How to Remove Ball Point Pen Ink

Stain Removal Tips Using Home Chemistry

Ink stain
You need to dissolve ink in an appropriate solvent to remove it from fabric. James Cotier / Getty Images

Ball point pen ink is not a something that you can usually remove with simple soap and water, but there is an easy and inexpensive way to remove pen ink from surfaces or clothing.

Materials You Will Need To Remove Pen Ink

You can use any of a number of common household chemicals to lift away ink. The best of these is alcohol, because it dissolves pigments that are soluble in both water and organic solvents and because it's gentle enough that it won't discolor or damage most fabrics.

  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol)
  • Shaving cream (if the alcohol doesn't remove the ink)
  • Hairspray (if neither the alcohol nor shaving cream works)
  • Non-flammable dry cleaning fluid (another option)

Ink Removal Instructions

  1. Dab rubbing alcohol onto the ink.
  2. Allow a couple of minutes for the alcohol to penetrate the surface and react with the ink.
  3. Blot the ink stain using layers of white paper towels or a cloth that has been dampened in either alcohol or water.
  4. If the alcohol is ineffective, try using foaming shaving cream.
  5. If the shaving cream doesn't work, hairspray usually will remove ink, but it should only be used as a last resort because hairspray damages some surfaces and fabrics.
  6. Non-flammable dry cleaning fluid may remove certain inks. If you use dry cleaning fluid to remove a stain, rinse the area with water afterwards.

Gel ink pens use an ink that is made to be permanent. Alcohol will not remove gel ink, nor will acid.

Sometimes it is possible to wear away gel ink using an eraser.

Ink stains in wood usually involve gouges in the wood, which makes it harder to get to the ink. Be sure to remove all traces of alcohol from the wood after the ink has been removed, rinse the affected area with water, and condition the wood to help reverse the drying effects of the alcohol.

Why Ball Point Ink Is So Hard to Remove

The reason ball point pen ink is so tricky to remove is because of its chemical composition. Ball point pens and felt-tip markers consist of pigments and dyes suspended in water and organic solvents, which may include toluene, glyco-ethers, propylene glycol, and propyl alcohol. Other ingredients may be added to help the ink flow or stick to the page, such as resins, wetting agents, and preservatives. Basically, removing the ink requires a solvent that works with both polar (water) and nonpolar (organic) molecules. Because of the nature of the ink, it's important to remove the stain before dry cleaning, because the solvents used in the process can release the stain and spread it to other parts of the fabric.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Remove Ball Point Pen Ink." ThoughtCo, Sep. 18, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-remove-ball-point-pen-ink-606156. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, September 18). How to Remove Ball Point Pen Ink. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-remove-ball-point-pen-ink-606156 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Remove Ball Point Pen Ink." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-remove-ball-point-pen-ink-606156 (accessed November 24, 2017).