Almost everyone has had an unfortunate experience involving ink and a piece of fabric. You’ve had a mishap at work, or your child has decided that the sofa is as good as any piece of paper. In any case, getting an ink stain on a piece of fabric is never a welcome sight and a challenge to remove. The good news is that neither your favourite shirt nor the expensive couch is ruined forever. With the right plan, you can remove ink stains from furniture and clothing. 

In this article, we provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to remove ink stains from furniture and clothing. So, stick around!

Step 1: Determine the Type of Ink

Type of stain to remove

Because not all pens and markers use the same type of ink, determining the type of ink you’re dealing with is essential to effectively treat an ink stain.

Learn more How to Get Ink out of Carpet

Here are the three most common types:


Water-based ink is thin and non-greasy, so it’s easier to remove. It’s most common in fountain pens, gel pens, rollerball pens, and washable markers. If the water-based ink stain is fresh, you can just wash it away with hot water.


Oil-based ink, or dye-based ink, is created by combining dyes with grease. It’s thick and oily, so it can be a little tricky to remove. To make the job even more challenging, oil-based ink is fast-drying. As a result, oil-based ink stains may need to be pre-treated before removal.


Alcohol-based ink is what you’d commonly refer to as permanent ink. It’s used in permanent markers, and it’s the toughest ink to remove from fabric.

Step 2: Gather the Necessary Materials

Regardless of ink stain type or fabric type, there are some materials that you should have on hand, which are:

  • Two clean, dry towels or cloth rags
  • A bowl with lukewarm water

One extra item that you’ll need when getting out an ink stain from a piece of clothing or removable furniture fabric is a dry towel. If the furniture fabric is removable, you’ll need to use a towel as well.

For water-based ink stains, you’ll need:

On the other hand, for oil-based and alcohol-based ink stains, you should use:

Step 2.1: Check Cleaning Code

Just like clothes have cleaning labels, furniture fabric has cleaning codes: W, S, S-W, and X. Each code indicates the type of cleaning solution that the fabric can handle.

Here’s what each code means:

  • W means that it can be cleaned with gentle soap, upholstery shampoo, mild liquid detergent, and carpet cleaner
  • S means that it should be cleaned with water-free solvents, such as rubbing alcohol, baby wipes, and dry-cleaning solvents
  • S-W means that it can be cleaned with either water or a solvent
  • X means that it can only be deep cleaned with a vacuum

Step 2.2: Test the Fabric

Before you go anywhere near the ink-stained fabric, you should test the main cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area to ensure that the solution won’t alter or damage the fabric.

Step 3: Blot the Stain

Lay the stained fabric on a clean, dry towel or cloth rag, which will soak the ink as you remove it. If the furniture fabric is sewn to the frame, then you probably don’t have to worry about the ink staining the padding.

Water-Based Ink Stains

Dip a clean, wet cloth in a bowl with lukewarm water and blot the stained area. Most of the stain should transfer to the cloth you’re blotting with. If the stain persists, combine half a tablespoon of detergent and half a tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup of water. Dip the blotting cloth in the detergent solution, then blot the stain until it disappears.

Oil-Based or Alcohol-Based Ink Stains

Once you’ve made sure that the rubbing alcohol won’t damage the fabric, dip the blotting cloth in rubbing alcohol and gently blot the stain. Because alcohol evaporates, you may need to re-dip the blotting cloth as you work. Continue blotting until the stain disappears, but make sure to move the dry towel underneath every now and then to prevent reabsorption. With alcohol-based ink stains, you may have a more difficult time removing the stain completely. If the fabric is white, you can bleach the stained area.

Following the product’s instructions, mix oxygen-based bleach with cold water. Dip the blotting cloth in the bleach solution and blot the stained area. Leave the fabric for at least eight hours. In case there’s still some staining, mix a fresh bleach solution and repeat.

Step 4: Put Fabric in the Washing Machine

To rid the fabric of any residual products, you just have to give it a good wash in the washing machine. Keep in mind that this step isn’t optional for fabric sewn to its furniture. What you can do is pour a small amount of liquid detergent on the stained area and leave it for three to five minutes. Then, if possible, flush the area with water and allow it to dry. If you can still see faint traces of the stain, you should contact an upholstery cleaner, who will be equipped with the necessary know-how and materials to completely remove the stain.


Can hairspray remove ink stains from furniture and clothing?

Hairspray is an old wives’ tale solution for removing ink stains, or any stains in general, from fabric due to its alcohol content. Unfortunately, many of today’s hairsprays don’t contain as much alcohol as they used to. Unless you can find a hairspray with high alcohol content, most hairsprays nowadays aren’t as effective on ink stains as older formulas may have been. That said, even if you manage to remove the ink stain with hairspray, you’ll have to deal with the sticky residue left by the hairspray, which can, in turn, stain the fabric.

Can ink stains be removed after they dry?

While it’s not entirely impossible, removing an ink stain long after it has dried is far more difficult than removing a fresh stain. What’s more, the more time passes, the more the stain will set in, and you may not be able to completely remove it. You can follow the same steps as described above, but you may need to repeat the process several times if the ink stains are particularly stubborn. Just be careful not to wear the fabric out.

In Conclusion

The internet and your great-aunt may have you believe that a little hairspray can remove any stain from fabric. That’s why finding the best solution to remove ink stains from both furniture and clothing can be overwhelming. What’s important is to remember that it’s totally normal if that ink stain makes you want to throw in the towel. You can always just call an upholstery cleaning service for the furniture or send your piece of clothing to the dry cleaners. Both services have experts that use the right materials, tools, and know-how to remove stains from furniture and clothing.