How Do I Get Dried Pen Ink Out of Colored Clothes?

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If you have never had ink on your clothes, count yourself among the lucky few. Sooner or later someone will leave a pen in his pocket, and if the washer does not “do it in,” the dryer will. When it happens, you will have a messy stain on your hands. Before tossing that favorite shirt or designer dress though, try some of these remedies to remove the stain.

Water-Soluble Ink Stains

  • Test a spot by rubbing with a damp cloth dipped in a solution of warm water to which a few drops of laundry detergent and non-chlorine bleach have been added. If the ink is water soluble, at least some of it should come off on the rag. If it does, lay the article of clothing on a flat surface with an old towel as a blotting pad beneath the clothing. (Avoid getting any other part of the clothing under the stained portion or the stain may soak through and make a bigger mess.) Dip a clean cotton cloth (old diapers work well) in the detergent solution and without wringing the cloth, place it over the stain. Let sit for several minutes until the dried ink begins to soften and dissolve. Repeat—scrubbing as needed—until stain is gone. Wash as usual.

    If detergent and non-chlorine beach do not work, try rubbing the spot with a paste of cornstarch and milk, or soak in straight milk overnight. A hydrogen peroxide and baking soda paste, white vinegar and cornstarch paste, or non-gel toothpaste applied to the stain and rubbed vigorously may also work for some ink stains.

Simple Solvent Solutions

  • Ink that is not water-soluble may take a bit of testing to find the right solvent for dissolving it. One of the simplest solvents is ordinary rubbing alcohol. Dab it on the stain with a cotton cloth, and rub to remove the ink. (Place the clothing item on a flat surface with blotting pad beneath as above.) Soak with alcohol if necessary, and blot to remove. Repeat until all ink is gone, then wash as usual.

    If that does not work, rinse the garment in clear cold water before trying another solvent. Earl Proulx of Yankee Home Hints suggests using acetone or acetone-based fingernail polish remover as with the rubbing alcohol above, or try an aerosol hairspray. Always rinse between trying various solvents to avoid possible adverse chemical reactions.

Commercial Cures

  • Generally one of the previous solutions will work to remove even dried on ink stains, but if all else fails, there are a number of commercial products on the market. A few of the possible commercial formulas that may work are Carbona Formula, Goo Gone, Shout, OxyClean and Spray & Wash.

References

  • "Yankee Home Hints"; Earl Proulx; Rodale Press; 1993
  • Photo Credit Andrew Olney/Photodisc/Getty Images
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