How to Clean Gel Ink Stains from Clothing

How to Remove Gel Ink Stains from Clothing

Many of you have probably read my post on how to Remove Ink Stains but in response to that post a reader asked me how to clean gel ink stains from clothing, because using hairspray won’t remove gel stains.

I had to do a little research for this post because I don’t use gel ink pens so I have never received a stain from one.  Luckily I was able to find a great answer for you!  You know I’ve been trying to do more Green Cleaning so I was excited to find a stain solution using alcohol and vinegar {source}.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Mix 1 cup rubbing alcohol with 1 cup vinegar.  Then using a clean cloth, dip it into the alcohol vinegar mixture and then wet the stain with it.  Let the mixture sit on the stain for no less than 5 minutes.

Step 2: Next pour a small amount of table salt onto the soaking stain.  Allow the salt to sit on the stain for another 5 minutes.

Step 3: After the 10 minutes of soaking the garment with alcohol, vinegar and salt, use a toothbrush to gently scrub the stain.

Step 4: After scrubbing the stain with the toothbrush rinse it with hot water.  Rinse until you see the stain lift and then use a clean cloth to dab it dry.  If the stain doesn’t completely lift on the first attempt repeat the steps until it is completely gone.

Step 5: Allow the garment to air dry after removing the stain and then wash it in the washing machine just like you normally would.

Voila!  Now you have an ink-free shirt {or pants} to wear to work tomorrow!  I love it when you all ask me questions and I get to learn new solutions! :)

About the Author

"Hi I'm Anna! Welcome to Ask Anna where I love to answer your household questions! I have always loved to clean, organize and decorate and this blog is a fun way for me to help you love it too! I am a busy mom of a beautiful little girl and I'm married to the love of my life. Together we fill our days with projects , laughter and love. I serve an incredible God and overall I'd say I'm truly blessed!"

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  1. Great tip. I had used Lysol spray with a rag behind the stain. It worked pretty good, but this is GREAT!

  2. Terri Sue says:

    Dear Anna,
    Thank you so much! I wrote you that that hairspray wouldn’t take out gel ink. It’s just about all that I use. I love that I now have a way to get out the occasional stain. Thank you for your research.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I wish I had seen it about a week sooner! DH got gel ink on a 100% polyester shirt. I tried EVERYTHING and only was able to fade it a bit. Plus now the fabric is worn in the 1″ spot around the stain! Too much scrubbing!!

    • Bummer! I”m sorry. :( At least now you’ll have this for next time!

    • This worked on an untreated stain! I tried it on a stain I’d previously tried only alcohol and it wasn’t working. I saw somewhere else to scrub with powdered detergent and then it came out! Relieved and thankful!

  4. I read your post last night after finding 7 of my husband’s shirts covered in gel ink. . .after they had been through the dryer. I knew I had a long night ahead of me. Let me just say, I gave up and put all of the shirts in the wash with extra water. I then put 1 c. alcohol (all I had left after dabbing one shirt), 2 c. vinegar, and 1/2 c. oxyclean in the washer. I let it go and waited for the washer to finish. Everything came out SPOTLESS! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thank you for adding this comment! I had a similar situation, and it worked! I have a front loader, so I presoaked in a bucket overnight with 1 c alcohol, 2 c vinegar and a scoop of Oxyclean and enough water to cover it all. The next day I wasn’t sure it worked, it lightened the stain on some, but not all and some had huge spots of ink. I ran it through a normal wash( I use homemade detergent), with some bleach (these were whites) and you can’t tell where any ink was!!! Major happy dance.

  5. Thanks for the information on gel ink removal. My daughter left gel pen in her scrub top pocket which then bleed onto her scrub pants. Didn’t realize it was “gel ink” at first so treated with hairspray! Next, we tried your alcohol, vinegar & salt solution, but it didn’t work :( I washed her scrubs this morning and that nasty gel ink is still there :( I may try Melodie’s idea of putting alcohol, vinegar & oxy clean and re-washing them by themselves. If anyone else has any ideas, I welcome them! Thanks so much!

  6. Mckenzie Hawthorne says:

    I got a gel ink stain on my jeans. I didn’t realize that it was gel ink, so i first tried hairspray which didn’t work. Will this treatment work on jeans? And also, will it work if I have already tried hairspray? I haven’t dried the jeans yet. Thanks!

  7. Wendy Maslen says:

    Soaking the item in Milk will remove ink too.

  8. Hi Anna,
    Thank you for this very helpful tip! Will be using today on hubby’s favorite shirt. :)

    Just a note on your page: (Being very ancient and a bear with very little eyesight left)
    I wonder if it would be possible to use a darker font on your text? I’d love to follow you, I can tell you have wonderful ideas! I really wanted this tip so I copied and pasted it to Word, and formatted it so I could read it. I’m going by faith that I’m typing the correct words because I really can’t see them! I totally understand the need to have a creative looking page, I’m sure that’s why so many bloggers use this light, airy color but it really is murder on old eyes like mine :) Thanks for listening. Keep up the good work!
    P.S. I don’t have a website so I used yours. Hope that’s okay. Don’t think it would let me post otherwise…

  9. I tried this 3 times on a Pilot G2 pen gel ink stain with no luck! Any other suggestions? Thank you.

  10. Thank you for your information about the gel ink stain. I had soaked it in milk and put in the washer on delicate, and when it comes out I will let it air dry and try your tips tomorrow if the stain is not removed. Please tell me how to get asphalt tar patch out of a white cotton tee shirt.

