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I got a lot of drawing from ball pens on my clothes. I tried washing them with soap, but that didn't help. How can I successfully remove ball pen marks from my clothes?

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First off, you need to determine what kind of ink stain you're dealing with. Not all pens with a ball are actual "ballpoint" pens.

Traditional ballpoint pens (like the ubiquitous Bic and Paper Mate) use a fast-drying, oil-based ink that requires a solvent to remove.1 Rollerball pens, on the other hand, (common manufacturers include Uni-Ball and Pilot), use water-based inks that are fairly easy to remove, while gel pens use a highly-pigmented type of ink that can be a bit more difficult.2

If you're certain it's an oil-based ink:

  1. Find a suitable solvent. Common isopropyl alcohol is suitable for most stain-removal jobs and can be purchased generically at a pharmacy, for example rubbing alcohol.
  2. Place the stained garment on several layers of paper towels, so the ink has somewhere to go.
  3. Apply your alcohol-based solvent of choice.
  4. Wait 3-5 minutes. The solvent needs a few minutes to break down the oils in the ink.
  5. Blot the stain using layers of white paper towels.
  6. Repeat as needed.

If it's water-based ink:

  1. Soak the stained garment in (skim) milk.
  2. Wait for at least half an hour.
  3. Scrub the stain gently with a toothbrush, cuticle brush or similar soft-bristled brush.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

And if it's highly-pigmented ink:

  1. Hand-wash with soap or regular detergent as quickly as possible.
  2. Rinse thoroughly with running water.
  3. Try to blot any remaining ink by pressing the fabric between two absorbent cloths, or stacks of napkins or paper towels.
  4. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of ammonia in warm water.
  5. Soak the garment in the ammonia solution for one hour.
  6. Repeat steps 1 & 2 and scrub with a soft brush, if needed.
    • If the stain is responding to this treatment, repeat as needed until the ink is gone, and launder as usual.
  7. Mix 1 cup of rubbing alcohol with 1 cup of vinegar.
  8. Place the garment on a clean, dry towel and apply the solution.
  9. Let it soak for at least 5 minutes.
  10. Pour a small amount of table salt over the stain.
  11. Wait 10 minutes.
  12. Scrub with a soft brush and rinse with hot water.
    • If the stain is responding to this treatment, repeat as needed until the ink is gone, and launder as usual.

You may have to experiment with the above steps (hence the horizontal lines) or try other methods. Just make sure to rinse the garment very thoroughly between different methods to avoid mixing chemicals.


Sources:

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I don't know if it works on every pen, but I have removed ball point pen ink from clothing a couple of times with aerosol hair spray. It worked very well. It also took ballpoint pen stains out of my dryer.

  • 1
    I don't know whether that applies to all hair sprays, but from the first source in my answer: hairspray usually will remove ink, but it should only be used as a last resort because hairspray damages some surfaces and fabrics – Alex Jun 5 '15 at 7:00
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    I have never had a problem with it, but that certainly makes it sound like it warrants some caution. :) I know it does not damage the inside of a dryer. Plus, if it is so bad for fabric, it is safe to use on hair? Most people apply it while wearing clothing. :) – JGTaylor Jun 8 '15 at 15:40
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I have had excellent results using trichloroethane for dissolving oil-based stains.

  • Yes, tric is an excellent solvent for this. However, it is almost impossible for the public to get hold of because it is so toxic. – Chenmunka Dec 11 '15 at 8:45
  • In New Zealand I have purchased it from pharmacies, and in the Netherlands I have gotten it from drug stores. Not sure about other countries. Although obviously you should use adequate precautions as for any solvent, it was used in whiteout correction fluid sold in stationary stores for years so I wouldn't imagine it's quite that toxic. – ScarletPumpernickel Dec 11 '15 at 14:08
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Getting pen marks, dots and lines on the back of your shirt is very common as a student. Because we always sit one behind the other and slipping of the pen is common. I have myself got many such designs on my new and expensive shirts. I once wore a costly casual plain white shirt to college. The person behind me had a Reynolds waterproof gel pen. He was very careless in handling it. So there were all zig zag lines on my white shirt at the end of the day. There was no way I could remove the lines. As I am experienced in this, let me tell you. 1. Roller ink pen stains on your shirt are easy to remove as they are water based 2. Ball point pen marks will gradually disappear if you wash with alcohol 3. However if someone has used a waterproof gel pen or a marker on your shirt, you will never be able to get rid of it. Either throw it away or continue wearing it.

So please don't wear any expensive light coloured shirts to places where there is a danger of pen marks.

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