Gel ink is a hybrid of water- and oil-based technologies, an oil-based pigment suspended in a water-based liquid that helps the ink flow more smoothly onto the paper. The ink itself is permanent, making it difficult to remove from clothing. Removal requires swift action, as ink stains that have been set in are sometimes impossible to remove. Washable fabrics can be treated at home with several stain-removal solutions. If one cleaner doesn't work, move on and try the next, which may work better on the particular pigment in your stain.
To remove gel ink, pen manufacturer Uni-Ball recommends mixing together 1 teaspoon of ammonia and a gallon of water. Pour the mixture in a spray bottle and add a scoop of enzyme laundry detergent to the mixture. Shake the bottle to mix the ingredients thoroughly and spray the ink stain, completely saturating it.
Once the fabric is soaked through, use an old toothbrush to work out the stain. Rinse the ammonia solution out of the material and examine it. If the stain has faded but still remains, repeat the procedure. Wash the garment when you are satisfied that the stain is gone or try a different cleaning solution.
Cleaning professional Mrs. Clean suggests a recipe of equal parts rubbing alcohol and distilled white vinegar to treat stains. Pour or spray the mixture onto the stain and generously sprinkle the area with table salt. Rub the salt into the stain with your fingers and rinse the garment in hot water before washing.
Lemon Juice Mix
Another effective ink stain remedy is a tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent mixed with a tablespoon of lemon juice. This mixture should be applied to the stain and left for two hours. Rinse the garment in cold water when the time is up. If the stain rinses out along with the detergent, it's time to wash the garment.
Several different household chemicals can be used to blot out an ink stain. Place a clean white towel behind the stain. The towel must be white, or you risk transferring dye from the towel onto the clothing and making a bigger problem. Saturate the stain with the chosen chemical and press the stain into the towel from the front of the garment with a white paper towel, pushing the ink out of your clothes and onto the towel behind. Be sure to blot the stain rather than rubbing it in as these chemicals could spread the stain and make it larger if you rub. Move or change towels as needed so that you are always working on a clean surface that is ready to absorb more ink, and continue blotting the stain until it has all transferred to the towel. Chemicals and solvents you can use with this technique include:
- Rubbing alcohol
- Nail polish remover
- All-purpose household cleaners
When you have removed as much of the ink as you can, wash the garment in the hottest water its care label allows. Add bleach to the laundry to help with stain removal.
To ensure that bleach is safe to use on your fabric, spot test an inconspicuous area by applying a mix of 2 teaspoons of chlorine bleach and 1/4 cup of water to the test area. Blot the fabric dry with a clean towel. If the garment changes color, use a color-safe or oxygen bleach. If no color change is detected, it is safe to bleach the garment with chlorine bleach according to the bleach manufacturer's directions.
After washing, air dry the garment and inspect it. If the stain isn't quite gone, treat it and wash it again. Don't put the garment in the clothes dryer until you are sure the ink has been removed, as doing so will set the stain and may make removal impossible.