Getting a tattoo is a big decision, mostly because it’s one that’s usually considered permanent.
If you’ve ever had the unpleasant experience of a pen exploding, you know how quickly ink can stain.
Since tattoo ink is designed to last forever, you can imagine the kind of stain it would leave.
It’s advisable to use old sheets and wear clothing you don’t care much about after you get a tattoo.
Fresh tattoos are susceptible to seeping ink onto your sheets or clothes, and staining can be quite common.
While the optimal solution to keeping your clothes free of tattoo ink stains is to avoid staining them in the first place, fortunately, there are some clever ways to get tattoo ink out of clothing.
How To Get Tattoo Ink Out Of Clothes
The best way to get tattoo ink out of clothes is with a powerful stain-removing solvent.
A strong solvent, of which there are many common household and commercial options, will separate the ink from the fabric and bring it to the surface.
You’ll want to act quickly, but you should avoid the temptation to just run the clothing through the washer and dryer.
Once you’ve thoroughly applied your solvent, you can then turn to your washing machine.
What if you have tattoo ink stains on dry-clean-only clothing?
You’ll still want to remove the stains before taking the item to your dry cleaner.
In any case, you’ll need to start by selecting your stain remover or solvent of choice.
Follow The Care Instructions On The Affected Garment
Before you do anything, you’ll want to take a moment and determine what type of fabric you’re working with.
Today, there are so many different varieties of clothing and types of material.
Like your other clothing, you wouldn’t just throw it into the wash without thinking.
The first thing you need to do is take a look at the care instructions on the stained clothing.
Most clothes you’d wear on a daily basis are made of cotton.
In some cases, you might discover your clothes are made of a different natural fiber like wool or linen.
It’s also possible that your clothes combine multiple materials.
There are also a number of synthetic materials used to make clothing, like nylon, rayon, and polyester.
The important thing is to pay attention to the care instructions, so you don’t end up damaging or destroying your clothing in an effort to remove a stain.
Which Stain Remover Should I Use?
When it comes to selecting a solvent or stain remover, the answer is whichever is convenient for you.
There are several possibilities, so you’ll have to choose from what you have available.
If you have multiple options, you might find that one works better than another.
You might even want to try using several different stain removers in the event that one doesn’t get the job done for you.
Let’s take a look at some of the common solvents and stain removers you might have on hand.
Everyday Household Stain Removal Products
1. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is often an easily accessible household item.
Isopropyl alcohol is versatile for stain removal, and it can be used to fight tattoo ink stains as well.
The high alcohol content helps to dissolve the ink, so you can easily wash it from your clothing.
2. Nail Polish Remover
Nail polish remover is another familiar product often found in your average home.
Nail polish remover is a potent solvent that can quickly break things down, including tattoo ink stains.
You’ll want to be careful if you use nail polish remover on any of your clothing, however, since it contains harsh chemicals and may damage your clothing.
For best results, you’ll want to test the nail polish remover in an inconspicuous area of your clothing.
Using this method, you can make sure you don’t do more damage to your clothing.
If nothing appears to happen, you can then proceed to use nail polish remover on the stained areas.
According to some individuals, hairspray might also be a useful stain remover.
One of the main reasons that hairspray can be an effective stain remover is its high alcohol content.
Today, however, many hairsprays contain little to no alcohol, and likely won’t be your best option for removing stains.
However, if you do happen to have an alcohol-based hairspray, you might be in luck.
Bleach is universally known for its ability to attack and destroy stains.
Unfortunately, bleach is also known for discoloring garments and being harsh on clothing.
Bleach can be a great way to remove stains, but you have to be careful with this strong cleaning solution.
Usually, bleach is reserved for monochromatic white clothing.
For this reason, we recommend only using bleach in the event that you’re dealing with a solid white garment.
As with every piece of clothing, make sure the care instructions approve the use of bleach.
5. Vinegar And Cornstarch
Another home remedy you can explore for removing tattoo ink stains on clothing is vinegar and cornstarch.
By combining the vinegar and cornstarch at a 2:3 ratio, you can work up a good paste.
Simply mix the ingredients together in a bowl and stir them thoroughly until blended.
Take the paste and apply it to the stain, covering the entire area.
Next, let the garment sit and allow the mixture to dry completely.
Once it’s completely dry, rinse the clothing in warm water.
If the stain is gone, you can proceed to wash the garment in the washing machine as you would any other.
Commercial Stain Removers
You’ve probably seen some strange television commercials for OxiClean, but this product can be a lifesaver for tough stains.
The main ingredient in OxiClean is sodium percarbonate which releases hydrogen peroxide when it comes into contact with water.
The hydrogen peroxide then helps to oxygenate the clothing, drawing out the tattoo ink stain.
OxiClean works similarly to bleach, but because it’s sodium percarbonate-based, it’s far gentler on fabrics.
OxiClean offers a variety of different products from detergent and stain-removal sprays to gel sticks and more.
