How to Remove Ink Stains From a Knit Shirt

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Ink stains are even harder to remove from knits because the grain of the cloth grabs the ink.
Ink stains are even harder to remove from knits because the grain of the cloth grabs the ink. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Almost everyone has had a pen explode on their clothing. It is often in a pocket and sometimes does this spontaneously and sometimes in the washing machine when it gets left behind in the garment. Either way, it creates quite a mess and commercial stain and spot removers rarely can handle the marks. Ink is a tough material to remove from clothing and some treatments can actually set the stain, making it impossible to remove.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towels
  • Hairspray
  • Baby wipes
  • Clean white towel or rag
  • Laundry stain remover
  • Cream of tarter
  • Lemon juice
  • Small soft-bristled brush

Treat the ink stain as soon as possible. Use a paper towel to dab, not rub, the stain to get any surface material off the knit. Let the area air dry. Put a clean paper towel under the fabric below the stained area and another piece on top of the stain. Spray the stain with hairspray until damp. Working from the back of the knit dab at the stained area with yet another clean towel. Repeat until the stain is gone.

Turn the garment inside out and rinse it under cool water to push out any remaining ink. Squeeze the garment to release extra water and then turn it back outside. Place a clean white towel under the stain. Dab at the stain with baby wipes until no more ink comes off on the wipe. Treat the remainder of the stain with laundry spot remover. Let sit for half an hour. Launder the knit as usual.

Dry the garment and check for the stain. If it still is evident, sprinkle cream of tartar on the stain and squeeze enough lemon juice to make a paste. Swirl it around with your finger and let it sit for a minute. Agitate it lightly with the soft bristled brush. Rinse the area and let it dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Allow clothing to dry between every method.
  • Launder or rinse thoroughly after each treatment to avoid mixing potentially toxic compounds.
  • Don't scrub hard at the knit or you will cause pilling and fuzziness on the surface of the fabric.
  • Don't rub at the stain. This spreads the smear and can work it into knit fibers.

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