Tricks to Get Pen Stains Out of Light Clothes

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

Finding a pen stain on your clothes is disheartening, but even more so when the clothing is light colored and the ink sticks out like a sore thumb. You don’t have to cut your favorite white T-shirt into rags or use your new white capris as junk pants. Instead, try some simple tricks to get the pen out your light-colored clothes so you don’t have to toss them out.


Glycerin is a moisturizer that’s often added to lotions and skin care products, but it can also be used to remove ink stains. You can buy glycerin at most drugstores. To use on your light clothes, dip a cotton swab into the glycerin and dab it on the ink stain. Rub it in gently with the cotton swab until the ink stain is gone. Use a fresh cotton swab and more glycerin as one becomes filled with ink.

Laundry Detergent

Some pen stains will come out of light clothing with nothing more than laundry detergent. Mix a few tablespoons of cool water with a few drops of laundry detergent. Then, use a cotton swab to rub the detergent mixture onto the pen stain. Rub gently over the fabric with the cotton swab to create a lather. Continue rubbing, using a clean swab as needed, until the pen stain disappears.

White Vinegar and Cornstarch

Look no farther than your kitchen pantry to remove pen stains from light clothing. Grab some white vinegar and cornstarch and you’re all set for ink stain removal. First, moisten the pen stain with the white vinegar. Then, make a paste of three parts cornstarch and two parts vinegar and rub it into the stain. Leave the paste on the garment until it dries completely, then wash the item as usual.


The high alcohol content in hairspray makes it perfect for getting pen out of clothing. To use, just spray the stain with hairspray and rub with a clean rag until the ink is gone. Keep applying more hairspray and scrubbing until all of the ink disappears from the garment. If you don't have hairspray on hand, use rubbing alcohol instead.

Other Tips and Tricks

Before attempting to remove a pen stain from clothing of any color, lay a clean rag on the underside of the stain. This will prevent the pen from transferring to other parts of the garment during the stain removal process. After treating the ink stain, wash the garment in cold water with laundry detergent. Add chlorine bleach if the garment is white or color-safe bleach if the clothing is colored. Don’t toss the item in the dryer until you’re sure all of the ink is gone. Heat will set in the pen stain, making it much more difficult to remove.