How to remove ink from paper

Accidentally spilling ink or having a pen leak can be a nightmare, leaving unsightly stains on papers, documents, and other surfaces. Whether you’re dealing with a fresh ink spill or an old stain, there are several effective methods you can use to remove ink from paper. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best techniques to clean up ink messes and restore your documents to their former glory.

How to remove ink from paper

Ink Types

Before we dive into the removal methods, it’s important to understand the different types of ink and how they behave on paper. There are two main categories of ink: water-based and oil-based.

Water-based inks, such as those found in ballpoint pens and markers, tend to be easier to remove as they are more soluble in water. These inks can often be blotted or flushed out with water and mild detergents.

On the other hand, oil-based inks, like those used in fountain pens and permanent markers, are more challenging to remove. They are less soluble in water and require more aggressive solvents to break down the ink.

Knowing the type of ink you’re dealing with will help you choose the right removal method and ensure you don’t accidentally set the stain or damage the paper.

Blotting and Flushing

The first step in removing a fresh ink stain is to act quickly. The longer the ink sits on the paper, the harder it will be to remove. Start by blotting the affected area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel. Gently press down to soak up as much of the excess ink as possible, being careful not to rub the stain and spread it further.

Once you’ve blotted the area, it’s time to flush the paper with water. Turn the paper over and hold it under a gentle stream of cool or lukewarm water, carefully flushing the back of the stain. This will help dissolve and lift the ink from the paper. Avoid using hot water, as it can set the stain and cause the ink to penetrate deeper into the paper fibres.

If the paper is delicate or you’re dealing with a larger stain, you can try submerging the entire sheet in a shallow container of water. Gently swish the paper back and forth to encourage the ink to release. Avoid agitating the paper too vigorously, as this can damage the fibres.

After flushing, blot the area again with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel to remove as much of the diluted ink as possible. Repeat the process until the stain starts to fade.

Using Solvents

For stubborn ink stains, you may need to employ the use of solvents. Keep in mind that the type of solvent you use will depend on the ink you’re trying to remove.

Water-based inks can often be lifted with a mild detergent solution. Mix a few drops of dish soap or laundry detergent with warm water and gently dab the solution onto the stain using a clean cloth or sponge. Avoid scrubbing, as this can damage the paper. Rinse the area with clean water and blot dry.

For oil-based inks, you’ll need a stronger solvent, such as isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or nail polish remover (acetone). Test the solvent on a small, inconspicuous area of the paper first to ensure it doesn’t cause any discolouration or damage.

Apply the solvent to a clean cloth and gently dab the stain, working from the outside in to prevent the ink from spreading. You may need to apply the solvent multiple times, allowing it to soak in briefly before blotting. Once the stain has been lifted, rinse the area with clean water and blot dry.

Be cautious when using solvents, as they can be harsh and may cause the paper to become brittle or discoloured. Always work in a well-ventilated area and avoid prolonged skin contact.

Using Absorbent Powders

Another effective method for removing ink stains is the use of absorbent powders, such as cornstarch or baking soda. These powders can help draw out the ink from the paper by wicking away the moisture.

Start by gently blotting the stain with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel to remove any excess ink. Then, liberally cover the affected area with the absorbent powder, making sure to extend the coverage slightly beyond the edges of the stain.

Allow the powder to sit for several hours, or even overnight, to give it time to absorb the ink. Once the powder has had a chance to work, gently brush or vacuum it away, being careful not to disturb the paper fibres.

If the stain persists, you can repeat the process, reapplying the absorbent powder as needed. This method is particularly effective for fresh ink stains and can be used on both water-based and oil-based inks.

Enzyme-Based Cleaners

For particularly stubborn ink stains, you can try using an enzyme-based cleaner specifically designed for removing ink and other tough stains. These cleaners contain enzymes that break down the molecular structure of the ink, making it easier to lift from the paper.

Look for enzyme-based cleaners that are labelled as safe for use on paper or delicate fabrics. Apply the cleaner directly to the stain, following the manufacturer’s instructions. You may need to let the cleaner sit for a few minutes to allow the enzymes to work before blotting or rinsing the area.

Enzyme-based cleaners can be effective on a wide range of ink types, including ballpoint, fountain pen, and permanent marker stains. However, they should be used with caution, as they can potentially damage the paper if left on for too long or used excessively.

Commercial Products for Ink Stain Removal

In addition to the DIY methods mentioned above, there are also several commercial products available specifically designed for removing ink stains from paper and other surfaces. Some popular options include:

  1. Clorox Ink Remover Pens: These pen-like applicators contain a specialized formula that can effectively lift ink stains from paper, clothing, and more. They are easy to use and great for targeting specific areas.
  2. Amodex Ink and Stain Remover: This liquid-based cleaner is formulated to work on a variety of ink types, including ballpoint, gel, and permanent markers. It’s safe for use on paper, fabrics, and other delicate materials.
  3. Shout Ink Remover Spray: A convenient spray-on solution that can help remove stubborn ink stains. It’s suitable for use on paper, clothing, and other surfaces.
  4. Uni-Ball Ink-Lock Correction Tape: While not a stain remover per se, this correction tape can be used to effectively cover up small ink blemishes on paper documents.

When using commercial products, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and test on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure compatibility with your paper type and that the product won’t cause any damage.

Preventing Future Ink Stains

While removing ink stains can be a challenging process, it’s also important to consider ways to prevent them in the first place. Here are some tips to help you avoid ink messes:

  1. Use pens with retractable tips or caps: Pens with retractable tips or caps are less likely to leak or spill ink, especially if you remember to keep them closed when not in use.
  2. Store pens and markers upright: Storing pens and markers in an upright position can help prevent ink from seeping out and staining surfaces.
  3. Blot ink spills immediately: If you do happen to spill or leak ink, act quickly to blot the affected area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel. The faster you can address the stain, the easier it will be to remove.
  4. Use ink-resistant paper: Consider using ink-resistant or “bleed-proof” paper for important documents or projects where you’ll be using a lot of ink. These specialized papers are designed to prevent ink from soaking through and creating stains.
  5. Store important documents properly: Keep sensitive documents, such as contracts or photographs, in protective sleeves or folders to prevent accidental ink staining.

By following these preventative measures, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of encountering stubborn ink stains and save yourself the hassle of having to remove them.


Removing ink stains from paper can be a daunting task, but with the right techniques and a bit of patience, you can restore your documents to their former glory. Remember to act quickly, understand the type of ink you’re dealing with, and employ a variety of methods, such as blotting, flushing, using solvents, and applying absorbent powders.

In addition to the DIY techniques, there are also several commercial products available that can be effective in removing ink stains, such as Clorox Ink Remover Pens, Amodex Ink and Stain Remover, and Shout Ink Remover Spray.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to removing even the most stubborn ink stains. With a little elbow grease and the right approach, you can ensure your important papers and documents remain pristine and free of unsightly blemishes.

So, the next time you find yourself facing an ink disaster, don’t panic – simply refer back to this comprehensive guide and get to work on restoring your papers to their former condition. With a little know-how and the right tools, you can tackle even the toughest ink stains and keep your documents looking their best.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.