How can I Remove Ink from Clothing or Furniture?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

If you’ve ever had the experience of washing a ballpoint pen with a full load of clothes, or having a child “accidentally” draw on your fabric furniture, you’ve probably investigated a number of ways to remove ink from fabrics. Many websites on the Internet mask themselves as helpful sites but are really advertisements for one or another detergent brand. While some detergents, like Oxyclean® or Gain can get ink out of some clothing, there are also some excellent home-based methods to get rid of ink.

Hair spray with a high alcohol content can be used to remove ink from fabrics.
Hair spray with a high alcohol content can be used to remove ink from fabrics.

One of the most popular and effective methods to remove ink from clothing, especially if it is a single stain, is to apply hairspray. Most prefer pump hairspray to aerosol. The hairspray should not have conditioners or oils, as this may stain one’s clothing with oil. Instead, choose simple hairspray with a high alcohol content. If one is choosing an aerosol spray to get ink out, use Aquanet or its generic equivalent. Spray a bit of hairspray on the stain and gently scrub to remove ink.

Coat a stain with dish soap and let it sit on the item for 20 minutes before adding it to the washing machine.
Coat a stain with dish soap and let it sit on the item for 20 minutes before adding it to the washing machine.

Multiple ink stains may be more difficult to remove, and in these cases, the detergent method may work better. One can also get out the stains by using stain remover like Shout®, or simply by treating each spot with a little liquid detergent, and then rubbing gently. Last, let the clothing sit for about 15-20 minutes and rewash. This will generally take care of ink stains.

Permanent ink stains are extremely difficult to remove.
Permanent ink stains are extremely difficult to remove.

However, once the clothing, and the ink are dry, it may be harder to get the ink out. One needs to wet the ink or treat with an alcohol based substance for best results. Instead of hairspray, one can also try simple rubbing alcohol. Occasionally people also use vinegar, but this may not work well on furniture fabrics. It can be particularly fragrant and challenging to completely remove from furniture fabrics. Alcohol or hairsprays tend to work to remove ink on furniture because they quickly evaporate. Some people also swear by carpet cleaning sprays for the removal of ink on furniture.

Some detergents can help remove ink.
Some detergents can help remove ink.

A number of people also recommend using dishwasher detergent, or even dish soap, for ink removal. With dishwasher detergent, one coats each stain with the detergent, allows it to sit for 20 minutes or more and then rewashes it in the washing machine. One should test an area of the fabric prior to trying this method as it can remove ink stains and color of the fabric at the same time, especially if it contains bleach. Any dishwasher detergent containing bleach should not be used. Similarly, hydrogen peroxide can also get rid of the ink stains, but ruin a garment.

Permanent ink stains require different treatment, since the ink is meant to last, even through exposure to detergents. If you catch a permanent ink stain while it is still wet, you may be able to remove ink by using one of the above methods. You may have to work at it for some time, scrubbing and reapplying alcohol or hairspray, to remove or lighten the ink stain.

In many cases, permanent ink stains are extremely stubborn to remove. Even dry cleaners can be challenged by permanent ink, and it’s best to call an upholstery cleaner to get them off fabric on furniture without damaging it.

Rubbing alcohol is often effective at removing ink stains from furniture.
Rubbing alcohol is often effective at removing ink stains from furniture.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My son's friend had a whiteboard dry marker pen in his rear pocket and has left its contents on my lovely fabric sofa! It's a black ink stain. What would be the best way to clean it, as no one seems to have experienced this before and all are advising a professional cleaning company. But they want at least £60 just for the call out! Can you help? Is the ink different from normal ink or permanent ink? --jane


Dawn dish soap just took my ink pen stain out of my suede couch with no problem at all.


The best remover I have found is something called the Amodex Ink and Stain remover. It works much better than rubbing alcohol and your typical laundry detergent aisle brands. Plus, it works on both fabrics and surfaces.


Rubbing alcohol. I had just bought a new comforter for my bed and must have left a pen on it, because (probably two days later) I found a giant ink stain. Well, three hours and a bottle of rubbing alcohol later, it was gone! Lots of elbow grease though.


Just tried the hairspray and it worked! Thank you for the tips! I did have to use some muscle scrubbing, but my daughter drew all over her new jeans so it was worth it!


Hair spray did an awesome job of removing ball point ink from the arm of a cloth chair. This was not an accidental mark, but a large blobby smear from a leaky pen. I just sprayed with a non-aerosol spray and wiped with a clean dry cloth, until the cloth picked up no more ink.


The #1 product that professional dry cleaners and professional launderers use is NCP Jinx Ink. I have used this product for many, many years. The product is not hazardous, and it is not harmful to the material.

Garments are not meant to have hairspray, vinegar, or other harsh chemicals applied to them. The pH of these chemicals can damage the material, or remove the color of the dyes.

This product is specifically made to remove ball point pen ink out of garments, carpets, and upholstery. Just apply a couple of drops of Jinx Ink to the ink stain. Then put the ink stained garment onto an old rag, and push on the ink stain. The old rag acts like a wick. Then, apply another drop or 2 onto the stained area. When the ink stain is gone, put the garment into the washer.

I have ordered this product directly from the manufacturer. I have recommended this product to all my friends.


I tried ink removal on faux suede fabric chairs using rubbing alcohol and it removed about 90% of the ink. The chairs are a sage color so I was very happy with with the results. I also did it while the ink was somewhat wet. There was a lot of ink as the so called "art work" was done by my two year old. I may have been able to get better results if I had applied the rubbing alcohol right away but it took some time to research the web. Thanks for the tip!!!


Hairspray does work really well although you often have to do many repeated applications of it.

Post your comments
Forgot password?