How to Remove Ink Stains

Domestic CEO gives 4 simple steps to removing ink stains from a pen explosion in the laundry.

Amanda Thomas
3-minute read
Episode #28

Easy DIY Stain Removal


I recently got a phone call from a friend. She was panicking because her son had left a pen in a pair of shorts, and it exploded in the dryer. Not only were the shorts and other clothes covered in ink spots, but the inside of the dryer was also covered in sticky ink blotches. She was picturing having to get a new dryer, or living with the fear of having load after load of spotted clothes for the next few months.

See also: How to Remove Almost Every Stain


While an exploded pen may seem like a complete disaster, it is easier to fix than you may think. With a few products from around the house and a little time, you will be able to get your clothes, and dryer, back to like-new condition with these 4 steps:>


Step #1: Identify the Damage

As soon as you discover that a pen has exploded in the washer or dryer, the first thing you want to do is find all the damaged clothes. Start by going through each item and examining every square inch of fabric. It’s likely that not all your clothes will have spots, but don’t assume that because one item doesn’t have any spots that another item will be clean as well. The spots can be big or small, and if the affected items go through another wash and dry cycle without being treated, the ink stains will be set. If you don’t want to have to turn your favorite pants into a rag, make sure to check each item thoroughly.


Step #2: Treat Spots on Clothes

Once you’ve found all the spots on the clothes, you want to treat them right away. To treat ink stains, all you need is a can of hairspray. Liberally apply hairspray to each and every spot. And when I say liberally, I mean that you should soak the spot completely. I’ve had friends who have gone through entire cans of Aquanet on a load of laundry. You can’t use too much. The alcohol in the hairspray will make the ink splotches disappear, so the more it smells like the 1980s, the better.

See also: Laundry 101

Step #3: Remove Ink From Dryer

While the hairspray is working its magic on your clothes, it’s time to work on the dryer. The last thing you want is to toss a new load of clothes into the dryer, only to have the inky goop heat up and reapply itself to everything once again. Luckily, removing the ink from the dryer walls is also pretty easy.
The two products that work the best are nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol, both of which are pretty common to have around the house, so hopefully you have at least one of them handy. Just apply some of the liquid to a rag and wipe away the ink. Then, use a soapy water mixture to wash the walls of the dryer and wipe away the alcohol or acetone. You may want to run a load of rags through (just wet them with a little water and toss them in) to remove any residue. 

Step #4: Wash Clothes Again

After you have let the hairspray set for a little bit, you can toss the inked clothes back into the washer. No matter what type of load you have, make sure to run it on a cold water cycle. Heat will set the stain permanently, so until you know the stain is completely gone, cold water is key.

After the wash cycle, DO NOT put the clothes in the dryer until you have checked and double checked them to make sure the spots are gone. It’s a good idea to hang-dry the items if they are darker because you might not be able to see the spots when the fabric is wet. If the spots are still there, simply reapply the hairspray, and rewash. Repeat this until the spots are completely gone.

See also: How to Use Vinegar to Clean Your Home

While it may cause a panic at first, an exploded pen in the dryer is more nuisance than catastrophe. With a little patience, and a few common household products, everything can be back to new again. And trust me, this is a lesson you only have to learn once before you become hyper vigilant about checking pockets. Although it’s easy, no one wants to go through these steps twice.

For more laundry tips like these, check out my Pinterest page. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home!