How to Remove Ink from Fabric

When considering how to remove ink from fabric, keep in mind that the longer the ink remains untreated, the harder it becomes to remove. Heat and time will both set ink stains, virtually locking them into the fibers of the fabric.

Remove Ink From Fabric

When removing any stain, you should generally begin with the gentlest removal technique. If the stain does not remove, you can then try harsher chemicals and techniques. By following this cleaning protocol, you avoid unnecessary wear and tear to fabric. 

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Clean, white towel
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent

Place a folded towel underneath the stained area. This prevents the stain from leaching through to other sections of the fabric. Apply undiluted, heavy-duty laundry detergent to the ink stain. Allow to remain on the stain for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. If the stain is removed, wash the fabric as directed by the care label.

Removing Ink Stains with Alcohol

Some inks are solvent sensitive and respond well to solvent cleaners, such as rubbing alcohol. While you may have been told to apply hairspray to ink stains for easy removal, stain experts do not recommend this method. When it does work, it is usually the alcohol that is the active ingredient. However, hairspray contains many additional ingredients that work to bind things together. Applying it to fabric can leave you with a residue stain in addition to the ink stain. By simply using alcohol, you avoid this problem.

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Clean, white towels
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Color-safe or chlorine bleach, depending on the fabric type

Place the fabric stain side down over a folded, white towel. Saturate a portion of the towel with alcohol. Blot around the outside of the stain with the alcohol. This creates a "barrier" to prevent the ink stain from spreading. Then blot the alcohol directly to the back of the stain. Regularly reposition the bottom towel as the stain leaches onto it. Use clean sections of the blotting towel as it becomes saturated with ink. Continue the process until the stain is no longer removing. Rinse thoroughly and launder with the appropriate bleach for the fabric.

Removing Permanent Ink Stains

Permanent ink stains are rarely removable from fabric. If you treat immediately, some permanent ink stains may erase or become significantly lighter. 

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Clean, white towels
  • Dry cleaning solvent
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Ammonia
  • Commercial dye remover

Start by holding the stain under cold, running water to remove any excess dye. Continue to flush the permanent ink stain until the water runs clear. Allow the fabric to air dry. You can then treat the stain. 

  1. Fold a towel and place underneath the stained fabric. This will prevent the stain from leaching onto the surface underneath the stain. 
  2. Saturate a towel with dry cleaning solvent. Blot gently over the stain. Continue to blot until ink is no longer coming off on the towels. 
  3. Allow to dry.
  4. Apply a thick layer of undiluted, heavy-duty laundry detergent to the stained area. Allow to penetrate the stain for 15 minutes.
  5. Combine 4 tablespoons household ammonia per quart of warm water. Soak the entire piece of fabric in the ammonia solution.  
  6. Rinse the fabric and launder as normal.

If the permanent ink will not remove from white fabric, a commercial dye remover may work when applied using package directions. 

Removing Ink Pen from Fabric Upholstery

When applying cleaners to upholstery, you must take into consideration more than simply the fabric. Many home remedies may damage sizings, backings or fillings. Using the appropriate cleaner increases your chances of removing ink from fabric without damaging the fabric. 

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Dry cleaning solvent
  • Clean, white towels
  • Mild dishwashing liquid

Dampen a section of a towel with a dry cleaning solvent. Gently blot over the stained area. Use clean sections of the towel as needed. Continue to blot until the ink is no longer coming off on the towel. Add 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to a cup of warm water. Blot over the stained area. Rinse by blotting with a clean, damp towel. Blot with a dry towel until as dry as possible. 

Ink does not always come out of fabric. Many factors dictate the success of removal, including the type of ink, specific fabric and the freshness of the stain. Start with the gentlest method and work your way to harsher chemicals as the stain persists.