How To Get Pen Ink Stains Out Of Your Child's Clothing

Pen ink is not the easiest of stains to remove. However, in this article we're going to share some pieces of advice to help you rescue your children's favorite clothes.
How To Get Pen Ink Stains Out Of Your Child's Clothing

Last update: 12 May, 2022

If your children are of school age, you’ve most likely already come across the challenge of removing ink stains from their clothes. They’re very difficult to remove even if you wash the clothes over and over again.

However, don’t worry: it IS possible to get rid of them.

In this article, we’re going to share some of the best advice for removing ink stains from your children’s clothing. First, though, we’re going to explain why it’s so hard to remove them.

What is pen ink made of?

ink stains

Nowadays, there’s a wide range of pens on the market as well as a wide range of materials that the inks are made of. In summary, the ink consists of a pigment or dye that is dissolved or suspended in a solvent.

The dye is a compound that consists of vinyl resins, glycerol, carbon black, tannic acid, additives and colorants among other water or oil-based substances.

Usually, oil is used as a solvent to add viscosity and thickness and to make the ink dry fast. This is why it tends to be difficult to remove ink stains from clothes.

Recommendations before you start

There are some factors that you need to consider before trying to eliminate a stain. If you don’t take these factors into account, you could make the stain worse by spreading out the ink and making it even more difficult to remove.

The sooner you remove the stain, the better

This rule applies to almost all kinds of stains. You don’t need to do a detailed search of your child’s clothes every time they come home, but it is important to act quickly so that the process of removing the stain doesn’t become any more difficult. 
 If you find it quickly, use a piece of paper towel to remove the ink that is still fresh.

Don’t wash the item

Washing the clothes without first completely removing the stains will fix the pigments and resins in the fabric, and thus will make it much more difficult to remove. Avoid doing this at all cost.

Type of fabric

Type of fabric

Next, it’s important to check which kind of fabric your child’s garment is made of. This will determine which ingredients you’ll need to use to treat it. 

For example, you can’t use water with bleach on a colored item, because this would affect the fabric and discolor it.

Avoid rubbing the stain in

The way that ink works is to penetrate the surface of whatever it’s on. So, if you rub an ink stain, the only thing you’ll achieve is making it absorb even further and spread. 

Instead, you can press firmly on the area of the stain if the ink is fresh, but avoid rubbing it when it is dry.

How to remove ink stains

The following pieces of advice will help you remove ink stains from your children’s clothing depending on the freshness of the ink, the kind of fabric and the color of the garment.

1. Use milk

Use milk

The mild acidity of milk, along with some of the compounds it contains, helps dissolve the ink stains.

  • To use it, after soaking up the fresh ink as mentioned above, you need to soak the garment in warm milk for 5 to 6 hours and during this time change the milk if it absorbs the color.

The stain will get gradually lighter until it dries. You can then wash it as normal.

However, if some of the ink remains, you can soak the garment in water with bleach for a couple of hours. Rinse and wash again. This procedure is recommended for garments made of light-colored cotton, wool or other fibers.

2. Use methyl alcohol

Methanol is a low-density liquid that’s sometimes used as a solvent. It’s therefore a good option for removing ink stains from your children’s clothing.

  • To start with, you need to put a clean cloth, moistened with methanol, under the item of clothing.
  • Then, apply the wool over the stain. The goal is to absorb the ink.
  • Repeat the procedure with a new piece of cotton wool until the stain disappears.
  • If the stain remains, you can soak the garment in soapy water for a couple of hours and then wash it.

3. Apply acetone

Apply acetone

Also known as propanone or nail varnish remover, acetone is a chemical compound that’s used as a solvent for chemical substances, among other uses. Like methyl alcohol, acetone helps remove pen ink stains from clothing.

However, this product can be very aggressive on fabrics and can damage them. Despite this, both this procedure and the one with methyl alcohol are appropriate for colored clothing.

The application method is the same as for methyl alcohol. However, try to do these procedures in open spaces and follow the usage instructions because the smell can cause headaches.

4. Lemon juice

Lemon juice

Another natural trick to remove ink stains from your child’s clothing is lemon juice. In fact, lemon juice acts as a whitening agent and removes stains from certain kinds of fabrics. 

For this procedure, you need the juice of half a lemon and a piece of cotton wool.

  • Moisten the cotton wool with the lemon juice and apply it to the stain for a few seconds, then repeat this until the ink has disappeared.
  • Then, wash the item as usual.

Pen ink stains might not be the easiest of stains to remove. However, we hope that these pieces of advice help you to rescue your children’s clothes, especially if they’re favorites.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Asami, H. (2001). U.S. Patent No. 6,261,352. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Ichikawa, S. (2004). U.S. Patent No. 6,786,956. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Ichikawa, S. (2006). U.S. Patent No. 7,071,245. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Bredenberg, J. (Ed.). (1999). Clean it Fast, Clean it Right: The Ultimate Guide to Making Absolutely Everything You Own Sparkle & Shine. Rodale.
  • Dolor de cabeza: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica. Retrieved 6 September 2020, from

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.