The use of indelible ink

Written by monica abrenica
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The use of indelible ink
Indelible ink colours the skin well. (Sexy tattoo man image by MAXFX from

Indelible ink is a form of marker that cannot be erased or washed away . The Gentleman's Magazine cites its earliest use in 1430, when Laurence Coster made a permanent impression on paper using cut-out letters from bark. People from all over the world use indelible ink for a variety of things, most notably for tattooing and body art.


In 1748, English physician William Leivis discovered permanent ink through an experiment he was conducting to create writing fluids. In 1953, Sidney Rosenthal invented the first permanent marker using dye-based indelible ink. He used a stout bottle with the ink inside and placed a felt tip on it. Rosenthal discovered that using the marker produced marks "rich in colour and permanence."

Tattoos and Body Art

In 1891, Samuel O'Reilly invented an electric tattooing machine that uses indelible ink and tattooing businesses today make use of this machine. Permanent ink fills the hollow needles of the machine to create tattoos on human skin. Tattoos carried a stigma in the earlier days, when they were used to mark criminals and gang members. Western society embraces the practice of tattooing today as a form of art.

Elections and Fraud

Governments use indelible ink to prevent fraud during elections. In countries such as India and the Philippines, voters' fingers are marked with indelible ink to make sure they vote only once. Election officials apply a quick-drying ink to each voter's nail bed. The ink can last on a person's finger for up to a month even with daily soap-and-water cleansing.


Dermatologic surgeons remove indelible ink on human skin using laser technology, but the process can be painful and expensive. Good Housekeeping suggests immediately using rubbing alcohol to remove ink stains. The fresher the stain, the easier to remove it. Hairspray loosens ink stains on fabrics, and a soft eraser works on wallpaper stains.

Other Uses

Schools and offices use permanent markers, pens and stamps. Clothing companies use indelible ink for their designs, prints and labels. Retail businesses also use plastic security ink tags on clothes to prevent theft. These tags are filled with ink that stains clothes when removed by force. Some women use indelible ink for permanent facial make-up. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that this practice may be hazardous. In medicine, radiologists outline a patient's body parts with indelible ink to target treatment areas.

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