How to Remove Stains from Paper

Paper and liquids do not mix. Whether it is your favorite book or an important document, spills on paper often seem irreversible. You can successfully remove stains from paper when treated carefully using specific steps. Only valuable, irreplaceable papers need to be taken to a professional for preservation.

Remove Stains from Paper

When a spill happens on paper, immediately use paper towels to absorb the excess liquid. If you react quickly enough, you can prevent the majority of liquid from penetrating into the paper. Keep in mind that the more liquid paper has absorbed, the more delicate the paper becomes. Wet paper easily tears and falls apart. 

Removing Grease Spots from Paper

To effectively remove stains, you will first need to remove the liquid from the paper. 

What You Will Need Before You Start:

  • Impalpable clay or white chalk
  • Soft paintbrush
  • Fresh, white paper
  • Iron

Start by laying out the paper as flat as possible on a hard, waterproof surface. Carefully smooth out any wrinkles and ridges. Use a soft paintbrush to lightly dust the stained areas of the paper with impalpable clay or white chalk. Impalpable clay can be purchased at an art supply store. Alternatively, you can use a dull knife to scrape white chalk into a powdered form. The clay or chalk will help to pull the grease out of the paper and help reduce the stain. 

Carefully move the paper so that it is sandwiched between two pieces of clean, white paper. Gently place a warm iron on the top paper for five seconds. When you remove the paper from inside the pocket, the stain will be lighter. Depending on the type of paper and the staining liquid, the stain may even be removed completely.

Removing Stains from Paper Using Water

While water is generally not considered a good thing for paper, light applications can help to reduce staining from liquids. 

What You Will Need Before You Start:

  • Tape
  • Spray bottle of cool water
  • Wet Vacuum

Spread the paper out over a hard, waterproof surface. Carefully smooth out all wrinkles. Use tape to secure the paper to the table on each side. Gently mist the stained area with cool water. Do not soak the paper or the stain. Just lightly mist the surface. Vacuum the moisture from the paper by holding the nozzle slightly above the paper's surface. You will see both the moisture and the stain gently lift from the paper. Repeat the process, if necessary.

Removing Stains from Paper by Bleaching

Certain stains on white paper may require bleaching in order to remove completely. Coffee, tea and juice stains often "dye" the paper and require a strong solution in order to remove. When you remove stains from paper using bleach, wear gloves and work in a ventilated area. 

What You Will Need Before You Start:

  • Paper towel
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Cold Water

If the spill just occurred, use paper towels to absorb any excess moisture from the surface of the paper. Fold a paper towel so that it is several layers thick. Moisten the paper towel with a small amount of chlorine bleach. Gently blot the stain with the bleach. As the paper towel becomes stained, it may be necessary to use a clean paper towel with fresh bleach. Repeat the process until the stain is completely removed. Dampen a folded, paper towel in cold water and gently blot over the area. Blot with a dry paper towel.

The key to removing a stain using bleach is to avoid saturating the paper. Blot the stain without rubbing the paper. Rubbing wet paper will rough the surface and damage the finish. 

Removing Mold and Mildew Stains from Paper

Over time, books and paper can mold and mildew. Humid conditions can speed up the process. The University of Missouri Extension recommends completely drying damp paper before attempting to remove mold or mildew. After the paper is dry, you can take steps to remove any remaining stains. 

What You Will Need Before You Start:

  • Lint-free cloths
  • Water
  • Mild dishwashing liquid

Remove any loose mold by gently wiping away with a dry, soft cloth. If stains remain, you can gently wash thick, sturdy paper. 

  1. Mix a generous amount of mild dishwashing liquid in cool water. Submerge a lint-free cloth in the solution and wring it out until it is just damp.
  2. Wipe the cloth lightly over the paper. Do not rub, just gently move over the surface. 
  3. Rinse by wiping with a cloth dampened with fresh, clear water. 
  4. Pat the paper dry with a dry cloth. 

Be careful to not saturate the paper with water, as it will cause the paper to buckle and wrinkle. Use the bleaching process outlined above to remove any remaining stubborn stains. 

Removing stains from paper is a difficult task in that it requires careful attention to avoid wetting the paper too much. Most papers can be reprinted, but special documents and books are often work the time and care require to remove stains from paper. Work with ease and caution, removing a small portion of the stain at a time. If you are unable to successfuly remove the stain, professionals use special chemicals and techniques that may remove the stain safely.