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How to Get Ink Out of Clothes After Drying

Businessman with an ink stained shirt

Whether it’s ink from a pen that exploded in your pocket or accidentally went through the dryer, with the right technique you really can get even black ink out.

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By Mary Gagliardi

Because ink is designed to stay on whatever surface you apply it to, when it accidentally gets on fabric, machine washing won’t be enough to get the stain out.

Instead, you need to use a special pretreating technique prior to machine washing, starting with alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel. The alcohol and thickening agents in the hand sanitizer help it soak into the fabric and begin to dissolve the ink. Then you pretreat again with Liquid Clorox 2® for Colors, which is appropriate for nearly all machine washable items, including colored clothes.

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This technique is effective on a variety of different types of ink, from ball point pens to markers to highlighters. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see just how easy it is to get ink stains out all the way, even if they’ve been through a hot dryer.

Gather your supplies

Steps to remove ink from clothing

  1. 1

    Squirt alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel directly on the stain

    Use enough to saturate the stain. This will start to break up the ink, and you will see the stain begin to lighten. Let the hand sanitizer gel stay on the ink for a few minutes before continuing.

    hand sanitizer
  2. 2

    Apply Liquid Clorox 2® for Colors to the stain

    Use the cap to apply the Clorox 2® product directly to the stain and gently rub it in.  Allow the Clorox 2® product to stay on the fabric for 10 minutes. Set a timer so you don’t lose track of the time and leave it on any longer. Do not let the product dry on the fabric.

    Tip

    When used full strength to pretreat, Clorox 2® should not dry out on fabric.

    clorox 2 liquid pouring from bottle
  3. 3

    Machine wash

    After 10 minutes, pretreating is complete and it’s time to machine wash the item. Select the hottest water possible, and add a little more Clorox 2® along with your regular laundry detergent. When the wash cycle is complete, air dry the item and check to make sure the stain is completely removed.

    front load washing machine

You can always repeat the two pretreatment steps to get a super concentrated stain all the way out.

Tip

For items labeled “machine wash cold” consider using a “warm” wash temperature to improve your chances of getting the stain out.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get “permanent” marker out of my clothes?

Permanent markers are designed to be just that, permanent. Even so, if you repeat the two-step pretreatment method + machine wash a few times, there’s a chance you will successfully get rid of the stain!

Can I use full-strength Clorox® Bleach on ink stains?

No. Clorox® Bleach should always be diluted with water first before allowing it to contact any soft or hard surface. Don’t give in to the temptation to apply full strength bleach to ink stains — in time the area that was exposed to undiluted bleach could end up with a hole.

Instead, if you have an ink stain on a bleach-safe item you can always presoak with a bleach and water solution made with ¼ cup bleach per gallon of water for Step 2. Soak the entire item for up to 5 minutes before machine washing. Remember to pretreat with alcohol-based hand sanitizer first before the bleach soak!