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How to Get Out Ink Stains

Advice from our experts

Why does ink stain?

Ink, specifically ballpoint pen ink, is a colorful liquid designed to penetrate paper, and acts similarly on fabric. However, you can remove ink stains with the appropriate bleach (in most cases) if you treat the stain first with something that breaks up the ink.

Tips for removing ink stains

Isopropyl alcohol, especially formulated as a hand sanitizer, is very effective at breaking up ballpoint pen ink. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel can penetrate the weave or knit of a textile. This works better than plain isopropyl alcohol to break up the ink stain.

Before you follow the steps for removing ink stains from fabric, first determine whether the item, if not white, is colorfast. Also, it’s important to know whether your fabric is bleach-safe. There is a test you can conduct to find out.

And, if the fabric is wool, silk, mohair, leather or spandex—regardless of color—you should never use bleach. Different fabrics call for different methods of stain removal. Read on to find the right solutions.

Steps for removing ballpoint pen ink from bleach-safe fabrics

  • Step 1 Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  • Step 2 Gently rub Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel into the remaining stain.
  • Step 3 Immediately rinse the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.
  • Step 4 Air dry the item and check to make sure the stain is gone.

    Learn about additional tips on how remove ink stains from that favorite white shirt.

Steps for removing ballpoint pen ink from colored or white fabrics containing spandex

It’s not safe to use bleach on fabrics that contain spandex. However, there are methods and products that work to remove ink stains.

  • Step 1 Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  • Step 2 Apply liquid Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster directly to the stain.
  • Step 3 Wait 10 minutes (set a timer), then wash in the hottest water recommended on the garment’s care label with detergent and more Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster.
  • Step 4 Air dry the item and check to make sure the stain is gone.

Steps for removing gel pen ink

There is a two-step process for getting gel pen ink of out of bleach-safe fabrics.

  • Step 1 Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  • Step 2 Wash the item in the hottest water recommended by the garment’s care label with 3/4 cup of Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®. Let the fabric dry and check to see if the stain is gone.

    Read on to find out how to handle fabrics on which you can’t use bleach.

    Printer ink is also notorious for staining clothes. Read on to get tips for removing printer ink stains.

Do’s and Don’ts for ink stains

DO use a cloth to blot the edges of the stain to keep the stain from spreading.

DO use alcohol-based products to break up ink before applying a bleach product.

DO keep items out of a hot dryer until the stain is gone.

DO repeat a treatment if necessary—like if an item with a ballpoint pen ink stain has previously been in a hot dryer.

DON'T forget to pretreat an ink stain a second time with the appropriate bleach product after applying hand sanitizer.

Ink stain FAQs

Q. How do you get dried ink out of clothes?
A. Follow the steps above for bleach-safe fabrics, or colored or white fabrics with spandex. However, large stains from a leaky pen will benefit from rinsing away the hand sanitizer and ink before treating with the appropriate bleach product.
Q. How do I get ink stains out of clothes that have been washed?
A. Follow the steps above for bleach-safe fabrics, or colored or white fabrics with spandex. However, you’ll probably need to repeat the treatment a few times. If the stains aren’t too heavy, you can still remove them even if they’ve been exposed to a hot dryer. Also, it’s important to note you should never use bleach on items that contain spandex, wool, silk, mohair or leather.

Read on to learn more about how to get dried ink out of clothing.
Q. Can vinegar remove ink stains?
A. No. Vinegar is mildly acidic, but it won’t break up pen ink the same way alcohol-based hand sanitizer or bleach.
Q. Can you remove marker stains the same way you remove ink stains?
A. Removing marker stains is similar to removing ballpoint pen ink stains. For white, bleachable items, start by pretreating the stain with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel. Read on to learn the next steps.

Advice From Our Experts