a couple of shirts next to stain remover and wool dryer balls

Remove Ink Stains From All Types of Clothes In Less Than 5 Steps

Last Updated: June 29, 2022

Did your clothes get pen marks or ink stains? Don't throw them out yet! Read on to learn how to remove ink from clothes of all fabric types in less than 5 steps.

Is there anything more frustrating than staining your favorite shirt or pair of jeans? It’s even worse when you stain it with something like ink. Don’t throw out your favorite piece of clothing just yet — we’re sharing the best tips to remove ink stains and ballpoint pen stains naturally Follow our step-by-step guide for restoring your clothes without the ink woes.

First, what’s your ink stain type?

Ink stains are highly common. It’s important to know what type of ink stained your clothes so you know the best cleaners to use to get it out (which we outline in more detail in the section below).

Here’s different types of ink stains you might be facing.

  • Water-based: These inks are mostly used in fountain and gel pens. This ink is thin, non-greasy, and easier to remove. If the stain is fresh, it can be completely washed off with just hot water. A dried stain may need a stain remover.
  • Dye-based: Most commonly used in ball-point pens, these inks are thick and oily, made by combining dyes with grease. These stains may need to be pre-treated for proper removal.
  • Permanent ink: As the name suggests, permanent ink is designed to be permanent. This makes it the hardest to remove completely, but not impossible.

Things you’ll need to clean ink stains

Cleaning an ink stain requires different materials for different types of stains and fabrics.

Gather some of these natural cleaning options:

Step-by-step instructions to clean ink stains from different fabrics

Remember to try and determine what type of ink stained your clothing so you know what your up against before you start cleaning.

Cleaning ink stains from linen/polyester/nylon/Spandex/Lycra

Step 1: Test the solvent

Choose the alcohol-based cleaning solution of your choice, such as hand sanitizer, hair spray, or rubbing alcohol, and test it on an inconspicuous spot on the fabric to ensure it doesn't cause more damage.

Step 2: Drip the cleaner over the stain

Place the stained area over the mouth of a jar or glass, and keep the fabric stretched tight to make sure the ink doesn’t spread.

Drip the alcohol-based cleaner through the stain. It will loosen the ink, which will then be dropped into the jar.

Step 3: Rinse and dry

Once the stain is removed, rinse the stained area well with water. Air dry and check to make sure the stain is really gone.

Step 4: Launder the item

If the stain is completely removed after drying, launder the item with a natural laundry detergent and a non-chlorine bleach for an extra boost — per the instructions given with the fabric.

Getting ink stains out of wool and silk

Step 1: Blot

For wool or silk fabric, the first step is to blot out as much ink as possible.

Dampen a microfiber cloth with cold water, and dab it on the stain.

Step 2: Use a cleaning solvent

If the stain does not come off after blotting, apply an alcohol-based cleaner and blot with warm water, or use a mixture of vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio and scrub the stain.

Try using a toothbrush to really scrub into the fibers.

Step 3: Clean with water and dry

If the stain is lifted, use a cloth dampened with cold water to take off the cleaning agent.

Blot dry with a clean eco-friendly paper towel.

Getting ink stains out of cotton/chenille/corduroy

Step 1: Spray alcohol-based cleaner on the stain

Spray an alcohol-based hairspray or hand sanitizer on the stained area, and allow it to loosen the ink.

Step 2: Soak in a vinegar and laundry detergent solution

Make a cleaning solution of natural laundry detergent and vinegar diluted in water, and test it on a corner spot.

If it doesn’t damage the fabric, soak the stained area in this solution for about half an hour.

Step 3: Rinse and dry

If the stain is removed after soaking, rinse the fabric with cold water and let it air dry.

Step 4: For stronger stains, dab with alcohol

If the stain persists after soaking, dab it with a cloth dampened with your alcohol-based cleaner until the stain lifts.

Clean with a wet cloth and air dry.

Getting rid of ink stains on leather and velvet

The best option for fabrics like leather and velvet is to use a cleaning product especially designed for them and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

We love this Pure Sense Leather Conditioner and Cleaner here at Grove.

Getting rid of ink stains on jeans

Follow our lead on how to remove ink stains from jeans with these simple steps:

  1. Fill a pot or bucket with 91-percent (or higher) rubbing alcohol
  2. Add some milk to the alcohol, making a handy cleaning mixture
  3. Submerge your ink-stained jeans (the portion with the stain) into your solution, and then pull it out
  4. Add salt liberally to the stained part of your jeans
  5. Lightly pour some of the milk-and-alcohol solution onto the salted stain, rub your fingers over the stain with the solution, and scrub hard with your fingers
  6. Keep adding solution and scrubbing until you see the stain has been removed. (Keep in mind, you might need to also do a few rounds of salt before the stain comes out all the way.)

Bonus: How to remove ink stains from furniture and carpet

Getting ink stains on carpet or furniture is the mother of all household dilemmas, but there’s a way to salvage your furniture and carpet without throwing in the towel.

Check out the how-to process for removing ink from both furniture and carpet naturally.

Things you’ll need to remove ink stains from carpet and furniture

How to remove ink stains from carpet in 4 steps

  1. Start by mixing one teaspoon of natural dish soap with warm water.
  2. Use a microfiber cloth to dab into your soapy mixture and then dab it onto the ink stain on your carpet.
  3. Keep repeating step two until you notice your stain is gone for good.
  4. If needed, apply an alcohol-based stain remover, but be sure to test in an inconspicuous area first.

How to remove ink stains from furniture

  1. Use a clean, white cloth and dampen it with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Dab the ink stain on your sofa with your cloth with the cloth and alcohol
  3. Combine equal parts liquid hand soap, liquid dish soap, and water, and mix up a cleaning concoction.
  4. Use a new cloth to dab the stain with your solution you’ve just made and repeat as long as necessary.
  5. After you see that the ink has been completely removed through this process, use water and a new cloth to rinse the cleaners off your furniture.
  6. Get yet another cloth and blot the water out of your furniture, trying to get the furniture as dry as possible.
  7. Lastly, let your furniture air dry, but avoid any use until it completely dries out.

A few more ink stain removal tips & tricks

If you have a particularly stubborn ink stain, read up on a few more tips and tricks to try and get it out.

How do you remove ink after it has dried?

Put down a towel you don’t mind getting stained, and place the stained garment on top of it.

Treat the stain with rubbing alcohol or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or hair spray and let sit for at least 10 minutes before blotting and rinsing with cold water.

Lather the stain, then rinse again with cold water.

Does vodka remove ink stains?

Surprisingly, it might just work. It’s a clear alcohol with no additives, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot, especially if you don’t have any other options in the house and you need to tackle a stain, stat.

Does pen ink come out in the wash?

The bad news is pen ink doesn’t usually come out in the wash alone and can spread to other items, especially if you wash a pen with your load of laundry.

Pretreat with an alcohol-based option before washing.

Can you remove ink stains with toothpaste?

It might not be quite as effective, but you can remove ink stains with toothpaste in a pinch — here’s how to get it done:

  • Cover the ink stain with toothpaste and let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Next, run the area under cold water while you rub the toothpaste into the fabric.
  • Keep repeating these two steps until you notice the pen ink has come out.
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Spills happen, but Grove Collaborative has you covered with Stain Busters. Each week, we’ll tell you how to tackle a different tough stain around the home or on your clothes. Red wine, grass stains, ink ... no stubborn stain is a match for our grime-busting guides.

Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on stains, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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