Removing Ink Stains: A Surprising Solution!

I’ve had several people ask me about how to deal with INK STAINS lately. Trust me, I don’t go LOOKING for new cleaning ideas to post…but for some reason they keep finding me! And of course my obsessive curious nature compels me to search for answers and then try them out for myself. I gotta tell ya…it’s pretty thrilling when something actually works that you really didn’t think would!

INK STAINS are the perfect example!

After several people inquired about how to get ink stains out of fabric. I did some research and was surprised to find the two most common “remedies” used are hand sanitizer and hair spray! (Others I found…Cutter’s Insect Repellent and cold milk! True story.)

While I didn’t have any current ink stains to test these out on…I decided to “sacrifice” one of these expensive flour sack towels I recently purchased at Walmart. :-)

Here are my unscientific (but quite convincing!) results:

Top Photo: After writing on this end of the towel…I sprayed liberally with Suave Professional
hairspray (the only hairspray we had in the house)!

Bottom Photo: On this end of the towel I covered the ink with Purell with Aloe hand sanitizer
(which I bought at Walgreens and had been sitting in a cupboard in my laundry room for well over a year!)
 I made a half-hearted attempt at rubbing the spray and the gel into the ink stains…but really didn’t try all that hard. Then I waited maybe 10 minutes (I was impatient) and threw them both into the washing machine. I washed in HOT water using my regular (homemade) detergent and my regular (homemade) Shout. Since I was pretty sure this wasn’t going to work on the first try and I would end up doing this whole routine at least a 2nd time…I just let it run through one regular washing cycle.  No extra agitating…no extra soaking time.


When the load had finished…I went to see if I’d at least made a DENT in the ink stains and quite honestly was shocked to find that the towel was COMPLETELY STAIN FREE.  I actually double-checked inside the washer to make sure there this wasn’t actually a different towel that had accidentally made it in with this load. Nope. Only other thing in the washer were a few dish rags I’d thrown in at the last minute.

FRONT and BACK: After ONE washing! Can YOU find any ink???

I took the towel out and laid it on the kitchen counter where I had done the ink staining in the first place…and believe it or not…I couldn’t even tell where I had written on it. I tried. I really did. Since I wasn’t even sure where the ink had been in the first place…I took pictures of the entire towel, both sides…to cover my bases. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

This was definitely one of those experiences where I thought I had it “all figured out” and was completely wrong. I mean come on! Hair spray?Hand sanitizer?I realize they both have alcohol in them which is most likely what made them effective….but I was so certain that while they would both make somewhat of a difference…there was no way they could COMPLETELY eliminate the stain.

Normally I really don’t like being proven wrong….but in this case I’ll be more than happy to make an exception. :-)

A few more tips from a long-time manager of a laundromat


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  1. melissa says

    I have found that my Prestone Ice remover for the windshield also removes ink stains quickly!

    • Jillee says

      Wow. I can honestly say I’ve never heard that one! Going to have to try it out. Thanks! :-)

    • Pam says

      I’m so impressed! I accidentally washed some brown corduroy pants with a black ball point pen, including into the dryer somehow! What a mess. There were about 15 black spots on the pants! Just tried the Purell and it is almost all gone. I’m re doing two areas but I’m sure they will be gone, too! Thanks so much for the tip!

  2. Lindsay says

    My daughter took ink pens to my microfiber glider multiple times when she was younger (I didn’t learn my lesson and hide the pens after the first time). Hairspray and a cloth…like magic eraser for ink on upholstery!

    Fast forward a few months…red crayon on my white dining room chairs. Now this took elbow grease, but WD40 sprayed directly on the crayon, allowed to penetrate for a while, followed by Dawn and a clean water sponge rinsing…completely removed all traces of red crayon! Thank goodness!

  3. says

    Argh! Just found your site via Pinterest – boy have I been missing out! Love the tips, thank you for sharing them with us! On to subscribe… ;)

  4. Jamie says

    Did you use a ballpoint pen or some other kind? I have ballpoint pen on my shirt and don’t know how to get it out. Thanks!

  5. Jael Cleveland says

    From what I understand it’s the alcohol in both the hairspray and the hand sanitizer that is actually lifting the ink. :)

  6. says

    Would this work on an ink stain that has been sitting in the fabric for months??? We tried every other method of stain removal and I finally gave up. However, the pants were brand new and I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them. I’m gonna go try your method….!!! Cross your fingers for me..I really do love these pants!