How to Remove Ink From Almost Anything

I’ve often written about the benefits of airplane safe pens but never tackled how to deal with an in-flight explosion of the pen kind, here are a few down to earth ink removal suggestions.

Ink explosion


Airplane safe pens tend to be rollerballs containing liquid or gel ink but just because they didn’t leak on your last trip doesn’t mean you won’t have cause to remove ink when grounded.

Many rollerball pens have liquid ink, this is water based so the first thing to try, you guessed it good old water, this should lift the ink by diluting it. In the case of gel ink, this is still water based but also contains pigment they tend to set more quickly making removal more difficult.

Clean Water

Most of us have experienced the odd accident at some time or another, ink stains are obviously not just a problem with rollerball pens, the choice of pens is vast so here are a just a few tips for ink removal.

Clothing (tip always test a small patch first)

  • Hairspray seems to be a favourite, don’t reach for your most expensive can mind, a cheapie from the local supermarket will suffice. Just give the offending stain a good spray until its fairly wet followed by a firm rub & it should loosen the ink. Then give it a twirl in the washing machine on the hottest temperature setting appropriate to the fabric, taking care not to leave yourself with another problem – shrinking.
  • Nail polish remover. It’s an idea to place an old cloth or kitchen paper under the area you are treating or you may take more than ink of your work surface. Apply the remover & blot with paper towel, repeating as required, once removed rinse with warm water.
  • Milk – simply make a bath of the white stuff & soak, preferably overnight.



Apart from store cupboard solutions, there are various products on the market Oxiclean have quite a selection to choose between.

Skin – I’d guess this is one of the more common surfaces. I usually start with good old soap & water with the help of a nailbrush. Failing that I move on to nail polish remover or a gentler option is baby oil but depends how much ink you are tackling, if you’ve managed to get the contents of something like an Artline 517 Whiteboard Marker on your hands then alcohol is probably the best bet (surgical spirit does the job, don’t turn to your drinks cupboard).


Leather – Ink removal will depend upon the type of material i.e if its suede, synthetic or a leather designer handbag & the type of ink but alcohol often does the trick. A friend assures me that she has had success on a favourite synthetic leather bag using a mix of bleach & baking soda applied with care using a cotton bud. Not something I’m to try.


Wood – (a DIY removal maybe not something to try on your Grandma’s antique dresser, probably best left to the specialists)
For some of your less valuable pieces if a pen has been used & the ink stains involve gouges in the wood, it’s likely to be harder to get to the ink.

  • Baking Soda. A natural inexpensive choice, just make a paste by mixing with water & spread over the ink. Wipe off with a damp cloth & repeat if necessary.
  • Washing up liquid – same method as above.


This list is by no means exhaustive, toothpaste (not the gel kind) & WD40 have also been known to remove ink, if you have any good tips you want to share then let us know.


Removing ink from paper can be quite tricky but if it is not too deeply ingrained then its possible with a special type of rubber. For trickier ink marks then our guide on how to cleanly erase ink from paper has more top tips.

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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

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