• Daniel Ouimet

Does Ballpoint Ink Wash Out of Fabric?

I've done it again and again, more times than I should admit. I've left a pen in clothing bound for the washing machine. I've sat in my truck and found my "lost" pen wedged between me and the light color upholstery. It happens to all of us I suppose? Ink from our favorite ballpoint pen finds its way on to our garments and other fabrics. Fortunately, this type of fabric stain can normally be successfully removed. In the past, a favorite go-to remedy for removing ballpoint ink stains from fabric was hairspray.

This method was fairly reliable because hairsprays once contained a brew of esoteric chemicals, some capable of dissolving ballpoint ink. One chemical is an alcohol called isopropyl alcohol. You probably have this handy chemical in the form of "rubbing alcohol" in your bathroom. This name hearkens back to its use in liniment concoctions and to distinguish it as an alcohol not intended for consumption! So, what to do? Place the isopropyl alcohol directly on a small ink stain with a cotton swab or eyedropper. If the stain is large, place the stained portion of the garment in a dish of isopropyl alcohol. With repeated applications of the isopropyl alcohol, some blotting, and some more blotting, the fabric will eventually release all the ink. Once that happens, a rinse with cool water and a trip through the washing machine for garments should have things ink-free again. Just don't dry the garment before fully removing the stain as the heat of the dryer will set the stain for good.

If home remedies don't work, commercial products like Amodex may do the trick. Whether using isopropyl alcohol or commercial products, always test the garment for color fastness. If the solvent can remove ink, it might damage your sweater vest before it has a chance to come back in style.