Milk Is for Cookies & Hairspray Is for Curls…WRONG: Stain Removal Part 1, Ink


My worst nightmare. That euphoric feeling of finding Michael Kors Jet Set Kempton Monogram Tote on a 50% off day has turned into a lot of loud curse words when you realize that you never actually looked inside the bag. When you do, this is what you discover:

The previous owner did not give as much TLC to the inside of the tote as they did to the outside, and that becomes very obvious when you see the ball point ink stains on the inside. I bet you’re now wondering how to get ink out of fabric.

How to Get Ink Out of Fabric

No, you are not going to throw the bag away. No, you are not going to keep that bag for yourself because “You always wanted this bag anyway!” (We’ll talk about emotionally seperating yourself from designer labels later!)

You’re going to try to fix it!

Over the next few months, I’m going to highlight stain removal tips utilizing household items for a variety of stains and fabrics. Today we start with the all too common ball point ink stain.

1. Hairspray

I start with Hairspray, because honestly, it’s my favorite. I’ve been able to get even the toughest stains out simply by heading into the bathroom for some hair glue!

You are going to use the hairspray as a way to dissolve the stain. This will work on both fresh stains and stains that have set. Here are the steps:

  1. Take a paper towel and place it under the stained area.
  2. Use your hairspray and spray a generous amount on the target area.
  3. Grab a different, clean paper towel and begin to blot (do not rub!).
  4. Continue this process until you are satisfied with the results.
  5. Do not dry your item after washing it if all of the ink has not been removed, because this will cause the ink to further set making the removal more difficult.

This may take you a few times depending on the size of the stain and how long the stain has actually been there. Here are some photos of my Michael Kors Jet Set Kempton Monogram Tote through the process:



I couldn’t put this bag in the washer, so I merely turned it inside out, soaked it in lukewarm water with laundry detergent and let it air dry!

Purchased for $13 and sold for $45!

2. Milk

Unless you only have enough milk for those chocolate chip cookies you’ve been dying for, you should give this a try! You can use either cold or warm milk.

How to get ink out of fabric - milk

No, not like this for that stain on your sweater. (Photo: Giphy)

Cold Milk: For fresh stains

  • Dab (do not rub) the fresh ink with a clean paper towel to first remove what you can. (You can also use rubbing alcohol to help absorb.)
  • Place the garment in the cold milk for a half hour.
  • Repeat as needed.
  • Wash normally, as long as the ink stain has been removed. If it hasn’t been removed, leave it in the milk for another half hour. Do not put in the dryer if stain has not been removed.

Warm Milk: For semi-fresh stain

  • If you’re able to dab any excess ink as done with the cold milk, do so.
  • Warm up the milk to a lukewarm temperature.
  • Place the stained part of the garment in the warm milk and let it sit for a half hour.
  • Wash as usual.
  • Repeat as needed.

I have tried this on a Lilly Pulitzer sweater I had found. I actually stained this item myself when I left the pen that I was using just laying on the green cuff. Milk worked wonders!

Left: No, that’s not a button, that’s a stain! Right: Stain is gone!

3. Rubbing Alcohol

In case you were reaching for your bottle of Bourbon, this is the kind of alcohol I mean!

In case you were reaching for your bottle of Bourbon, this is the kind of alcohol I mean! (Photo: The Modern Survivalist)

Wondering how to get ink out of fabric when the ink is fresh? I put this last, because its results are at their best when the ink has not dried and or set. For older stains, I would try hairspray or milk.

The rubbing alcohol is going to be used to absorb the stain.

  • You can soak your item in the rubbing alcohol.
  • Or you can get a clean cotton ball or paper towel to dab (not blot or rub!) the stain.
  • Allow the item to dry fully before trying this method again as rubbing alcohol is most effective with dry items.
  • This process will require a little time and patience on your part.

For more precious materials such as leather and silk, I would not recommend these techniques. The above tips are for more durable fabrics such as cotton, nylon, polyester, etc.

Now, stop worrying about how to get ink out of fabric!

Have you had success removing ink from clothing and accessories another way? Bryan and I would love to hear from you! We are always looking for new more efficient ways to perfect our craft. Comment below and let us know!

Until then…

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Welcome to Debt Free Dawn! I'm a social worker by day and second-hand clothing flipper by night (and weekends) trying to pay down $130,000 of student loan debt as quickly as possible. Please comment below with any questions and thanks for visiting my site!


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1 Comment

  1. tinker ell

    This helps me so much!

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