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How to Remove Pen Ink Stains From Clothes

Barbara writes about the things she loves. Her hobbies include gardening, crochet, reading the Bible, cooking, and home remedies.

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 all over 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 attempting 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 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.


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.


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 recommended 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.

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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.


Eva Sam on April 13, 2020:

You can use old perfumes too...

Jhonea Gamble on February 19, 2019:

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 Badder (author) from USA on June 02, 2017:

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

Lou Robertson on June 02, 2017:

What about ink marks on leather bags?

paula on April 27, 2016:

Thanks for tips!

Going to try them!

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 03, 2014:

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

Tom Schumacher from Huntington Beach, CA on March 02, 2014:

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 from Texas on March 02, 2014:

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 Badder (author) from USA on April 26, 2013:

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

wabash annie from Colorado Front Range on April 26, 2013:

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

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 25, 2013:

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

Claudia Porter on March 25, 2013:

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 Badder (author) from USA on March 18, 2013:

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

Dianna Mendez on March 17, 2013:

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 Badder (author) from USA on March 15, 2013:

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.

Susan Holland from Southwest Missouri on March 14, 2013:

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 Badder (author) from USA on March 14, 2013:

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

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 14, 2013:

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

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 14, 2013:

Sherry,, Thanks for visiting and sharing.

moonlake from America on March 14, 2013:

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.

Michelle Cesare from New York on March 14, 2013:

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 from Sierra Foothills, CA on March 14, 2013:

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

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 13, 2013:

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.

Vickiw on March 13, 2013:

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

Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 13, 2013:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2013:

Great suggestions, Barbara Kay! Thank you!

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