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Removing Ink Spots

COIT’s Guide to Removing Ink Stains 

Ink is everywhere you look. From grocery lists, to labels, to photocopies, we use ink on a daily basis to communicate and get things done. It’s no wonder ink sometimes leaves a trail with the occasional ink stain in your home or on your clothes.

Whether you’ve got pen marks on the couch or pen marks on the carpet, ink stains don’t have to be permanent. With the right cleaning process, ink stains can actually be removed from most household surfaces.

COIT offers step-by-step guides to ink stain removal that you can try out in your own home.

Remember to always do a spot removal test on a portion of carpet or upholstery that is normally not visible.

Why Does Ink Stain?

Ink is made up of certain chemical properties that make it a bit tougher to remove than other household products. 

Ink comes in either a liquid or a paste form, and contains the following ingredients:

  • Pigments
  • Dyes
  • Solvents
  • Lubricants

Ink contains even more chemicals than listed above, depending on whether it’s an oil-based or water-based ink.

Types of Ink

There are four different types of ink that can stain your home’s surfaces:

  • Powder
  • Paste
  • Aqueous
  • Liquid

Modern-day ink is also divided into two classes: writing inks and printing inks. While black ink is made using carbon black, colored ink is made up of soybean oil, linseed oil, and is combined with organic pigments that often stain. 

When it comes to stain types, residue from food, fruit juice, and grass, for example, are considered organic stains, which make them easier to get rid of. Stains from paint, dyes, and ink, on the other hand, are considered inorganic stains, and are tougher to remove. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get rid of them! If you act quickly.

Regardless of whether your stain from ink is on fabric, leather, upholstery, or carpet, the faster you act, the better. Wet ink stains are easier to remove, so it’s important to act as quickly as possible, before the ink dries.

Types of Ink Stains

There are a few different types of ink that create different kinds of ink stains:

  • Water-based ink
  • Permanent ink
  • Ballpoint ink 

Each type of stain from ink requires a different approach to remove it, so be sure to consider the surface you’re working with before you try anything.

Removing Water-Based Ink Stains

Water-based ink stains are the easiest of the bunch to remove. Both washable markers and t-shirt prints contain water-based ink. Many types of water-based ink are actually environmentally friendly. Depending on the surface, there are different ways to tackle ink stain removal.

If you’re trying to remove a water-based ink stain on fabric, for example, place a towel or paper towels underneath the stain. Using a cotton ball, apply a bit of rubbing alcohol and press firmly until the stain is absorbed.

Removing Permanent Ink Stains

Permanent ink stains aren’t quite as easy to tackle, but there are some steps you can take to lessen the impact. Take note that some permanent ink stains may leave some residue behind, but depending on how fast you act, your results will vary.

First, you can try applying rubbing alcohol onto the ink stain, with a cotton swab, if you’re working with a fabric. After firmly pressing, be sure to rinse the garment to remove the alcohol. If this ink removal technique isn’t working, try repeating the same process using nail polish remover or acetone.

Your degree of success will depend on how large the stain is and how long it has been there. It’s important to try one of these techniques as soon as you discover the ink stain- the quicker the better!

Removing Ballpoint Ink Stains

Ballpoint pen ink stains are not as difficult to remove as permanent marker ink stains. The ink in a ballpoint pen is made of pigments and dyes that provide the color. Ballpoint ink is slightly thick, slow drying, and free of particles. 

When it comes to removing ballpoint ink stains, try using rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball, as mentioned above. If that doesn’t remove the stain, shaving cream is another option to try, depending upon the surface you’re cleaning. 

Step-by-Step Ink Stain Removal

For a step-by-step guide to removing other types of ink stains, explore this COIT stain removal page:

  1. How to remove ink stains on carpet