How Do You Remove Ballpoint Pen Ink

By Samantha Di Nardo

Dayspring Pens Alexandria Ballpoint Pen Red Finish

How Do You Remove Ballpoint Pen Ink

By Samantha Di Nardo

We've all stained something with ballpoint pen ink. Therefore, in this article, I'll discuss different types of stains, and how you can get ink out of your clothes.

Why is Ballpoint Ink Difficult to Remove from Clothes?

ballpoint ink leak

Ballpoint ink is difficult to remove because of the mixture of pigments and dyes along with the chemical components that suspend the dyes.

The entire process of how a ballpoint pen works is staining a writing surface with ink. The pro of the compound of solvents, water, and dyes that make up ink is that it stains paper so well. However, the con is that it stains other surfaces just as well.

Removing Ballpoint Pen Ink from Upholstery

I am a firm believer in the incredible power of dish soap and vinegar to remove ink from clothes and other surfaces. Therefore, I always recommend starting there and escalating to a heavier duty stain remover as needed.

It is always important to remove pen ink from the affected area as quickly as possible. Stains that have set in are not impossible to get out, but they are much more difficult.

  1. Using a spoon, scrape off any excess ink, working from the outside in to remove clumps of wet or dry excess ink.

  2. Combine 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, one tablespoon of liquid dish detergent (like Dawn), and two cups of warm water.

  3. Dab gently the stain with a clean cloth and the solution, alternating with a clean dry cloth until the stain is gone. (Special note: Do not rub the stain. This will spread the stain or work it deeper into the upholstery.)

  4. Dab area with clean water and a dry cloth to remove excess liquid.

  5. Avoid sitting on the surface until it can dry completely.

If the stain persists, try repeating the steps with Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or nail polish remover, but always test the solution on a hidden part of the upholstery to make sure it does not damage your fabric.

If none of these methods work or the stained area is large, you may need to contact professional cleaners.

How to Remove Ink Stains from Carpet

Carpet can be tricky and there are a myriad of different methods out there to remove ink stains from carpet. I am, however, going to just list a few options to try.

 Pro tip: If the stain is still wet, sprinkle cornstarch on it. Cornstarch will absorb the staining ink that is still wet. Then just vacuum it up when it dries and proceed with your stain removing method.


Hair spray Method

Make sure to get a cheap hair spray with alcohol as an ingredient (a lacquer hairspray) and have a clean cloth on hand.

  1. Spray stained area liberally with hair spray.

  2. Blot spot with clean cloth, rotating the cloth with every blot or so to prevent the stain from spreading.

  3. Repeat steps 1-2 until stain is gone.

  4. Next, you can do one of two things. Wait for the hair spray to dry and vacuum the spot or apply clean water to the spot to rinse it.

Carpet Stain Remover Method

This method involve using a household carpet stain remover.

  1. Apply Carpet Stain Remover (like Resolve) and blot with a clean cloth, rotating the cloth to prevent spreading.

  2. Continue until cloth comes up clean (without removing any ink).

  3. Now, apply rubbing alcohol to the stain (you should always test rubbing alcohol on a hidden section of the carpet to ensure the carpet is colorfast and the isopropyl alcohol will not remove the carpet dye.)

  4. Blot with clean cloth, repeating process if the stain remains.

  5. Rinse with clean water and pat dry.

Shaving Cream Method

  1. Spray shaving cream onto the stain, blotting with a clean, wet sponge and wiping away any excess foam with clean cloth.

  2. Repeat until the ballpoint stain is removed.

  3. Blot area with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent and 1 cup of water.

  4. Rinse area with clean water and blot dry.

Other Methods

You can always try WD40, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, or rubbing alcohol on your stain following the same steps as the hairspray method.

 Related Topic: How Do Ballpoint Pens Work

How Can You Remove Ink from a Wall

My go-to for any wall stains is to always start with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

  1. Dampen the Magic Eraser and scrub the spot on the wall following the label directions.

Other options are trying a little soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or toothpaste.

Toothpaste Method

  1. Apply a small amount of white, non-gel toothpaste to the ink mark.

  2. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

  3. Gently wipe excess toothpaste with a damp cloth and dab the stain until clean.

  4. Repeat the method if stain persists.

How To Get Ink Out Of Clothes

ballpoint scribbles on white cloth

The most tried and true method I have found is the rubbing alcohol method.

  1. Place a paper towel underneath the pen ink stain and flush the stain with rubbing alcohol.

  2. Depending on the size of the stain either dab it with a rubbing alcohol soaked cotton swab, a cotton ball, or soak the whole stain in rubbing alcohol for 15 minutes.

  3. Sponge or blot the stain until no more ink lifts up from the clothes.

  4. Rinse with cool water and apply your prewash stain treater of choice.

  5. Launder your clothing item in the hottest water the garment will allow and air dry or check before you putting in the dryer to make sure the stain is gone.

