How to Remove Ink Stains From Hands and Fabrics Such As Clothing

If you collect pens, particularly fountain pens, one thing is for sure; eventually, you will need to know how to remove ink stains from hands and fabric such as clothing. It happens, you were filling your pen and the cat jumped up on your desk, or you forgot to wipe off the nib, or you dribbled a little on the desk and got your hand in it, whatever the case may be, ink stains are inevitable and you have to do something to remove them (at least in my house or my wife will kill me).

When I first started making messes I did what most people do, I dabbed it up, put water on it to try and dilute the ink, and wound up making a bigger mess than I had to start with. That little drop of Apache Sunset on my shirt turned into looking like I had a gunshot wound. Then I started googling things like, how to remove ink stains from cotton, how to remove ink stains from carpet, and then after I really messed up, how to remove ink stains from clothes that have been washed and dried. Yeah, that shirt was “recycled” although I did get the ink out of the carpet.

The first rule of thumb of how to remove ink stains is to get to them quickly. Letting it dry is a bad thing. Grabbing a towel and smearing it, another bad thing. When you realize you have made a mess, stop, take a breath, do what is necessary to keep it from getting worse but then just stop.

The first thing we have to cover when taking about removing ink stains is there are three types of ink; iron gall, permanent, and non-permanent.

Iron gall is the worst (although it is amazing ink!) and once it dries, you pretty much need a blowtorch to remove it. That is, after all, what it was designed for. This is the ink that banks used for checks so that it could never be removed without destroying the check. Once it is dried, you are pretty much up a creek without a spoon much less a paddle.

There are two pieces of good news and those are that iron gall based ink is very unusual and that most ink stains are on your hands and skin eventually is replaced by new skin as it wears off.

Very few people outside of hard-core pen collectors even know what iron gall ink is, and only a small percentage of those people actually own and use iron gall ink. So the odds are that whatever ink you are using, is not iron gall, so relax.

Gojo hand cleaner - how to remove ink stains

If you do have an iron gall based ink and you got it on your hands, Gojo hand cleaner with pumice is probably your best bet since it is an abrasive that will literally exfoliate your skin removing the outer layer which has the most ink pigment in it. Once your skin is stained with iron gall ink, you just have to let it wear off, sorry.

Now we come to permanent and non-permanent. Honestly, there is no such thing as really permanent ink although the aforementioned iron gall comes close. Permanent these days really means it is water-resistant and can not be easily removed. We have some tricks for that.

Non-permanent is usually a water-based and water-soluble ink that can be simply washed out with warm water and normal soap. Again, once it is dried it becomes exponentially harder to get out to get to it fast. It is also harder to get out of whites, of course, and I am sure that the tablecloth or shirt you were wearing was a white so bright the driven show pales in comparison because that is the way these things work, you never spill black ink on a black shirt, just doesn’t happen.

Before I go any further, let me say that nothing in the world (except maybe the blowtorch I mentioned earlier) will always remove ink stains from all materials. That being said, what I have found to work well is the following procedure:

  1. Make sure the stain can not get worse. Take off your shirt, remove the tablecloth from the table, etc to stop the stain from getting to whatever is underneath and spreading.
  2. Blot the stain lightly. You want to draw the ink out of the cloth, not press it in further. Very light dabs with cotton balls work pretty well.
  3. Once you have removed all the ink from the stain you can, try running warm water over the stain. Make sure the water can not spread the ink. I do this by using a 3″ embroidery hoop and putting the cloth over the hoop. You can also use a glass and drape the cloth over the top then push down on the stain pressing it through the opening of the glass making a kind of pocket for the water to flow into. Make sure the water never fills the pocket. This way only the already stained area is getting wet. Some spreading is likely to occur, you are trying to minimize it so a little is OK.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the stain no longer diminishes.
  5. Blot and dry the area as much as possible without heating or blowing on the fabric.
  6. Once it is mostly or completely dry, apply some Amodex Ink and Stain Remover according to the directions.
  7. Repeat applications of Amodex until stain is gone, or until applications no longer seem to diminish the appearance of stains.
  8. BE PATIENT WHILE USING AMODEX. It does not work instantly! Put it on and walk away, go get lunch, go to the pen store and replace that bottle of ink you spilled, whatever.

Amodex - how to remove ink stains

I have been collecting and using fountain pens for years and have made my share of messes. While I have some things that are still stained to this day, I keep a bottle of Amodex in the ink drawer of my desk and another in the laundry room. I assure you I would not if the stuff did not remove ink stains.

Will it save your grandmother’s lace doily she made from her wedding dress 50 years ago that you stained with Aurora Black? No, you better hide that thing until she is too old to remember what it is. But it can do some remarkable things and has saved a lot of shirts I didn’t think it could. That could be why you will find it sold at every pen show across the United States. Maybe if I wasn’t so messy…..

In the end, be as careful as you can, but when that fails, take a breath and reach for the Amodex Ink and Stain Remover to help remove ink stains.