How to Clean Ink off Plastic

Ink has been used since the dawn of time, but back in cave-people days, harried housekeepers didn't have to worry about removing it from vinyl furniture, plastic housewares, handbags, boots or even clothing. Most inks are made with synthetic materials, which can make them hard to clean off of plastics. The main thing to remember when removing ink is to start with the gentlest cleanser and always do a test spot in an area that is easy to hide.

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How to Clean Ink off Plastic

Basic Facts About Ink

Ink consists of a base liquid, a dye and/or a pigment. These are generally made of synthetics, though before automation and mass production, ink was made from botanical extracts, the blood of shellfish and sometimes animal secretions. If you know exactly what your ink is made of, it is possible to research which solvents work best to remove it from plastic, but this is rarely the case.

Remove Ink From Plastic

The first step in removing pen ink from plastic is to use liquid dishwashing soap. Wet a cotton swab with a drop of dish detergent and swab it over a part of the plastic that is normally hidden from view. Let it dry and then wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth. If it has not discolored or dissolved the plastic, the latter being highly unlikely, try it on the ink.

If that doesn't work, use the same technique with a paste made of baking soda and water. If the stain remains, try vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, acetone and then bleach, in that order. Always do a test spot first.

Remove Permanent Ink From Plastic

The best way to remove Sharpie from plastic is with a dry-erase marker. Simply color over the Sharpie ink with the marker and then wipe it off with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. The alcohol in the dry-erase marker dissolves the permanent ink. If you don't have a dry-erase marker, use a cotton swab soaked in alcohol, but don't forget to do a test spot first.

Remove Printed Ink From Plastic

The small plastic tubs that margarine, butter blends, yogurt and so many other things come in are an excellent and eco-friendly resource for crafters, parents, people bringing lunch to work and anyone else who hates to toss plastic in the trash. Once you remove ink stain printing from the containers, they also make wonderful containers for mailing homemade cookies, candies and other treats. Choose a work surface that cannot be damaged or protect it with several layers of paper toweling. Dampen a cloth or sponge with acetone and rub at the printed ink on the plastic container until it dissolves. This also works for ink removal from soda cans.

Remove Invisible Ink From Plastic

Most invisible ink is made from lemon juice, but the kind that clubs and amusement parks use to mark the skin of patrons can rub off on plastic. A dry-erase marker will work on this type of ink, as will a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Simply use a UV light to activate the ink, go over it with a dry-erase marker and then scrub it clean with a dry cloth.