How to Remove Pen Ink Stains From Clothes

Updated on April 22, 2019
Ink stain from a ballpoint pen.
Ink stain from a ballpoint pen.

Removing Ink Stains

You've just had an accident with your ballpoint pen, and it left a mark on your best shirt or blouse. Worse yet, the pen may have exploded or gone through the washer or dryer. Now what should you do? Here are some quick ideas to get the ink stain out.

Remove the Stain as Soon as Possible

Try to remove the stain as soon as possible. Always read labels before trying any stain removal. Some fabrics can't handle water. Wool is a good example; it will shrink if washed in hot water or put in a dryer. If the stain is still there after you wash the item, never put it in the dryer. The heat from the dryer may set the stain, and you may not be able to remove it.

Try one of the suggestions below, and your stain should be gone. If one doesn't work for you, try another.

Rubbing Alcohol

  1. Wet the stain with the rubbing alcohol and a paper towel or cloth.
  2. Take another cloth or paper towel and place under the stain. Take the first cloth/paper towel and dab the stain. This should help remove most of the ink.
  3. Run it under cold water.
  4. If the ink is still there, start the process over again.
  5. Run it in the washer with regular laundry detergent. After going through the washer, the stain should be removed. If not, try one of the ideas stated below.

Caution: Rubbing alcohol is flammable. Be sure to keep it away from flames and smokers. It will also cause extreme eye irritation, so be careful to keep it out of your eyes.


This may sound strange, but it does work for small ink stains.

  1. Spray hairspray on the stain and place a cloth or paper towel under the stain. Press down. Don't scrub; that could make the ink spread further.
  2. Continue the process until the ink is removed. Often, this alone will take out the stain.
  3. If not, spray again, and put it in the washer with the hottest water the fabric can tolerate. Wash with your regular detergent. This should remove the stain.

Caution: Hairspray is flammable. Don't try this method near the kitchen range, candles or smokers.


If you weren't able to try alcohol or hairspray, you can try this technique.

  1. Soak the garment in a bowl of milk overnight.
  2. Throw the garment in the washing machine in the morning with regular laundry soap.
  3. This should remove the stain. If not, repeat the process.

White Vinegar and Cornstarch

  1. First, let some vinegar sit on the stain for a few minutes.
  2. Make a paste out of the vinegar and cornstarch. About 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 3 tablespoons of corn starch will be the right consistency. If the stain is large, double the amount of vinegar and cornstarch.
  3. Put the mixture on the stain.
  4. Let the paste dry completely.
  5. Place it in the washer.

Oxiclean and Other Products

Oxiclean will remove the stain, but Oxiclean is not recommented for certain fabrics. This includes fabrics that have a label that says "dry clean only", wool and wool blends, anything silk or containing silk, and leather. The company claims the product won't bleach colored fabrics. I have had it fade out colors, so you should try it on an inconspicuous place first.

Shout claims to remove ink stains. With stain removal products, be sure to read the instructions and labels closely. They aren't safe for all clothing, and each one is different.

None of the laundry soaps claim to remove ink. You are going to need to try the suggestions above or purchase a special product.

Howcast, Youtube

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • profile image

      Jhonea Gamble 

      17 months ago

      I washed my husbands shirt with night pants but the dye letter around the waist band that bleed on his shirt how can I get it out

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      3 years ago from USA

      I am not sure, but it seems like the same thing would work.

    • profile image

      Lou Robertson 

      3 years ago

      What about ink marks on leather bags?

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks for tips!

      Going to try them!

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      6 years ago from USA

      Shyron, Thanks for reading and I'm happy you found something useful.

    • Tom Schumacher profile image

      Tom Schumacher 

      6 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

      Great hub! Too often I find that I ruin my dress shirts because a pen placed in my pocket leaks. Usually it's a small stain, which really drives me crazy because size doesn't matter - the shirt is ruined regardless. However, I will try your advice in the future and hope for the best. - Thanks for sharing. P.s. Does hydrogen peroxide work on white shirts?

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Barbara, great suggestions, I knew about the hair spray but the other suggestions I keep saved to my favorites for future reference.

      Voted up, UAI and shared.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      wabash annie, Thanks for reading and I hope it works for you. Let me know.

    • wabash annie profile image

      wabash annie 

      7 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      Appreciate the suggestions. I have an ink stain on a white cotton shirt and will give one or more of these a try!

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      Glimmer Twin Fan, I think alcohol should be safe. Give it try on a spot that won't show. Thanks for reading.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      I like these tips. Very helpful. I have a leather handbag with pen marks on it, but I am nervous about trying anything on it for fear of ruining the bag. Thanks for this hub.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      teaches12345, Thanks for reading. I'm happy you find them helpful.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Lots of great suggestions here, Barbara. I will try some of these next time I find an ink stain on clothing. I do get them from time to time.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      sholland10, I don't think it would work on crayons since they are paraffin based. What I have heard is put a paper that doesn't have print on both the top and bottom of the stain. Use a hot iron and the crayon will melt and most of it will melt. While it is melted it, remove it. I used the old fashioned brown grocery bags for paper. We were able to pull the crayon mark right off. Give it a try. It might work.

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      7 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      I didn't know about the alcohol or hair spray tricks. I will have to remember that. Do you think it would work on crayon? My daughter works for a restaurant and has to write her name upside down on the table. She has left her crayons in her pants and stains some of her clothes. Of course, we don't find it until one of us pulls them out of the dryer. I try to catch them when they come out of the washer. SHOUT doesn't work on those stains, though.

      Thanks for these great tips! I will have to try them. :-) Votes and shares! :-)

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      moonlake, You were lucky. I've had them do that before and what a mess. Thanks for reading and voting up.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      mailxpress, That is all I ever used too, but the alcohol is suppose to work better. Thanks for commenting.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      Sherry,, Thanks for visiting and sharing.

    • moonlake profile image


      7 years ago from America

      Like your suggestions. I pulled a pen out of the wash the other day, so glad it didn't open up all over our clothes. Voted up.

    • mailxpress profile image

      Michelle Cesare 

      7 years ago from New York

      Hairspray has helped me in the past. I also learned not to bother trying to get out a stain after material in dryer.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      7 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I'll have to try these, thanks! Voted up and shared.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      Vickiw, I've used the hair spray method for years and it does work. The alcohol is supposed to work even better. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I will add this to my laundry list of dreaded stains! Thanks

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      billybuc, Hopefully you need the tips. Thanks for reading.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestions, Barbara Kay! Thank you!


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