Removing Ink Stains from Clothing Inexpensively

by Reader Contributors

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Don’t throw that shirt or pair of pants away just yet or buy another expensive stain remover! First try these easy tips from our frugal readers for removing ink stains.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I need help! I discovered my son left a blue ink pen in his pants after it had gone through the washer and dryer. I’ve tried Carbona’s ink remover to no avail and it isn’t cheap.

Does anyone have another solution? I obviously want to salvage the stained clothing, if possible.

A Good Choice

Chances are you won’t get the ink out of the clothes since it already went through the dryer. It’s possible that the heat from the dryer already set the ink into the fabric.

One thing I use a lot of is Orange Wonder from Stanley Home Products. I have used it to remove gum from my carpet and my daughter’s jeans and removed tar from my son’s new white T-shirt. It works wonderfully and smells nice, too. It also removes oil/grease, lipstick and shoe polish. There are a few things I’m willing to pay a higher price for as long as I know it’s worth it and this stuff can help you salvage a lot.

Hair Spray Known to Work

You can try a cheap can of aerosol hair spray (Aqua Net). Spray directly on stain. I have had it lift out the ink. You will have to repeat several times, rinsing in between with cool water.

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Nail Polish Remover May Do the Job

You can remove the ink by placing nail polish remover in an old bowl and soaking the item for several hours. Then use a nail cleaning brush and scrub the area with soap and water. Repeat if needed. It will come out.

A Good Use for Rubbing Alcohol

I’ve read where rubbing alcohol will remove ink in clothing. But after a garment has been dried, the spot will not come out. The heat sets the stain.

May Need the Experts for This Stain

If you’re unable to take a stain out on your own, I highly suggest sending it to the dry cleaner. I once made a terrible ink stain on my favorite white skirt. It was “archival quality” ink, which doesn’t fade with time and stays put even if the paper gets soaked. I couldn’t get it out, even after trying every possible product on it including dish soap, alcohol, hairspray and lighter fluid. I decided to take it to the dry cleaner.

They told me they couldn’t guarantee the result, but I was willing to take that risk. It came back just like new. It was about ten dollars, which was less expensive than having it dyed another color and much cheaper than throwing it away.

Simple Green Takes Out Many Stains

When I was little, I did the same thing on a light blue dress. My mom treated it with undiluted Simple Green. She sprayed the ink spot until it was soaked through. She let it set for about an hour before washing it in the machine.

I can’t remember if it took her one or two washings to get it completely out but it did come out completely.

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Make a Goopy Paste

I have gotten many ink stains and even black motor oil out of new winter white slacks with this combination. Make a paste out of Oxi-Clean (now a couple of other companies are making this chlorine free product) and apply directly to the stain and rub it well. If the stain is breaking up and coming out, rinse and repeat until the stain is gone.

If the stain does not appear lighter, then apply “Goo Gone” in addition to the Oxi-Clean paste and rub in. The stain will disappear! It may take a couple of applications of the Goo Gone and be sure to rub it in well into the stain, but I can promise the stain will come out! Goo Gone is available at most stores.

It works miracles on grease, chewing gum on/in bedding, what stickers leave behind on painted walls and clothing, crayon marks and tape.

Milk Bath

I don’t know if it will work after going through the dryer, but ink can be removed with milk.

Pour a small amount of milk in a bowl. Rinse area in the milk. The milk will get inky. Pour it out and repeat with a fresh bowl of milk. Repeat till no more ink comes out. Rinse in cold water then wash as usual.

I have used this method for years and it works.

Reviewed August 2021

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