    Thank you for sharing your faith. Our God is awesome and incredible and an ever-present help. May God abundantly bless you and your family and supply every need you have and your heart’s desires.

  11. Teresa Novak says:

    UNBELIEVABLE! Thought there was no way this would work on a set-in, gel ink stain from the pen left in the pocket of my white lab coat and going through wash and dry cycles. I nearly threw the coat away, but to save $40 I thought it was worth a try, for less than 50 cents of materials.. No one who saw the coat before can believe it’s the same one. The ink stain is completely gone.! Thanks so much for the great tip!

  12. help! i got black permanent marker on my favorite green T shirt. Can it be removed/
    Love your site!

  13. Waste of time…. did NOT work at all.

  14. I had a whole load of khaki pants of my sons. He has left pens in his pants many times. I was sick today and did not want to go thru the pockets and now Im paying for it. Gel ink everywhere. I am trying the cup of alcohol, 2 cups of vinegar and cup of All with oxyclean. Hope it works. No, I have been praying it works. I don’t think its too much to ask for a little help from the Lord on this. I can’t afford to replace all his school clothes. He goes to a private school that requires khakis. This is four pair of them along with 3 pair of jeans. I will try the jeans later. Not too worried about them cause it doesn’t show. Say a prayer for me too. Thanks for the suggestions. I was worried sick.

  15. This recipe does not work on gel ink on cotton fabric.
    A simple acetone or fingernail polish remover works fine and is safe on most fabrics as long as you get to it before it is set by heat.

  16. Will sea salt work instead of table salt? I don’t use regular table salt but I can buy some if the sea salt won’t work.

  17. Tried it twice on a white cotton dress shirt that went through the laundry once. Didn’t even slightly fade it. Going to try the Oxy Clean suggestion and will report back.
    Thank you for the suggestions.

  18. This process doesn’t work for permanent gel pins. Please list any other solutions you can come up with.

  19. Hi there! I tried this several times on a gel stain on my son’s new shorts. No go. Didn’t work at all. Just an FYI

  20. Hey,
    I need to try this.

    Is there an alternative solution that doesn’t require alcohol?

  21. what if it is the entire shirt! I had a gel pen get washed in the washer and is all over my shirt. How would I get it out?

    • Oh no! Honestly at that point I would probably just take it to a professional, if it’s a shirt you really love. If you want to try it at home then I’d soak the whole shirt in vinegar in the sink, instead of spot cleaning like the posts suggests. Good luck!

  22. How do you remove a gel ink stain front clothes that are wet from being in the washer.?. There was a gel pen washed with the load of whites. Didn’t get on everything , just two pieces it laid on
    Thank you

    • Hey Sheri,

      This is Monique, Anna’s assistant. Since the ink has already gone through the washer it might help to let it air dry. I would not put it in the dryer until after you have treated it. Once it has air dried you can go ahead and begin the process that was suggested in the post. Glad that it only got on two pieces :) Hope this helps!

  23. So far…not so good. Have been working on my son’s 15 pieces of whites and one yellow with no great result so far. Have everything in a bucket with the alcohol and water for the night and will try to see what happens in the morning. There are too many pieces with too much ink on them to be able to do each piece separately. I hope it works in the morning.

  24. Bossyvossy says:

    This works! Thank you

  25. Saul Gersen says:

    Sorry, it didn’t work for me. I tried it on a white, Pima cotton shirt, a pair of denim shorts, and a pair of cotton shorts. Does the length of time that the stain sits before attempting removal affect the ability to get the stain out?

    • Bethany Davis says:

      Hello, Saul.
      I’m Anna’s assistant, Bethany. I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work on your clothing. Just to clarify, did you try one time for each article of clothing, or did you try and repeat the process on each with no luck? If not, you may want to try and repeat the process this time, but soak the stain for a bit longer to see if helps, before attempting to put the salt on. Anna’s source also mentions another method for cleaning gel ink stains which you can find here: I hope this helps!

  26. What if the pants are red. Will any of this take out the color of the pants?

    • The vinegar won’t take the color out, it’s actually good at preventing color bleeding, but I can’t promise that for the rubbing alcohol. I would start by trying it on an inside pocket or someplace not very noticeable.

  27. Thank you! I bought my daughter a new light blue bed comforter and the next day her cousin left an uncapped red gel pen on it. She was devastated. This worked beautifully. I really didn’t think we would get it out but we did, thanks to your instructions.

  28. thanks!
    i had a small gel-ink stain on my polyester shirt.
    rubbing the vinegar/isopropyl alcohol alone did the trick!

  29. It worked! Thank you so much😀 my husband washed & dried his 2 favorite dress shirts with a gel pin hidden in a pocket…. one was a very expensive shirt from Orvis. Thought we were going to have t o throw them away. A little patience, repeating this recipe 3 or 4 times and the MANY MANY stains were gone. Make sure you have a thick white towel on the bottom to catch all the ink, it will transfer to whatever is there (if on a sleeve, roll up a dish towel and slide it in). Can’t thank you enough!

  30. Would you use the same process if it’s dried in your couch fabric? I have a large ink stain in my brand new couch. I’m guessing the fabric is mostly cotton – not microfiber and I’ve tried everything. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it was there until it was dry. Thanks for your help.

  31. This didn’t work for me at all. Lifted the stain only slightly. Had to take to dry cleaners. They said the alcohol caused the gel ink to set in. He’s worked on it for a week! Not sure if it will come out now.

  32. My husband had already tried to remove the stain using bleach, as it is a white shirt that was ok but I think the stain may now be set into the fabric