How to remove screen print ink

Updated July 20, 2017

Whenever you screen-print you run the risk of ink stains. Screen-printing ink can be surprisingly easy to spill. All it takes is a few drops, or a gap at the edge of your print frame, for smears to appear. If you address the problem right away, you stand an excellent chance of restoring your garment to its original condition. However, if you wait to treat it, the print will set, and you will most likely be unable to remove it completely.

Fill a sink full of cold water immediately and dunk the garment into it. Let it soak for a minute. The sooner you do this after your mistake, the more likely it is you will be able to wash it out.

Rub the stain vigorously with a rag to wear away at the it. Dunk the garment repeatedly and rub some more at it.

Remove the garment and wring out the excess water. Lay the garment in an empty bathtub.

Pour some denatured alcohol onto a cotton swab and dab the stain. If the ink is water based, use soap instead. Keep dabbing at the stain until the swabs pick up as much ink as they can.

Pour the alcohol over the stain to flush remaining ink away.

Repeat with nail polish remover or acetone if the stain remains. However, these products have a chance of damaging the fabric so test them on an inconspicuous spot before you apply them to the stain.

Allow the garment to dry.


Consider taking your garment to a dry cleaner after you wash it to have them professionally remove the stain. However, it can be pricey, depending on the garment.


Do not apply heat to your garment. Heat causes screen-printing ink to set.

Things You'll Need

  • Garment
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rag
  • Bathtub
  • Acetone or nail polish remover
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About the Author

Jennifer Meyer received her B.A. in anthropology, specializing in archeology, in 2004 from Beloit College. She then earned her master's degree in museum studies at Indiana University in 2007 after being awarded a university fellowship. She started writing in 2005, contributing podcast scripts, procedural guides and exhibit copy to museums in the Indianapolis metro area.