The Best Way To Remove Ink Stains From Clothes

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Pesky ink stains on your favourite shirt or your much loved table linen can be a nuisance. Ink stains are stubborn and don’t leave unless you pretreat it before regular washing. Ink stains were used for our tests for finding best detergent and none of them were able to get rid of the stains like it never happened.

Fortunately, internet is filled with numerous “hacks” to get rid of ink stains. From hand sanitizer to milk bath (yes, I know it seems absurd) the options are numerous. We checked reputed sites like Wikihow, The Spruce, The Good House Keeping and so on and shortlisted 6 of the most popular methods for removing stain. Then, we tried them to find what works the best.

How We Tested?

how to remove ink stains from clothes
Experiments in progress…

To find the best method to remove ink stain from clothes, we made 7 patches of cloth, numbered them and stained them with ink. As you often don’t get to treat stains immediately, we let it dry for a day. Then, we tried each method as suggested on various websites. To give it the best chance at working, we soaked in the recommended pre-treatment solutions for 3 hours. Following this, we rinsed the patches and washed them in a washing machine using Henko front load detergent. We then dried the patches and took before-and-after pictures to visually analyze what worked the best. Here is how it went…

Best Way to Remove Ink Stains From Clothes

Soak And Wash

how to remove ink stains from clothes? By soaking and washing

The first patch was the control in the experiment. It served as a baseline, showing us what happens when we don’t apply any pretreatment. By soaking it in water for three hours and then running it through a regular washing machine cycle with detergent, we wanted to observe the impact of no pretreatment agents on stain removal.

Controls are incredibly useful in helping us determine if pretreatments are necessary for effective stain cleaning. To illustrate this, when we conducted tests on clothes stained with ketchup, we discovered that pretreatment wasn’t needed in this particular case. Simply washing the stained clothing as usual was more than sufficient to bid farewell to those pesky ketchup stains.

Above, you can see the before-and-after photos show that it is difficult to get rid of ink stains without pre-treatment. As you can see, it isn’t possible to completely remove ink stains without pretreatment.

Hand Sanitizer

hand sanitizer to remove ink stains from clothes

The hand sanitizer we used contained 95% denatured ethyl alcohol. We applied it and bloated it with another piece of cloth. Then, we left it for 3 hours and washed it. A large part of the stain was gone. But, the leftover stain is visible as evident from the above picture.

Vinegar And Cornstarch

vinegar and corn starch to remove ink stains from clothes

To test this method, we first poured some vinegar on to the stain and bloated it. Then, we poured some more vinegar added some cornstarch on the stain. We left it this way for 3 hours and then washed it. While vinegar is usually a good cleaning agent, this time, it didn’t work. In fact, the results were so bad that you could call it one of the worst methods.

Nail Polish Remover

nail polish remover to remove ink stains from clothes

Nail polish remover usually contains acetone or solvents like ethyl acetate or butyl acetate. Usually, it evaporates quickly. So, we had to apply nail polish remover on the stain a few times in the 3 hour pre-treatment period. After wash, the stain was removed to a great extent. But, the result was still not perfect.


vanish and detergent to remove ink stains from clothes

Stain removers are specifically formulated to remove various types of stains. In our experience, Vanish and detergent proved to be quite effective in removing many types of stains like turmeric and masala. So, we decided to use it on ink stains too. After soaking the stain patch for 3 hours in a solution of detergent and vanish and slightly scrubbing it, we washed it as usual. Note that, we used Vanish as it is one of the most popular stain removers available in the market. You could alternatively, try other options too.

It was evident immediately after pretreatment that this is a winner. It almost completely removed the stain. Upon further washing, the stain was removed like it never existed.

Baking Soda

baking soda to remove ink stains from clothes

As I often say, it seems like baking soda is getting more action in the cleaning department than in the baking world. Baking soda is an option recommended by sites like Wikihow. So, we made the stain damp with water and applied corn starch and scrubbed it gently. Then, we left it for 3 hours and washed the patch. This again wasn’t the best method to remove ink stains from clothes as stain was visibly left behind.

Milk Bath

milk bath to remove ink stains

Sometimes, in the quest to find effective stain removal hacks, we stumble upon unusual suggestions that promise surprising results. One such example is the milk soaking method, which was recommended by The Spruce. However, our experience with this particular hack turned out to be quite disappointing.

Contrary to expectations, milk can actually have the potential to stain clothes rather than remove stains. Milk contains proteins that can set stains and make the situation worse. Unfortunately, our attempt to remove stains using this method resulted in an outcome that was far from desirable. It turned out to be one of the least effective options and a complete waste of time and milk!

Does The Winning Method Work On Other Types of Ink Stains?

The ink we used for the test was water based. We obviously wanted to check if the winning method works on other types of ink stains like from ball pens and sketch pens. But we didn’t want to limit to just the winning method, but to the others that showed potential.

We made 3 stain patches and on one, we tried vanish + detergent, on the second, we tried hand sanitizer and on the third, we tried nail polish remover. Surprising, Vanish + Detergent did not work quite effectively ballpoint pen stains. Nail polish remover was the better option as it worked immediately on application. Similarly, hand sanitizer and nail polish remover were effective for sketch pens. But, you have to repeat the application 2-3 times to completely clear the stain.

The Winners

In conclusion, banishing ink stains from your clothes can be a breeze if you follow these handy tips. Remember, each type of ink stain requires a specific approach:

  1. Water-Based Ink Stains: For these stains, a stain removal liquid like Vanish combined with detergent is all you need. Just apply it, let it work its magic, rinse, and wash as usual.
  2. Ballpoint Pen Ink Stains: Nail polish remover is your secret weapon here. Apply it carefully, blot the stain gently, rinse, and launder according to the garment’s instructions.
  3. Sketch Pen Ink Stains: Dealing with these pesky stains may require a bit more effort. Try using hand sanitizer or nail polish remover, applying them repeatedly and blotting the stain until it fades away. Finish with a thorough rinse and regular laundering.

Remember, before you dive into stain removal, it’s crucial to conduct a patch test on an inconspicuous area of the fabric. This simple step ensures that hand sanitizer or nail polish remover won’t cause any unwanted damage or discoloration.

With these tricks up your sleeve, you can confidently bid farewell to ink stains and keep your clothes looking fresh and clean. So, go ahead, tackle those stubborn marks, and enjoy stain-free garments once again!

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