Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Remove an Ink Stain

There are always millions of tons of dust in the air, just as there are millions of cubes of air in the earth…And sometimes there is a ballpoint pen in your washing machine, which explodes and does this to your bathrobe:

The culprit

Eight of us went for a very muddy hike at Lake Nockamixon, so afterwards we did a load of laundry. A couple of loads later when I pulled the exploded ballpoint pen out of the machine, I knew immediately it was Ben's. He had already claimed a handful of loose change and a set of keys from a previous wash that day. He must have been distracted when he put his pants in the wash...

Anyway, men are like this right? Always forgetting to empty their pockets.

But why did it have to be the load of whites? Some quick googling turned up an effective solution: rubbing alcohol. When it comes to stain removal always remember the chemists' adage, like dissolves like. Soap and water will work on water based stains. This is also why your nail polish dissolves in nail polish remover (acetone), but not in water.

We did everything we could to save Papa Smurf, but the bleeding was unstoppable.

First I  panicked and started to liberally douse the bathrobe in rubbing alcohol.This produced two results. One, the ink stain immediately dissolved in the rubbing alcohol like magic (yay!). Two, the excess ink began to spread out all over the fabric (crap!). To remedy the situation I had to get organized. I folded paper towels into blotters and laid the fabric down on top - this part was tricky because the robe had two layers, and so I had to tackle each layer separately while being careful not to let stained portions of fabric touch unstained portions of fabric.

Then I used more paper towels to section off the stain from above. Now when I poured alcohol on the robe, the excess ink was trapped on the paper towel blotter.  

 Paper towel blotters and rubbing alcohol.

After the excess ink was blotted away there were still some faint blue marks. Using toothbrushes, hydrogen peroxide, and some soap, Marcie and I got to work removing as much of the remaining ink from the fibers of the fabric. 

Then we used a bleach pen to treat whatever discoloration was left. Finally we sent the robe through the wash cycle on cold, twice. 

Using a bleach pen to get the last of the ink out. Success!

The final result was great. You could barely tell the robes had been stained at all. There were points along the way where we thought we were going to have to buy replacements. Fortunately, instead of shelling out hard-earned cash, we were able to salvage them with chemistry and a little elbow grease!


  1. Wow - As the owner of "the robes" I would never have known that they were covered in ink...unless of course I read this blog!

    The robes are brighter and cleaner than before the blue smurf leak.

    Now I know why I have an industrial sized rubbing alcohol under my sink (is that why they call it rubbing alcohol)?

    I have one question...How many hours did it take to do this remedy? Maybe it's my business mind asking the question, but two people times ??? hours, and the supplies - it may have been cheaper to buy the Macy's Hotel brand robes and call it a day.

    Although someone is really going to benefit from this blog. I love you girls. Thanks for making it all better!

  2. The entire process, including both wash cycles, took the better part of an afternoon. We each put in about an hour of actual scrubbing. More than once I considered just going to the mall and buying replacements, but what fun would that have been?