as our regular bleach, but at a lower concentration that is safe to apply directly to white, bleachable fabrics.  Use the soft scrubber tip to squeeze out a little gel and gently rub it into the stains before washing immediately in the hottest water recommended using detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach (or ¾ cup bleach if you have an extra-large load).

It sounds like you may have a lot of stains to treat.  Since you need to wash the stains pretty much immediately after pretreating with the bleach gel, only treat as many stains as you can in one minute before adding them to the washer and starting the cycle.  You may also want to pretreat a small number of items, add to the washer as the cycle is in progress, treat some more items and add them to the washer, and keep doing this until all the items are in the washer, making sure you don’t let the gel sit on the fabric for longer than a minute.

When the cycle is complete, let the items air dry.  If the stains are lighter, then you have a good chance at getting the stains all the way out by repeating the procedure.   If you have any more questions, please let me know.  Good luck, and let me know how it goes.