How to remove pen ink from paper using acetone

Written by christopher wilcox
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Removing pen ink from paper is referred to as "washing." Many different methods exist, depending on the type of ink and paper. Conservators and law enforcement agents have developed a long list of intricate methods for removing and detecting the removal of all types of inks. With acetone and a few other common household items, you, too, can remove a wide variety of inks from paper.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 2 sheets of newspaper
  • Latex gloves
  • 2 small containers
  • 56.7gr bleach
  • 56.7gr acetone or nail polish remover
  • 3 or 4 cotton swabs

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  1. 1

    Place the newspaper on a flat surface, and put on the latex gloves.

  2. 2

    Pour 59.1ml bleach into a container, then pour 56.7gr acetone or nail polish remover into a second container.

  3. 3

    Dip one of the cotton swabs into the bleach, and gently apply it to the ink to be removed.

  4. 4

    Dip another cotton swab into the acetone or nail polish remover, and apply it to the ink. The ink should immediately begin to fade.

  5. 5

    Repeat Steps 3 and 4 if the ink does not fade completely, but with smaller amounts of both solutions on fresh cotton swabs. This is to protect the paper, since it will already be damp.

Tips and warnings

  • If a very small amount of ink needs to be removed, you can also use a bare cotton swab stick. Remove the cotton from one end, and repeat Steps 3 and 4 above using the bare end of the stick. This will allow you to apply the solutions to a very small area and should not disturb the ink surrounding the area to be removed.
  • It may be useful to attempt to identify what type of ink is on the paper. Most fountain pen or ballpoint inks can be removed with the bleach and acetone method, but gel inks cannot be washed with this procedure. Note whether the ink begins to fade immediately after the bleach and acetone applications. If it does not, the ink may be of the gel variety and therefore cannot be removed.
  • Take care when using bleach and acetone, because contact with the skin and inhalation of fumes can cause irritation.
  • Do not saturate the cotton swabs with either solution or rub too hard with the cotton swabs. This can damage the paper and produce an unpleasant result. A light touch with the swab should produce the desired result. A small amount of time may be required between applications to completely remove the ink.

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