How to get dried pen ink out my clothes?

Updated April 13, 2018

The next time you find an ink pen stain on your shirt, don't rush to throw it in the garbage. You might be able to remove ink pen stains, even those that have dried, with common household ingredients. Some ink pens are oil-based, while others are solvent-based, so you might need to try different methods to remove the stain. Before attempting to remove an ink pen stain, check the fabric content of the garment as some removal procedures will harm certain fabrics.

Test each ink removal ingredient before applying it to the stain. Apply the ingredient on a hidden area of the garment such as an inside seam or hem to make sure it does not damage the fabric or remove the colour.

Use one of the removal techniques, and then continue with additional techniques if the ink stain remains. Use only the techniques where the removal ingredient was proven safe with the fabric test. Do not launder the stain between each removal attempt. Rinse the stain as directed and blot it dry with a paper towel before trying the next removal technique.

Apply rubbing alcohol to the dried ink. Blot it with a paper towel to remove the loosened ink. Keep applying alcohol and blotting it up to remove most of the ink. Apply a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent, rub it in gently and let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinse with cool water.

Pour a small amount of white vinegar on the ink. Let the vinegar sit for 10 minutes, and then apply a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent. Rub in the dishwashing liquid with a soft toothbrush and rinse with cool water. Do not use vinegar on rayon, acetate, triacetate, cotton or silk.

Use regular foam shaving cream (not gel) on the ink stain. Let the foam sit for 20 minutes. Rub the fabric gently against itself while rinsing in cold water.

Spray hairspray on the dried ink. Use a paper towel to blot the hairspray while it is still wet. Continue spraying and blotting to remove most of the ink. Apply a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent, rub it in gently and then rinse in cool water.

Place a paper towel underneath the fabric, and pour a small amount of non-acetate nail polish remover on the ink. Blot the remover with another paper towel immediately. Continue pouring small amounts on the spot and blotting off the excess. Finish by applying a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent, rubbing it in with a soft toothbrush, and rinsing with cool water.

Apply a small amount of white toothpaste (not gel) to the ink stain. Let the toothpaste sit for five minutes. Work in the toothpaste with a soft toothbrush and then rinse in cool water.

Apply a laundry pre-treatment product to the area after you have removed as much of the stain as possible with one or more of the ink removal ingredients. This will remove any residual cleaning ingredient. Launder the item in cold water with washing powder.


Use only detergent to remove an ink stain. Soap can set the stain permanently.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towels
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • White vinegar
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Foam shaving cream
  • Hairspray
  • Non-acetate nail polish remover
  • White toothpaste
  • Laundry pre-treatment
  • Washing powder
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Drue Tibbits is a writer based in Central Florida, where she attended Florida Southern College. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur and Your Home magazines. She has also been profiled in the Florida Today newspaper and the Writer's Digest magazine. In addition to writing brochure copy for local businesses, she helps new start-up companies develop a local image presence.