A Guide to Removing Ink Stains Including Natural Alternatives

Whether a pen has leaked into the pocket of your favourite shirt or a permanent marker has stained¬†your children’s clothes. This nifty cleaning guide is for you.

There are a few basic steps that you must remember when attempting to remove ink from clothes, if you follow them you’ll find it easy to clean your clothes.

  • Check the clothes label symbols before you begin
  • Identify the type of ink which caused the stain
  • Act with speed
  • Blot the stain, never rub
  • Use a suitable remover
  • Stay away from heat

Let’s look at the different steps in detail, to help you to get the ink out of clothes.

Identify The Ink That Caused The Stain

In most cases the ink used in an ordinary pen will be water-based, to identify it is very easy. If possible take out the refill and see if it identifies the type of ink. If not write on a piece of paper and wet it with water, if the writing starts smudging it is a water-based ink. If the writing remains intact it is an oil-based ink.

Act With Speed

The stain can be removed easier before it dries, the fresher the better. It is easier to get ink out of clothes before it dried and became part of the fibres of the clothing. If still wet use salt on the stain as discussed below.

Don’t Rub it in

Whatever you do blot it never rub it in. Blotting will lift the stain from the clothes while rubbing it will cause it to enter the fine fibres of the clothing. This will make it difficult to clean ink from clothes, get a micro-fibre cloth that will easily absorb the ink that caused the stain

Use a Suitable Remover

The type of ink will determine which remover to use when cleaning the ink stain. Let’s look at the different types of ink and suitable removers available in your home:

Water-based Ink

The best remover to use is, yes you guessed correctly, use water. The water you use will serve as a thinner and will remove the ink from the area. Just remember to only apply it to the area and blot it with a cloth that will absorb the ink. Do it several times until the stain is barely visible, using a clean area of the cloth every time. You can now wash it in the machine with ordinary laundry detergent. Before drying check the stain and if needed, repeat the process.

Permanent Ink

This is a bit more complicated but by following the right steps you will get the ink out of clothes. If it is not a water-based stain, water and detergent won’t do the trick. There are various household items available and we will discuss their use to remove ink from clothes.¬†The products below are all available in households from the medical cabinet to the grocery cupboard. The treatment of the garment remains the same as with a water-based stain and we follow the same steps: apply the remover, blot the area with a clean absorbent cloth. Reapply if necessary and then launder in the usual way.

Surgical Spirits or Rubbing Alcohol

The alcohol in the ink dries off and leave the ink permanently on the surface it comes in touch with, by applying surgical spirits we make the ink-soluble again and it can be blotted up. Use a clean area every time to prevent staining the garment again. After the ink stain is removed rinse all the alcohol out of the garment. You can apply laundry detergent on the area, leave for a period of time and wash it in an ordinary way.

Alcohol-based Hairspray

Use one with an alcohol base and spray the stain to dissolve the stain and thereafter treat like when using rubbing alcohol.

Nail Polish Remover

Excellent cleaner but first test it on a section of the clothing, it might be damaging because of its strength. Use in a similar way as alcohol or hairspray.

Vinegar and Starch

Use this mixture in two ways, first apply vinegar to the stain still wet, and then apply a paste created by mixing vinegar with cornstarch in a 2 to 3 part ratio. Work the paste gently into the stain, leave until dry and wash away.


Milk which was used by Cleopatra as a beauty treatment can also do the thing. Place the item with the stain covered in a bowl of milk overnight. Remove and was as usual.


If the stain is still wet cover the stain with household salt which you dab lightly. Remove and repeat till the ink is removed.

This easy to use products available in your house can help you to get rid of that ugly ink stain on clothes.

The Best Commercial Stain Removing Product

We’ve tested several different stain removal products and by the best one is Vanish.

This product can be used as an additive to your usual washing cycle or as a spot treatment:

You can check out impartial reviews on the Amazon website:

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