Not all of us can pull off the pocket-protector look, and for those of us who can’t–we end up with the occasional ink stain. Some people swear by toxic stain removers or bleach, but if you lean toward safe and natural formulas the question is how to effectively tackle ink? Here are some household ingredients that can be wonderfully effective.
Although it depends on the weight and type of fabric, most likely the ink will have soaked through to the other side of the fabric, so you will want to clean both sides. It doesn’t matter which side you clean first. You can work any of these treatments with a very soft toothbrush, but be careful not to scrub too hard to avoid damaging the fibers.
Use cold water since hot water can set the stain, and always test your chosen treatment on a hidden piece in case the fabric has an adverse reaction.
If you are going to try to launder an ink stain normally, note that tannin stains (like ink and fruit juices) should be removed by detergent, not soap,. Use of soap (bar soap, soap flakes, or detergents containing natural soap) will make a tannin stain permanent or at least more difficult to remove. Be sure to check the ingredients list of your detergent for soap. (Read about the difference between soap and detergent.)
This works with plain toothpaste–don’t use gel or anything with fancy additives (like the kids’ toothpaste with sparkles–ack!). Apply to the stain and allow to set for several minutes. Run under cool water while rubbing the stain gently. Repeat as needed.
Pour a small amount of white vinegar directly on the stain and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Then dab a with a few drops of liquid dish detergent (not soap, see above) on the stain. Rub it in gently and let it rest for a few minutes. Rinse under cool water, gently rubbing while rinsing. Vinegar may weaken cotton, rayon, acetate, triacetate, or silk fibers and may cause color change. If used as a stain removal agent, test on a hidden seam allowance for colorfastness
Use regular foaming shaving cream, not gel. Spray a little on the stain and allow to sit for 20 minutes or so. Rinse under cool water, gently rubbing as you rinse.
Certain hair sprays are effective on ballpoint stains, but they may deposit a gummy residue and perfume that then have to be removed along with the ink. Hair spray also may affect color in some fabrics–and you can usually get similar results using rubbing alcohol.
Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol)
Saturate the ink stain with isopropyl alcohol and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Blot with a paper towel or damp sponge.
Milk and buttermilk are often cited for ink stain removal, but they don’t work for all fabrics, and they can also potentially leave a protein stain! That said, this method has its many fans: Let the stain soak in buttermilk for 24 hours, then rinse under cool water with a bit of liquid detergent. Repeat as necessary.
After you have removed the stain, rinse well and launder as usual.