Whether you accidentally grazed your sleeve with a pen or one of your kiddos decided to draw a masterpiece on their pants, ink stains on clothes are an inevitability of parenthood, and at some point you’ll have to deal with how to get pen out of clothes. Fortunately, there’s no need to toss the marked piece of clothing in the trash. Ink stain removal is actually very simple if you have the time, some simple products, and a little know-how.
Ink is made of oils. The best way to break down those oils is with alcohol. (No, not the red wine type of alcohol—you can save that for real emergencies, like when the stomach flu has taken down all of the kids.) Rubbing alcohol is the magic pen mark treater. So if you find yourself dealing with ink stains, try to remove them with rubbing alcohol by following this tried-and-true method:
How to Get Pen Out of Clothes:
Step 1: Place a paper towel under the garment.
Step 2: Use a dropper (you can also use a straw if you don’t have a dropper) to apply rubbing alcohol directly to the ink stain. If the stain is larger, like from a pen leak, pour rubbing alcohol in a small dish and submerge the affected area.
Step 3: Sponge and blot, then sponge and blot again. Do this until the pen stain is gone. If it is a larger ink stain, let the alcohol soak on the ink for 15 to 20 minutes. You may see the ink break down and dissolve right away. Then sponge and blot the same as you would a smaller stain.
Step 4: Once no ink is visible or no longer is released from the garment during the sponge-blot, rinse the area with cold water.
Step 5: Apply a pre-wash stain remover to the ink stain (gels usually work best).
Step 6: Wash garment in the hottest water the fabric will allow.
Step 7: Check the garment for the stain. Repeat steps five and six until the ink stain is gone. Be sure to make sure the stain is gone before you place the garment in the dryer (drying will set the stain).
You may have heard that hairspray gets pen out of clothes. This once was true because most aerosol hairsprays contained alcohol. But these days the alcohol content in hairspray is so low, hairspray no longer works well. Just a bottle of plain old rubbing alcohol works best. If you don’t have rubbing alcohol on hand, or if you are on the go, you can substitute clear hand sanitizer gel. Then, when you get home, treat the stain using the steps above.
Other Tips and Tricks for How to Get Pen Out of Clothes:
- Some ink won’t respond to alcohol. If that is the case, try using acetone nail polish remover instead. Test it on an inner seam or a hidden area of the clothing first to make sure the fabric can hold up against it.
- If your pen-stained clothing somehow made its way through the laundry and through the dryer, use a good quality stain remover to tackle the marks. You can apply it as a pre-treatment, and add some to your wash too. It might take a few tries to get it all out, but don’t lose hope!
- Never rub or wipe a pan mark. Rather than removing it, you’ll simply spread it around the garment, making it worse. Blotting is the best way, as it removes the stain while protecting the rest of the clothing.