What solvents will remove ink?

Written by erin maurer
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What solvents will remove ink?
Products like hairspray and washing powder help break down and dissolve ink stains. (ink stain image by Dmitri MIkitenko from Fotolia.com)

Using a solvent is perhaps the most effective way to remove an ink stain from garments or upholstery fabrics. Solvents, as defined by the Free Dictionary website, are substances that dissolve another substance. Many common household items, like gentle washing powder, petroleum jelly and hairspray, are used to remove ink stains at home. Other chemical-based solvents, like dry cleaning products and glycerine, are also effective.

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Ammonia and Hydrogen Peroxide

Before choosing a solvent to remove an ink stain, create a liquid barrier, according to the Mrs. Clean USA website. Applying a barrier around the outside of the stain helps prevent it from spreading during the cleaning process. Mix together equal parts of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. Dip a cotton swab into the mixture, and draw a barrier along the outside edge of the stain. When cleaning natural fibre fabrics, including cotton, wool and linen, do not use ammonia.

Glycerine and Detergent

The cleaning experts at Real Simple Magazine recommend using a three-step cleaning process using glycerine and washing powder to remove ink stains. Glycerine is a colourless liquid commonly used to create pharmaceuticals. Many pharmacies carry the product. Dip a cotton swab in glycerine, and apply it directly to the stain, rubbing gently. Add a few drops of a gentle washing powder to a bowl of water. Dab onto the glycerine-treated stain, and rub to form a lather. Machine wash in cold water and gentle washing powder to complete the stain removal process.

Petroleum Jelly

According to the Mrs. Clean USA website, petroleum jelly may help remove ink stains from fabrics. To use petroleum jelly as a cleaning solvent, begin by rubbing the stain with petroleum jelly. Fill a bowl with a mixture of water and gentle washing powder. Soak the petroleum jelly-treated fabric in the detergent solution. As the stain draws out of the fabric, the water may begin to turn inky. Machine wash the fabric in cold water.


Hairspray is another common household product which is effective in removing ink stains. The Real Simple magazine website recommends using hairspray in place of glycerine. Spray hairspray to the stain, and blot using a paper towel. The Mrs. Clean USA website suggests blotting from the back of the fabric to remove the stain. Use a pretreat laundry product, and machine wash the fabrics.

Dry Clean Solvents

Some fabrics are labelled as dry-clean only and should be treated in a different manner. The cleaning products listed above could damage dry-clean only fabrics, according to the Mrs. Clean USA website. Apply a non-flammable dry cleaning solvent to the ink stain. Blot gently from the backside of the fabric. Take the treated garment to the dry cleaners to complete the stain removal process.

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