How do you remove ink stains from cotton?

A man wearing a shirt stained with ink.
Ink stains can be removed from cotton clothes with simple household chemicals. Image Source / Getty Images/Image Source

It's happened to all of us in one way or another: a pen breaks in the pocket of your favorite pants; your daughter decides to try out the stamp pad on her new skirt; you touch your shirt with inky fingers… Ink can make a nasty stain on our clothes and other fabrics; however, that doesn't have to be the end of the story (or the garment). Ink stains can often be removed from cotton (and many other fabrics, too) using chemicals you probably have around the house.

You can start by spraying the stain with a short burst of hairspray; this will start loosening the stain. The next stage is to soak the stained fabric for half an hour in water to which you've added a half teaspoon of dishwashing detergent per quart (just under a liter). When removing stains from acrylic, nylon, spandex, polyester or the like, you can also add a tablespoon of white vinegar; however this may damage cotton or linen.


If the stain is still evident after the soaking, the next stage is to apply rubbing alcohol (although this is not recommended for ink stains on acrylic). Pour directly onto part of the stain, and some more onto an absorbent pad, which you should place on the stain, covering it completely. As the pad soaks up the ink, replace it with a fresh one soaked in more alcohol. Be sure to keep the stain and pad moist with alcohol throughout the process, and rinse the area with more alcohol before drying the fabric.

If there are still traces of ink in the material, try another soak; this time with half a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and one tablespoon of ammonia per quart of water. Let the fabric soak for 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly in clear water and drying.