As a last resort, it never hurts to take your clothes to a dry cleaner and see if they have any recommendations or if they can do stain removal. Sometimes...its best to leave it to the fabric professionals.



How To Remove Ink From Leather

ballpoint scribbles on leather journal

Soak a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and gently rub the stain until it is gone.

You can also try some classic soap and water. It really is that easy sometimes.

How to Remove Ballpoint Ink from Wood

ballpoint scribbles on wood surface

For fresh ballpoint wood stains:

  1. Combine a half teaspoon of liquid dish soap with 5 tbsp of hot water.

  2. Scrub

For dried on ballpoint wood stains:

  1. Combine one part (1 tbsp) of baking soda to one part (1 tbsp) of water. This will make a thick paste.

  2. Spread the paste over the spot, scrubbing in with a soft bristled brush (an old toothbrush works) and let it sit till the baking soda is dry.

  3. Wipe off baking soda with a wet cloth.

  4. If the ink stain still remains, blot rubbing alcohol and let that sit for 5 minutes.

  5. Finally, blot the stain with paper towels and clean water and repeat the process until the ink stain is completely removed.

 Discover More: Who Invented the Ballpoint Pen?: A Brief History

How to Remove an Old Ink Stain from Clothes

For set-in or old ink stains, there is a chance the stain will not be able to be removed, but it is always worth a try! I would personally start with whatever method it listed for your stained surface. However, if that does not seem to be working, here are some alternatives to try.

Commercial Stain Removers

For this method, try any of these options and just follow the package directions.

Homemade Stain Removers

Cornstarch and milk is an old method that still does wonders.

Mix equal parts cornstarch and milk until you have a thick paste to smear over the stain. Let it dry and wipe or vacuum away.

Does vinegar remove ink stains from clothes?

This question is asked enough I wanted to go ahead and answer it.

Vinegar will help the process of pen ink removal, but generally not on its own.

A great pretreatment method is to rinse the area with white vinegar, and rub a paste of vinegar and cornstarch over the spot. Afterwards, let the mixture dry and wash as usual with your laundry detergent.

Do not dry! If the stain remains go through the Stain Removal Processes listed above for whatever the stained surface is.

In the table below I've summarized how to remove ballpoint ink from various surfaces.

Ink Stain Location Cleaning Agents Cleaning Method
 Upholstery White vinegar, liquid dish detergent, water Dabbing
Carpet Hair spray, shaving cream, carpet stain remover, shaving cream Blotting
Wall Magic Eraser scrubber sponge, toothpaste, soapy water Wiping
Clothes Rubbing alcohol Dabbing/soaking
Leather Rubbing alcohol, soapy water Rubbing
Wood Liquid dish detergent, baking soda Scrubbing


Important things to Remember When Treating an Ink Stain

Here are a couple tips I have come across that are good to know.

  1. Not all hairsprays are made alike. It is the alcohol in the hairspray that is key. New or more expensive brands tend to have little to no alcohol (which is why the are probably better for your hair...). Go for the cheapest brand you can find and check the ingredients list for high alcohol content...or else the hairspray method may be a bust.

  2. Do not dry your piece of clothing in a dryer until you know the stain is gone. A heated drying cycle will set the stain...I learned this the hard way with forgetfulness and baby clothes.

  3. Ballpoint ink is oil-based, so it is important to use a method that works to either dissolve the oil in the ink or lift it up out of the surface.

  4. Never. Scrub. Always dab or blot. Once the ink starts lifting from the surface, scrubbing will only spread the newly removed ink into unstained areas.

  5. Isopropyl alcohol also known as rubbing alcohol reigns supreme for ballpoint ink stains. People swear by hair spray, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer and alcohol is the big common denominator between all these. Rubbing alcohol dissolves the oil of pen ink in stained fabric or an ink stained area.

Now You Know How to Remove Ink from Your Clothes

That's it for my list of different things that get ballpoint pen ink stains and how to remove ink stains from clothes and other surfaces.

What is your go-to ink stain removal method?

Leave a comment below!

And check out our other helpful pen articles:

Learn How to Clean a Fountain Pen

How to Get a Ballpoint Pen to Start Writing Again

How to Choose the Right Fountain Pen Ink

Sam Di Nardo

Sam Di Nardo is an author for Dayspring Pens, where she has honed her expertise in ballpoint, rollerball, gel and fountain pens since joining the team in 2018.

From her initial role as an Engraver to becoming the Production Manager, Sam's journey has been marked by her passion for the history, manufacturing, and the unique value of gifted writing instruments.

A graduate of Regent University with a degree in English Literature and a special interest in Old Norse literature, dive deeper into Sam's world and discover why she's your trusted guide in the realm of gift pens.

Follow Sam on LinkedIn.


Thank you. Rubbing alcohol worked like a charm.

Paola Volpe

OMG! Isopropyl rubbing alcohol worked almost instantly removing a ballpoint pen mark on my blouse. I have never heard this trick before. I am now going to scream it from the mountain tops!!!


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