How to Get Ballpoint Pen Ink Out of Fabric

can you remove pen ink from clothes

I’m sure it has happened to you, a ballpoint pen leaks and it ends up everywhere, on clothes, bedding, and fabric furnishings. Also, there is that annoying time you put clothes into the washing machine with an unnoticed pen in the pocket.

Recently I was writing some notes in bed when I just left the pen on top of a cotton flat sheet, the pen leaked leaving a large black stain. Not knowing any better I just washed the sheet in my washing machine without pre-treating, and the stain is now fixed permanently.

After this experience, I decided to research different ways to remove pen ink from fabrics. It is handy to know this as ballpoint pen ink is difficult to remove by just laundering in the usual way. You need to pre-treat the stain before putting it in a washing machine.

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These tips can also be tried on fabrics that can’t be washed in a washing machine, for example, fabric coverings on furniture, dry clean only throw pillow covers and clothes.

What are Ballpoint Inks Made of?

Most ballpoint pens utilize oil-based ink, with suspended dye particles that dry quickly compared to other types of ink. So when you write on paper, will mean less smudging. The ink is made from water-resistant materials that make it a difficult stain to remove from fabrics.

How do you Remove Dried Pen Ink? 

Dried-on ballpoint pen ink is one of the more difficult stains to remove. Here are some methods to try out. Most methods include using solvents like alcohol or acetone.

Tips for Sucess

Check the garments washing label to make sure it is washable, otherwise, send it out to the dry cleaners.

Always place a clean white cloth or a thick layer of paper towel under the area of the stain to be treated. A small white towel is perfect for this.

For fabric-covered furniture, make sure to test an inconspicuous area first, before treating the stained areas. Dab the areas with selected treatment with cotton wool balls and dab off immediately with paper towels.

Never rub or scrub vigorously, as you can damage the fabric of the garment permanently and you risk spreading the ink stain over a larger area.

Method 1 Rubbing Alcohol, Dry Cleaning Fluid, or Methylated Spirit

For large stains take a clean cloth or cotton wool and blot the ink stain with the rubbing alcohol, dry cleaning fluid, or methylated spirit. Try not to oversoak the stained area as this will just make the stain spread.

For small areas dip a cotton bud in the solution and gently dab at the stain. Or place rubbing alcohol or methylated spirit in a small dish and soak the affected area.

Repeat this process as necessary.

Once the stain has disappeared launder as usual.

Method 2 Toothpaste

This method is only suitable for white clothes as one of the cleaning steps involves using bleaching powder. A perfect method to try on a white work shirt or blouse.

The stain is treated first with nail varnish remover, then bleaching powder followed by numerous applications of non-gel toothpaste.

This method is well demonstrated here in this popular video.

Method 3 Commercial Ink Stain Remover

Amodex Ink and Stain Remover – Cleans Marker, Ink, Crayon, Pen, Makeup from Furniture, Skin, Clothing, Fabric, Leather - Liquid Solution - 4 fl oz Bottle

You can buy Amodex Ink Remover from Amazon

There are several commercial pen ink stain removers available to buy. Amodex Ink & Stain Remover comes with plenty of 4 and 5-star reviews. However, reading through the reviews there are examples of the product not working.

One to try if all else fails.

You need to note that it is only suitable for colorfast and machine washable materials.

Ink Removing Methods that Don’t Work!

If you search around the web you will find plenty of advice for different ways to remove ink stains. I have found them pretty much ineffective. These include hair sprays (with alcohol as an ingredient), butter, or shaving foam.

I have tested all these methods out on cotton and are in all cases pretty much ineffective.

Why Is Ballpoint Ink so Hard to Remove?

The qualities you want in the perfect ballpoint pen are fast-drying water-resistant inks that prevent smudging and a high level of permanence so your writing won’t fade with age. These are qualities that make ballpoint ink so hard to remove, from clothes, especially with normal machine washing methods.


Ballpoint pen ink stains are difficult stains to remove from clothes.

I have included 3 different methods to try out, I hope you have success with your stain removal. The alternative of discarding stained is awful to contemplate.

Good luck with removing those stains.

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