Quick Tip -- Ink Stain Removal

It’s September again. And that means back to school for many. And back to using ballpoint pens for note taking, or drawing on your jeans when the instructor is boooring, or writing reminders on your hand, or inking in fake tattoos, or doodling, or…….

You’d think that laptops and phones would have replaced pens, but not so. A pen is small and portable and silent and just plain fun to mark stuff up with. And teachers know the value of making kids write stuff down, since it embeds information more clearly in one’s mind than hearing or seeing or even typing does. (Something about the physicality of it…if you are interested, look up kinesthetic learning).

All that ink gets on clothing. And it’s hard to get out. Have you ever seen the aftermath of a pen exploding? A huge cloud shaped stain of blue ink. Or when a pen mark gets on a beloved purse? That ink stain, no matter what the size, tends to dominate whenever you look at your item. Soap and water don’t really work. (Except on skin, but that’s more due to rubbing the top layer of skin off.) Ink erasers don’t work on leather or fabric. The ink soaks into the surface and is tough to remove. But there is hope.

Ballpoint ink can often be removed from a garment. Check your fibre content before trying these tips or you may ruin your item. Natural fibres such as cotton and undyed leather work best. Polyester-cotton works fairly well too, as does acrylic.

Start by wetting a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover (the acetone type) and dabbing the spot. The ink will spread out into a larger, scary stain but then wash out. Follow each stain treatment by washing with normal detergent and cool water. Sometimes it takes a few repetitions. (Be careful never to use acetone on clothing containing acetate—it will dissolve the fabric.)

Cheap hairspray also works on ink since it usually contains both alcohol and acetone. This is my favourite since it also works on makeup stains. I keep a bottle of pump-style (non-aerosol) hairspray in the laundry room, next to my spray stain removers.

Of course, if you or your kid draws an exceptionally cool design on their garment, you could choose not to remove it. You might want to preserve it by tracing over it with a Sharpie marker, which won’t fade or wash out.