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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Dried, Set-In Ink Stains from a White Comforter

By Dr. Laundry April 14, 2017

Q: I washed my bedding and went to dry it. Little did I know there was a pen in the dryer! The pen melted and got ink all over my bedding. My pillowcases came out unharmed, but my sheets and comforter did not, unfortunately. My comforter is white, so I think I should bleach that, but I don’t know what to do with my sheets which are light blue. Are there any products that you recommend that will remove the ink stain?

Thanks!
Jasmine

A: Hi Jasmine;

This sounds like a ball point pen since it melted. Ink stains that are heat-set in a hot dryer will be more difficult to remove, but maybe the technique that is usually successful for basic ink stains will still work for you. Let’s cover the different items separately.

For the light blue sheets, start by pretreating the stains with a gel hand sanitizer that is alcohol based. Squirt some onto the stains and rub it in so the stain is saturated. Usually if you do this on a fresh stain, it makes it really messy as the ink breaks up. Wait a few minutes, and then pretreat again with liquid Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster. Use the cap to apply a little to the stains and then wait 5–10 minutes before machine washing in warm water (or hot if the garment care label allows it) with detergent and more Clorox 2®. Let the sheets air dry, and repeat the treatment as long as you continue to make progress. The air drying can be a pain with a large item like a bed sheet, but if you use multiple pants hangers and hang them in the bathroom that may work. It’s good to figure out where you are going to hang them before you start!

Because the sheets are blue you need to stick to liquid Clorox 2® for pretreating. BUT I also wanted to mention that you may be able to safely machine wash the sheets with Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 (assuming the sheets are cotton, polyester or a cotton/poly blend). To find out if you can safely bleach the sheets, you can test them with our easy and quick colorfastness to bleach test. To do this, add 1½ teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 to 1/4 cup water and apply a drop of the solution to a hidden part of the sheets (like the hem where you tuck the sheets in at the foot of the bed). Wait one minute and then rinse and blot dry. Look for a color change — no color change means you can safely machine wash the sheets with detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. (Note: Don’t use Clorox 2® to pretreat before machine washing with regular bleach). A lot of items with color actually can be safely washed with Clorox® Regular-Bleach1, but you can’t always tell just by looking. If your sheets pass, then a wash cycle with Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 may work to finish the job and get the stains all the way out. Also, even if the sheets are labeled machine wash cold or warm, you may still want to give hot water a try because that will help, too.

For the white comforter, if it is synthetic-filled, then you have different options. Start by applying the alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel to the stain, letting it soak in for a few minutes. Next, apply Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel directly to the stain and rub it in using the soft scrubber tip, and then wash immediately in hot water using detergent + ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. It’s not really practical to let a comforter air dry, so you can try using a hair dryer on the cool setting to speed up getting the area with the stain dry so you know if you need to repeat the treatment.

If the white comforter is actually a down comforter, that is a little more complicated since feathers shouldn’t be bleached. In that case, try the Clorox 2® method recommended for the light blue sheets, above.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing.

—Dr. Laundry