Pen+Sheets+Dryer=Laundry Fail (hope me?)
April 17, 2013 9:56 PM   Subscribe

I just opened the dryer to find that my sheets (really nice, formerly tan/beige) are covered in blue pen marks. I also can see pen marks all over the dryer. I found the pen (it apparently was smuggled in by my cats, who necessitated the whole problem by throwing up on my duvet) tucked into a corner of the duvet.

So now I have sheets covered in pen marks, and a dryer covered in pen marks and I don't know how to best tackle those two things. I have back-up sheets so I don't have to have them at all costs tonight. But I also bought them a few months ago and a pretty upset they seem ruined. I also don't own this place, so the dryer will need to be cleaned. And I don't think I can use it until it's cleaned, right?

Okay. Help.
posted by guster4lovers to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Use Goo Gone in the dryer, then rinse with a damp rag. The sheets are rags or "laundry day only."
posted by Marky at 10:05 PM on April 17, 2013

What kind of ink pen is it? A permanent marker? A ballpoint? That's going to make a big difference.
posted by Brody's chum at 10:06 PM on April 17, 2013

Damn, I forgot to say that. It's a regular cheap-ass Bic blue pen.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:07 PM on April 17, 2013

If you go at it like crazy you can get ballpoint pen ink out of fabric with rubbing alcohol. I use a great deal of Q-Tips.

Just like in the examples above, start by laying your stained fabric on top of a clean dry cloth. Dab rubbing alcohol onto the ink stain. Begin blotting with a clean cloth. Continue until no ink stain remains. Rinse the clothing thoroughly. Now apply normal liquid laundry detergent onto the area and let it sit for between 3-5 minutes. Wash in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.

If rubbing alcohol doesn't work, try nail polish remover, following the same instructions above. Be sure to rinse the fabric completely between using rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover. These items shouldn't be mixed.

Before drying, make sure the stain is completely gone. If it is not, repeat the previous steps until the stain is removed, or you decided to call it quits.

via sound advice. It is labour-intensive.

I would try the rubbing alcohol in the dryer before Goo Gone; Goo Gone is a bit residue-y and you might have either a bigger clean-up job than anticipated, or Goo Gone reek etc on your clothes. (Possibly with rubbing alcohol.) "Magic Eraser" might be another option.
posted by kmennie at 10:16 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have you actually googled this? I have yet to google a situation in my life (no matter how odd) and find that no one has already answered it somewhere online. So, don't panic.

This link offers lots of ways to get the ink out of the dryer.

Here are options for the sheets, although them already having been dried might make it harder.

And if they just won't come out, you could always dye them.
posted by Brody's chum at 10:17 PM on April 17, 2013

Yes, I have googled it. But I would rather trust the random advice from strangers on Metafilter than random advice from strangers on other websites.

Thanks for the answers so far. Rubbing alcohol sounds like a crapload of work. There are stains on every square inch of both top and cover sheets. If there's no other way, I will try that.

Also, they are only moderately dry.

posted by guster4lovers at 10:36 PM on April 17, 2013

Hairspray also helps remove ink, but probably wouldn't be much more efficient than rubbing alcohol
posted by kbuxton at 10:52 PM on April 17, 2013

It may be more effective, and certainly less work, to dye the sheets blue.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:23 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Have you considered asking a dry cleaner if they could remove the ink stains from the sheets?
posted by Cranberry at 11:45 PM on April 17, 2013

Maybe I'm a laundry rebel, but if I were in your situation, I would accept that the sheets are likely a loss, spray some spot treatment on them (we use Shout, I think) and then throw them back in the wash (warm) with a good amount of detergent and some OxiClean, and see what happens. It's pretty amazing what that can take out.

I'm not sure it's worth the hours and hours of your time that it would take to thoroughly spot treat the sheets, especially with no guarantee that it would work. If the wash fails, then you can go to Plan B if you wish. Note: there is some chance that the stains could bleed in the wash. Like I said, laundry rebel.

Re: cleaning the dryer, once you've cleaned it out, it would be a good idea to run some (disposable) white rags or washcloths through just to make sure all the ink is gone.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:19 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

One more thing: sheets work perfectly well with (non-organic) stains.

