Removing gel pen from fabric can be tricky, especially when you discover the stain on clothes that have already been laundered. The number one rule for getting out any kind of stain is to tackle it as soon as possible, ideally before washing and always before drying, as drying sets a stain and can make it impossible to remove. Add the challenge of gel pen ink, which is harder to get out than other types of ink, and you might assume the garment is ruined. However, there are some common household products that have potential to get out even the toughest of ink stains. Repeat applications are probably necessary, so be patient and persistent.
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First, check the care label of the clothing before tackling a stain. If the label states the clothing is dry-clean only, be sure to take it to a dry cleaner instead of trying to get the stain out at home.
Apply a Clothes-Safe Solvent
A few different household solvents have the power to remove gel pen from fabric: rubbing alcohol, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and clear nail polish remover or acetone. Rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer are generally safe to use on all types of fabric, but nail polish remover and acetone should only be used on 100 percent natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, as they will damage synthetic fibers.
Test your chosen solvent on an inconspicuous area of the stained garment, such as an inside seam. To do this, apply a tiny drop on the fabric, let it sit for two to three minutes and then blot with a paper towel. If the paper towel comes away clean, the product is color-fast, and you can proceed to use it after rinsing the test area.
To start removing gel pen from fabric, place paper towels or an old rag underneath the stained area and pour on your choice of rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, clear nail polish remover or acetone. Fully saturate the stain with the solvent and let it sit for five to 10 minutes before rinsing with water. Examine the stain and repeat if the first application didn't remove all or some of it. For extra stain-fighting effort, apply some salt to the stain after soaking it with the solvent and scrub the stain with an old toothbrush. Continue with the next step when you feel the solvent has removed as much of the gel pen as possible.
Treat the Stain With Detergent
Next, apply a liquid laundry detergent, commercial stain fighter or dish soap directly to the stain, soaking it completely. Let the product sit for five minutes and then launder the clothing at the hottest setting recommended on its care label. After washing, examine the stain before putting the item in the dryer. If the stain remains, repeat both the solvent and pretreating steps before laundering again. Only put the item in the dryer when you feel you have removed the gel pen from the fabric as much as possible.
Other Ways to Remove Gel Pen From Fabric
If the gel pen stain is on white, bleachable clothing, you can add a pre-laundry soak in a solution of bleach and water to the process. Oxygen bleach might be a similar solution for colored clothing. After rinsing the solvent and any other treatments, soak the stained clothing in a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water for up to five minutes. Drain the bleach solution and immediately machine wash the garment.
Another way to remove gel pen from fabric is to use ammonia. Note that ammonia is not safe for use on wool or silk and should never be mixed with bleach. Mix a solution of 1 teaspoon of ammonia, 2 cups of cold water and 2 teaspoons of liquid nonbleach laundry detergent. Apply it to the stain with a spoon. Let the solution sit on the stain for five minutes, rinse it with water and repeat if needed. Launder the garment immediately afterward.