Out, damned spot!
January 6, 2006 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Help me get a horrible ink stain out of my favorite shirt!

The shirt is a really nice dress shirt with multicolored, rather broad stripes. Right in the middle of the shirt--on the placket, about two buttons down--there is a small but very dark stain that, I'm pretty sure, came from a fountain pen. (I have no idea how this happened, btw.)

Unfortunately, it's already been through the wash; I didn't notice it until I got it back from the cleaner's. Is there anything I can do to get the stain out?
posted by josh to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Multi-colored stripes... what colors are involved? Is it a light colored striped shirt (white or very light colors involved) or a dark colored stripe shirt? (It makes a difference.)
posted by jerryg99 at 8:40 PM on January 6, 2006

Regardless, the only think that reasonably dissolves ink stains is some form of alcohol (i.e. rubbing alcohol). If you want to do this at home, you have weigh how much the alcohol will also dilute the shirt's colors. For example, if this was a plain white shirt, I would go for it and try just soaking that one spot (not the whole shirt) with alcohol and rinsing, then trying it again until the stain is gone. If were a pure white shirt, I might try a final wash with bleach.
posted by jerryg99 at 8:47 PM on January 6, 2006

There's a liquid laundry detergent called Zout (not to be confused with Shout) that's pretty good at removing ink stains from fabric. I love the stuff but I haven't seen it at the supermarket recently - I hope it hasn't been discontinued!
posted by Quietgal at 9:16 PM on January 6, 2006

Response by poster: The stripes are pretty broad, and this little ink stain is right in the middle of a light yellow stripe.... I will look for Zout and maybe try some alcohol on a hidden part of the shirt. Any other ideas?
posted by josh at 9:22 PM on January 6, 2006

Where did you get the shirt? Perhaps it would be easier to just replace it?
posted by miles1972 at 10:37 PM on January 6, 2006

I second the Zout. The last time i bought it was at Wal-mart, and the website still works, so presumably it hasn't been discontinued. I have a white sweater that i've spilled EVERYTHING on - coffee, soda, ground in dirt, etc. and it always works. I don't remember if i've tried it with ink, but it's worth a shot.
posted by Amanda B at 1:55 AM on January 7, 2006

Actually, hairspray works quite well on ink stains. However, I am concerned about the fate of your shirt if it's already been run through the dryer, which would set the stain in. I'd give it a shot and treat it with hairspray and then wash it. Check it before you toss it in the dryer -- don't dry it until the stain is out.
posted by viachicago at 2:02 AM on January 7, 2006

After nothing else worked, I used paint remover on a roller ball liquid ink stain. It worked great. Test it on the shirttail first.
posted by jjj606 at 6:26 AM on January 7, 2006

I have successfully removed dryer-set ink stains from colored cotton shirts using a two pronged attack: acetone-based nail polish remover followed by Zout. Try soaking a cotton pad in nail-polish remover and blotting (NOT rubbing) it firmly and repeatedly against the stain. The acetone should begin to lift the ink; move to a clean area of the cotton pad when necessary. When the spot has lightened significantly, treat it with Zout and throw it in the wash again. Repeat as needed, and dry only when the stain is gone. Using this method, I saved several shirts that had been put into the dryer with an ink pen that subsequently exploded all over everything. The color of the shirts was not harmed at all. Good luck!
posted by purplemonkie at 6:36 AM on January 7, 2006

I was taught years ago in Home Ec. to use hair spray, and it has worked for me on smaller ink spots. Worth a try, but since it's been in the dryer it might be "set".
posted by 6:1 at 8:11 AM on January 7, 2006

The best method (if it's even possible) of spot removal will depend on what kind of ink and what material your shirt is made from.

If your shirt is synthetic (or has synthetic materials), acetone may very well destroy your shirt. If it's cotton, you may not be able to completely remove the spot.

I've had success with using benzene or xylene (organic solvents) to remove ink stains but those reagents might not be available to you.

Whatever you decide to try, try it first on the tails of the shirt (or some other out-of-the-way place) to see if it'll damage the material/affect the existing colour.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:44 PM on January 7, 2006

I've removed ink stains on a blue dress shirt by soaking it and then rubbing it over and over with Lestoil. Put something below the stain to soak up the ink and then, after soaking the shirt for a little while in lestoil where the stain is, rub over and over it with a washcloth. We got the stain out to the point where the shirt is wearable again *and* it didn't lighten the fabric.
posted by jessamyn at 5:25 PM on January 7, 2006

If your shirt is synthetic (or has synthetic materials), acetone may very well destroy your shirt.

This is true: avoid acetone if the shirt fabric contains rayon. As I mentioned in my answer, I've used nail polish remover on cotton garments only.
posted by purplemonkie at 6:03 AM on January 8, 2006

I have had pretty good luck with OxyClean. You fill up a sink with hot water and add the powder. I usually add more than what's recommended - say 3 scoops or so. Then, soak your shirt in this overnight - it takes 8-10 hours to see the full results. If that doesn't work and your shirt is not synthetic as others say), try a q-tip or cotton ball with a bit of fingernail polish remover (pref. with acetone) and some cotton balls behind the fabric. This is more extreme, but can work. Third, I would try the hairspray.
posted by sixdifferentways at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2006

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