I have a new set of quite pricey sheets that my cats walked on with inky/paintstained paws (a similar situation to your own). I finally realized that they're not dirty, only discoloured, and since I'm the only person who actually sees my sheets, a few paw blobs needn't bother me.
posted by jrochest at 12:53 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hairspray has worked miracles for me with ink. Spray it to saturation on all the ink spots then throw it back in the wash and let the machine do the work for you. It's worth a shot.
posted by goggie at 4:07 AM on April 18, 2013

WD 40

Miracle stuff.
posted by pearlybob at 6:03 AM on April 18, 2013

Resolve Carpet Cleaner, or other carpet stain remover, for the sheets. I see now that Resolve makes a stain remover for laundry as well, but I haven't tried it. However, I discovered this when I grabbed the wrong can while trying to eliminate a pen-ink stain while doing laundry at her place. I used it on a pair of jeans, and the ink was banished to the land of wind and ghosts.

I'd be really careful about using WD-40 in the dryer for stain-removal. Give the dryer a good cool-down before using anything flammable in there, and good airing after. Heat, static electricity, and a mixture of volatile petroleum distillates... Spray the rag, not the dryer drum. Ditto if using hairspray.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2013

Dye the sheets navy blue. This will work best if they are 100% cotton. If so, I recommend Procyon dyes. They're more trouble than Rit but far more colorfast.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:55 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to Shannon Lush:

For ink or ballpoint pen - rotten milk or dry cleaning fluid.
The way to use rotten milk is to place full cream milk in the sun until it forms solids. Then apply the solids to the stain until the ink starts to drift up through the milk solids. Then wash normally. - from "Speed Cleaning". maybe try the dry cleaning fluid or dye the sheets...

(she's an art restorer - I've heard her on the radio doing live shows where people bring their stuff in - what stains she can't remove cannot be removed.)
posted by pianissimo at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2013

I would get a blue pen and a red pen and a purple pen and a green pen and maybe some others and draw all over the sheets like I meant it, and enjoy my artsy sheets. But that's just me.
posted by evilmomlady at 7:45 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with dying the sheets. It will take some time, but far less time than scrubbing every square inch of the sheet.
posted by missriss89 at 7:47 AM on April 18, 2013

Agreeing with dyeing the sheets: we lived on a scientific research station in a third-world country for part of my childhood, and it was common for all of the families to dye their sheets, pale-colored tablecloths, and white t-shirts as we had to hand-wash everything and it was next to impossible to get out a lot of stains.

(It being the 70s, we all tie-dyed them, of course.)
posted by telophase at 8:48 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Using rubbing alcohol is labor-intensive and it takes a LOT of it. By the time you buy enough of it to do a set of sheets and the time invested, you might as well buy new sheets. Seriously.
It took an entire bottle plus about 2 hours of soaking+blotting with paper towel (oh, and a jumbo roll of that too) to remove a 1.5" diameter red ballpoint ink stain from a skirt I have.
Its completely gone now and was worth the money, work and headache to remove but I *really, really, really* love that skirt. You may not feel as strongly about your sheets.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 9:10 AM on April 18, 2013

Here's my magic laundry soak. I have used it to remove smaller pen incidents than yours, but it's practically effortless and worth a try, before (or during the process of) making rancid milk and/or the laborious rubbing alcohol methods mentioned above.

Fill washer with hottest water, add 1 large scoop Oxyclean, 1 large scoop powdered dishwasher detergent and 1 large scoop Clorox II. Agitate washer to mix, add sheets, agitate washer to submerge sheets. Turn off washer and let soak for 12-24 hours. Run rest of wash cycle.

Good luck!
posted by sarajane at 9:42 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Actually, it sounds kind of fascinating. Are you certain your sheets haven't become artistic and beautiful? If you are, add me to the dye-votes.
posted by mumimor at 10:08 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

We melted a black crayon in the dryer. WD-40 took the marks off the dryer. Lots of Shout took most of the marks off the clothing. Good luck!
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:16 PM on April 18, 2013

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