How to Get Ink Out of Denim

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Check those pockets before sitting down or doing laundry.
Check those pockets before sitting down or doing laundry. (Image: neirfy/iStock/Getty Images)

When denim and pens meet, stains happen -- a pen kept in a jeans pocket bursts, or a teen doodles absentmindedly on her jeans during class. No matter the cause, there's no reason for the ink to stay on the denim forever. Turn that stain into invisible ink with a few readily available substances such as rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer or even salt. Once the ink has vanished -- or nearly vanished -- a regular run through the washing machine with a bleach-free, stain-removing detergent renders the denim stain-free once again. Check the denim to be sure the stain is completely gone before placing it in the dryer, otherwise you may heat-set the ink.

A Salty Solution

If the ink spot is still fresh, sprinkle regular table salt over the wet ink. Dab the area with a damp paper towel or white cloth -- don't scrub -- and then pour the salt into the trash. Repeat the process with more salt and fresh paper towels until you've removed as much ink as possible. If enough ink spilled to soak through to the other side of the denim, repeat the process on that side as well.

Sanitizing Stain Remover

Ink stains don't always happen while you're at home. Treat a stain in a pinch with hand sanitizer, by rubbing it over the ink, working from the outside of the stain toward the center, or by following the direction of a line of ink, rather than working across it. Blot the wet sanitizer immediately with dry paper towels or a white cloth, using fresh paper towels each time the ink transfers onto the paper. Continue with the sanitizer treatment until no more ink comes up, and then rub a bar of soap or some liquid dish soap over the spot, rinsing it off in cool water. If you're wearing the denim and aren't at home, use a wet paper towel to "rinse" the soap away.

Instant Ink Lifter

Rubbing alcohol acts as an ink lifter, removing ink's grip on the denim fibers. Pour some rubbing alcohol onto a soft white cloth, a cotton ball or a plain paper towel. Blot the ink, noting that it may transfer quickly over to the cloth, cotton or paper. If you're treating a scribble or line, use a cotton swab for better control and to help prevent the ink from bleeding onto surrounding areas of the denim. No matter what, try your best to limit the alcohol to the inky areas to prevent ink bleed. Place paper towels on the underside of the ink stained fabric as you work to absorb any ink and alcohol that soak through the denim. For a large ink area, soak the denim in a shallow bowl of rubbing alcohol, and then rinse it in cool water before washing the fabric as you normally would.

Kitchen Pantry Paste

Two staples from your kitchen pantry -- white vinegar and cornstarch -- team up for another way to remove ink from denim. Wet the inked area with a bit of white vinegar. While the denim absorbs the liquid, make a paste of cornstarch and vinegar in a shallow bowl. Dip a toothbrush or a damp white cloth into the paste and rub the ink stain, working from the outer edges of the stain toward the center. Rinse the toothbrush or cloth off frequently to prevent ink from spreading as you scrub. Allow the paste to dry completely on the denim, and then wash the denim as you normally would.

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