How to Remove Ink Stains From Your Clothes

I’m not sure its high jinx at school, or whether my child is just inept at holding a pen properly, but there seems to have been a flood of ink stains on school shirts recently. It's not just school shirts either - work shirts, handbag linings (pet hate), and trouser pockets all seem to be prone to unwanted ink stains.

Ink stains are a two-pronged problem – you have the colour of the dye to remove but also you have the problem of the fact that it’s oil-based to contend with. In the good old days, you could use hairspray to remove ink stains, but now they are either alcohol free or have a significantly less amount of alcohol in them because of the drying affects on hair.

How to successfully remove ink stains

Ideally, you will have noticed the ink stain before you have washed it, but if you haven’t? Don’t worry too much – there is always plan B!

Plan A – How do I remove a fresh, still wet ink stain?

Removing fresh ink is the preferable scenario – it’s not yet had the opportunity to bond to the material and should be relatively easy to shift.

Infographic: How to Remove Fresh Ink Stains

Infographic: How to Remove Fresh Ink Stains

What you need:

  • Surgical spirits

  • White rag or kitchen roll/paper towel

  • Brown paper or an old towel

What you need to do:

1.     Lie the clothing flat but use the brown paper or an old towel to act as a barrier between the stained piece of fabric and the material that it may meet. If the stain is on the front of a shirt, you don’t want the ink to leak through and create a new stain on the back!

2.     Using a rag or kitchen roll, blot as much of the ink as possible. Note the word blot: the idea is to transfer the ink onto it, so press the stain rather than rub it. Use a clean part of the cloth for each pressing action and repeat until no more ink is lifted.

3.     Wet a piece of clean white rag with the surgical spirit and gently dab the stain. It’s important that you don’t rub it to prevent spreading the ink.

4.     Repeat until you are happy that you have removed as much of the stain as possible, wash the garment on the highest temperature that you can for the fabric type – hand washing is fine and necessary for suit jacket pockets or handbag linings.

Plan B – How do I remove old ink stains?

Old ink stains can be removed using the same method as fresh ink – see Plan A; however, if you are not successful and the stain persists, you need to up the ante.

Infographic: How to Remove Old Ink Stains

Infographic: How to Remove Old Ink Stains

What you need:

  • Glycerine

  • Washing up liquid

  • White rag or towel

  • Small bowl

What you need to do:

1.     Combine one tablespoon of glycerine (you can buy it inexpensively from the chemist) with one teaspoon of washing up liquid in a bowl. The glycerine and the washing up liquid are great at dissolving oil-based dirt and grime.

2.     Wet a piece of clean cloth into the mixture and gently dab both sides of the stain. As in Plan A, you need to dab rather than rub and remember to take care to keep the stained fabric out of contact with any stain-free material.

3.     After 5 minutes have passed, using glycerine only, dab the stain again and leave for 10 minutes.

4.     Again, wash the garment on the highest temperature that the fabric allows according to the manufacturers recommendations on the label.

Hopefully you should have by now restored your garment to its former glory. Do you have any other ways of removing ink stains? Please comment below any hints and tips that you have for removing ink stains – share your knowledge!