How to remove ink stains from clothes? (remove old & dry ink)

You can remove ink stains from clothes by applying rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, baking soda, vinegar, or hair spray (any one) on the stain and then washing the clothes as usual. The type of cleaning solution that you should use entirely depends on the type of ink, the age of ink stains, and the fabric type.

While some fabrics may respond better to special treatments than others, ink stains are notoriously difficult to get out of clothing. And it could take several washings before it completely disappears. 

Key Takeaways

  • Certain types of ink stains such as permanent ink, dye ink, and oil-based inks are extremely difficult to remove from fabrics, especially if it’s a white or light-colored fabric.
  • Extensive cleaning or rubbing of clothes to remove ink is not the best way to treat your fabric.
  • An ink stain can be treated using various stain-removing solutions like commercial stain removers, hand sanitizers, rubbing alcohol, hair spray, and simple home remedies such as vinegar and baking soda.
  • Before treating any type of ink stain, it’s important to determine the type of ink that caused the stain and the type of fabric which you are treating.

Is Ink stain on clothes permanent?

Ink can stain clothes permanently if it is not treated properly on time.

Since all types of inks are not the same, some may be easily removed while others may require more vigorous treatment.

For instance, water-based ink can be removed with water and detergents with enzymes, while oil-based ink may require a solvent or a specialized cleaner.

That being said, the success of removing an ink stain depends on both the ink and the affected fabric.

So, how well an ink stain comes out depends on the type of ink, fabric type, and the solution used to treat the stains.

Also, it’s important that you act quickly when an ink stain occurs in order to prevent the stains from setting.

Can ink stains be removed from clothing?

Ink stains can be difficult to remove, and in some cases, they may be permanent, especially if the stains are permanent in nature. However, prompt treatment with the right methods can often successfully remove or lighten the stain. It is also important to note that the type of ink, the fabric, and the age of the stain can affect how easily it can be removed.

Ink stains can be caused by a variety of sources, such as pen ink, permanent ink, dye ink, ballpoint ink, etc.

The key to successfully removing the ink stain from clothes is to figure out the nature of the ink i.e. if the ink is permanent or not, if it’s water-based or oil-based, etc.

Based on the type of ink and the fabric type, you should use an appropriate solution or detergent.

For instance, if the stain is from a ballpoint pen, then using a laundry detergent with enzymes may help break down the stain. And for permanent inks, it is best to use an alcohol-based cleaner or rubbing alcohol.

But if the stain is very stubborn and hard to get out, you might need to take the garment to a professional dry cleaner for help.

It’s important to note that, you may not be able to eliminate certain types of ink stains completely, especially if the fabric is made of delicate materials.

Delicate fabric may restrict you from treating it with more aggressive methods.

Why is it difficult to remove ink from clothes?

Removing ink from clothes can be a tough task, especially if it’s a pigment-based stain.

Ink stains are usually caused by permanent ink or water-based ink, which is often found in ballpoint pens.

Permanent ink is more difficult to remove than water-based ink as the ink particles may bond with the fibers in the fabric.

That being said, both types of ink can be hard to remove from fabrics as they age.

It is therefore important to identify the type of ink that caused the stain, act quickly, and use the appropriate detergent to remove it.

However, even when using the right detergent, removing an ink stain can still be a challenge.

It is best to act quickly when dealing with an ink stain on clothing, as it will become harder to remove as time passes.

How to remove ink stains from clothes?

Removing ink stains from clothes is not an easy task and may require special care to treat it.

In an attempt to remove the stains, it’s important that you don’t try too hard or use aggressive methods, as you may end up damaging the fabric.

The whole idea is to eliminate as many stains as possible without damaging the fabric.

Let’s take a quick look at the measures that you can take when your clothes have been stained with ink.

Determine the Type of Ink

Determining the type of ink is key to effectively tackling the stain.

This is because the type of detergent that you need to use to remove the stain will depend on the type of ink, as well as its age.

To determine the type of ink, blot the stain with a clean cloth and then apply a small amount of detergent or hand sanitizer.

If the stain is removed, it is likely a water-based ink. If not, try using rubbing alcohol, and if that does not work, it is likely permanent ink, which can be more difficult to remove.

Once you have determined the type of ink, you can use specific methods to remove water-based ink stains, such as soaking the clothes in water and using an enzyme-based detergent.

For stubborn stains, you may need to use more aggressive methods like commercial stain removers, hairspray, or nail polish removers and see if that helps.

No matter what type of ink stain you are dealing with, always test any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area first before applying it directly to the stain.

How do you get ink out of clothes?

It is quite common for college, school, or office-going individuals to have ink marks on their clothing, especially near their pockets. However, it is not limited to these individuals and can happen to anyone.

These types of stains can be stubborn and become very difficult to remove from clothing, no matter what tricks you use.

However, there are a few different methods you can try to safely remove the stains, here are a few of them.

Vinegar or Hydrogen Peroxide

Before applying vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, you can try soaking the stained clothes in cold or warm water for about 15 minutes before laundering them as usual.

If the stain is still there after washing, you can try rubbing it with a sponge dipped in diluted vinegar or hydrogen peroxide for a couple of minutes.

Leave it to settle for some time, and then apply a small amount of mild liquid detergent over the stain.

Next, add a few drops of water and rub the surface with your fingers for a minute, and then let it settle for 30 minutes.

Finally, wash the stained portion with clean water, and the ink spots should disappear or lighten.


Using toothpaste can ease your task and help remove ink stains.

Just apply toothpaste to the stained surface of your clothing and allow it to dry for about 30 minutes to an hour.

When it dries, wash the stained surface using a suitable detergent, and it should lighten the stain on the fabric.

You can use your regular toothpaste, however, you should not use gel toothpaste to erase ink stains.

In most cases, the water-based ink stain goes away or fades after washing the fabric a few times.

Rubbing alcohol or Acetone (Nail Polish Remover)

Rubbing Alcohol or a nail polish remover is another best option for removing ink stains from clothes, however, you must first determine whether the ink spots are minor or more visible on the clothing.

If the spots are minor, simply soak a cotton ball in any of the above solutions and rub it over the stained surface and see if that helps.

Use rubbing alcohol or acetone as a last resort, as these are aggressive methods and may cause damage to the clothing if not used correctly.

To use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover, add a few drops of either solution to the stain, and gently work on it using a cotton ball (it’s better if you dip the cotton ball in the solution before treating the stains).

Once you are done treating the stains, add some liquid detergent, followed by pouring some water on the affected areas. Next, work on the stains using your fingers, and finally, rinse with clean water.

Shaving Cream

Shaving cream or gel can be another alternative and effective home remedy to remove ink marks from clothing.

Simply apply shaving cream to the ink stain using your fingers, and then gently rub it over the surface with the help of a soft-bristled brush.

Leave the application for about 20 to 30 minutes, and then wash it with detergent and water the usual way.

This will again lighten the ink stains, however, using this method a couple of times will give more satisfactory results.

Lemon and Salt

This is another easy and safe way to deal with ink marks on your garments, it significantly lightens the ink stains while causing no harm to the fabric.

Take a small bowl and mix equal parts or one teaspoon of lemon juice with one teaspoon of salt.

With the help of a toothbrush, apply the solution to the stained surface and gently scrub over the spot.

Next, wash the fabric with regular detergent and check if the ink stain has disappeared or lightened.

Lemon contains natural bleaching capabilities and can help remove such types of stains from fabrics.

Additionally, if the ink stain is fresh or wet, then simply sprinkle some salt on it and scrub it gently using a soft brush.

You can continue scrubbing until the marks disappear or show signs of fading.

Cornstarch and Baking soda

Combine corn flour and milk to make a thick paste and apply it over the stained portion of the garment.

Leave it to settle for about 30 minutes, and finally brush it clean before washing it as usual.

Likewise, you can apply a thick paste of baking soda over the stained surface, leave it to settle overnight, and then wash the garment for better results.


Fill a bowl with milk, and simply soak the stained portion of the fabric overnight.

The next morning, you can launder the garment, as usual, using mild soap, which should lighten the ink stains on the fabric.


Bleaching solutions can be used to freshen up dull garments and remove stubborn stains from their surfaces.

However, always refer to the care label of your fabric type to prevent damaging its fibers because some fabrics aren’t suitable for bleaching.

Some fabrics can be treated with chlorine bleach, while a few recommend non-chlorine or oxygen bleach.

For dry-clean-only fabrics, always walk into the nearest dry-cleaning professional to treat ink stains with care.

How to get rid of ballpoint pen ink?

Removing ballpoint pen ink can be a tricky task, but it is possible.

Ballpoint pens typically use one of three types of ink


Water-based ink is a newer type of ink used in ballpoint pens. It is less viscous than oil-based ink and dries more quickly. It is also less likely to smudge and is easier to remove from surfaces and fabrics.

Most water-based ink can be removed using baking soda paste, enzyme-based detergents, or vinegar.


It is the oldest type of ballpoint pen ink, and it is known for its durability and resistance to water and smudging.

However, it can be more difficult to remove from fabrics and surfaces than other types of ink.

To remove oil-based ink stains, mix equal parts dishwashing liquid and baking soda to make a paste, then gently rub the paste into the stain and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Another method is to use a dry cleaning solvent, such as rubbing alcohol, or a solution specifically designed to remove ink stains and apply it to the stain.

Be sure to test it first on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric to make sure it doesn’t cause any damage


Gel-based ink combines the qualities of water-based and oil-based ink.

It is thicker and dries more slowly than water-based ink, resulting in a smoother writing experience.

Gel-based ink is also resistant to smudging and water, but it is also more difficult to remove from fabrics and surfaces than water-based ink.

Removing gel-based ink from clothes can be done by using rubbing alcohol or hairspray to saturate the stain, followed by washing the fabric in the washing machine or by hand using an enzyme-based detergent.

Another method is to use a mixture of mild dish soap and water to gently scrub the stain, then wipe it with a clean cloth.

With all that said, it is important to test these methods on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric first, as some fabrics can be damaged by certain cleaning solutions.

Note: The above stain-removing steps and solutions can be used for ink stains caused by felt pens as well.

Quick Summary

To remove ballpoint pen ink, start by blotting the stained area with a paper towel to absorb as much of the ink as possible.

Then, apply rubbing alcohol directly to the stain and let it sit for several minutes before blotting again with a paper towel.

If the stain persists, try using a commercial stain remover followed by washing the affected fabric with enzyme-based laundry detergent.

Be sure to test any product you use on an inconspicuous area first to make sure it won’t damage the fabric.

The above-mentioned steps also work great for old and dry ink stains.

How to Get Ink Out of Leather, Spandex, and Lycra

The best way to get ink out of leather, spandex, or lycra is to use rubbing alcohol.

First, take a cotton swab and dip it in the rubbing alcohol. Next, rub the stain gently with the swab until the ink starts to come off.

If necessary, you can also use a soft cloth or paper towel instead of a cotton swab.

Once you have rubbed away as much of the ink as possible, let the area dry completely before using any other cleaning products or methods.

Note: Distilled white vinegar also works well, however, it is important that you consult a professional cleaner if the stain is not removed or if you are unsure about the leather material.

Additional Tips for Handling Ink Stains

  • Always work from the outside of the stain inward to avoid spreading the ink.
  • Avoid using heat, such as ironing, on ink stains as it can set the stain and make it permanent.
  • Avoid using bleach on ink stains as it can discolor the fabric.
  • Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before treating the entire stain, as some fabrics can be sensitive to certain cleaning solutions.
  • Always read the care label of the clothing before attempting to remove the stain.
  • If the stain is not removed or if you are unsure about the fabric, it’s best to take the item to a professional cleaner for proper treatment.
  • Be patient, ink stains can be difficult to remove, it may take several attempts to remove the stain completely.

Final Thoughts

Ink stains can ruin the look of your fabric, and treating such stains with non-suitable products can cause permanent damage to your clothing.

It is therefore important for you to strike the right balance by determining the fabric type and the ink type, as well as reading the care label of your fabric.

Reading the care label is an extremely important step as it will help you figure out the washing method, i.e., whether the fabric is washable or labeled as “dry clean only” or not.

Furthermore, always try the available stain-removing solutions in an inconspicuous area of your garment to ensure safety.

Lastly, if you don’t know what kind of fabric you have or which method to use, just go to the nearest laundromat or dry cleaner without any hesitation.

Manish Singh is an expert in electrical engineering with a Diploma in the field. With over 12 years of experience, he specializes in repairing music systems, washing machines, dryers, and other laundry-related appliances. His in-depth knowledge in electrical repairs and decent knowledge about garment care makes him a trusted authority in the field of appliance repair and laundry related topics. If you have any questions or need assistance with your appliances, you can reach out to Manish through email: manish.singh (at)