Since tattoo ink can be a stubborn stain, it’s best to use one of OxiClean’s pre-treatment products before running your tattoo ink-stained clothing through the wash.
Another common stain-removal product you can easily buy online or at most home improvement stores is Amodex.
Amodex is a non-toxic soap, not a solvent, which makes it different than many other commercially available stain removers.
If you’re looking for a gentle stain-removal solution for a particularly delicate piece of clothing, Amodex may be a better option for you.
If you do choose Amodex, make sure to read their instructions first, since they’re different than ordinary stain removers.
According to Amodex, users should not wet the stain before applying their stain remover.
Amodex offers a more complete set of instructions here on its website and specifically mentions removing heavy ink stains.
3. Carbona Stain Devils
Carbona Stain Devils offers specific stain removal products for specific stains.
The Stain Devils Ink, Marker & Crayon product is available on their website, and it’s made especially for fighting stains like those from tattoo ink.
Unsurprisingly, alcohol is one of the main ingredients in the Stain Devils product.
Use Hot Water (If You Can)
Unless the garment care instructions suggest otherwise, you’ll want to use hot water when you run the wash.
Remember, this only applies to the water temperature on the washing machine, not when you’re pre-treating the stain.
Your first priority will always be to follow the instructions on the particular piece of clothing you’re dealing with.
Most stain-removal products will be more potent when activated by hot water.
In addition, hot water is the better choice for cleaning, since it’s generally regarded to be a better sanitizer.
Use A Fresh Stain-Removing Detergent
Sometimes, pre-treating a garment with a specialized stain remover isn’t enough.
Using a special stain removal detergent like Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release or OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder can provide additional stain-fighting power, helping to restore your clothing to its original color.
For a list of some of the best stain-fighting detergents, check out this article from Elite Daily.
While liquid detergent is far more popular these days, some people still prefer powder detergent.
Powder detergent is generally a lower-cost option and stays fresh for longer because it’s more stable.
A little-known fact is that laundry detergent does have a shelf life, especially liquid detergent.
Generally, liquid detergent is thought to have a shelf life of around six months to one year.
To ensure the best results, try and make sure you’re using a detergent that’s not too old.
Removing Tattoo Ink Stains From Clothing (Step-by-Step Instructions)
1. Act Quickly And Keep The Stain Moist
The first thing you’ll want to do is act quickly, while the stain is still fresh.
If you wait too long, the stain will have a chance to set.
By then, it’ll be far more difficult to get it out.
If the stain has already set, don’t worry because you can still take the necessary steps to remove it.
If you are dealing with a material that shouldn’t get wet, like suede, skip the soaking process.
Again, always follow the garment care instructions.
Suede is a particularly sensitive material, so you may want to avoid water and stain removers altogether.
As an alternative, you can use rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, or alcohol-based hairspray.
If you’re still unsure, your best option is to take the item to a professional cleaner.
With suede, it’s important to avoid treating it like you would any other garment and to keep it away from water.
Like suede, leather is another common material used in clothing that’s sensitive to water.
When removing tattoo ink stains from leather, opt for a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol.
Begin by moistening a cotton swab or cotton ball with some isopropyl alcohol.
Gently blot the stained area until the ink comes off of the clothing.
If this proves ineffective, consider taking the item to your local dry cleaner.
In ordinary cases, like when dealing with a cotton shirt, you’ll want to soak the stained garment to try and loosen the inks and prime the fabric for stain removal.
When soaking a stained garment, make sure to use cold water.
Some stains can get be by hot water, so you want to avoid using hot water at this stage.
2. Select Stain Remover And Pre-treat The Garment
Applying most stain removers is simple, though you’ll always want to refer to the product’s specific instructions on the package.
It doesn’t matter whether you choose a spray, gel, or other stain remover—use whichever one you like best.
Liberally apply your stain remover to the area where the tattoo ink stained the clothing.
You’ll want to really scrub it in, so grab a clean microfiber cloth to place underneath the stained garment.
Using another clean cloth, cotton swab, or rag, scrub the stain remover into the clothing vigorously.
When you’re confident you’ve done a thorough job working the stain remover into the fabric, let the garment sit for between 10 and 20 minutes, so it can work its way through the stain.
If you feel like you didn’t get all the way through the first time as you can repeat this process.
3. Wash In Hot Water (Unless Your Garment’s Care Instructions Say Otherwise)
If you’re using a washing machine, follow the care instructions on the garment you’re washing.
The care instructions are always going to be priority, so look there before changing the settings on your washer.
If you’re able to use hot water, you’ll want to do just that.
Set your washing machine to the normal cycle, and change the water setting to hot.
Add your stain-removing detergent of choice, and let your washing machine do its work.
4. Hang Dry (Or At Least Check The Stain Before The Garment Is Dry).
Since hang drying is always going to be the safer route, it’s the recommended one.
If you haven’t gotten the stain out completely, running the garment through the dryer will make your job even more challenging.
Many garments advise hang drying anyway, and it’s almost always the better choice.
If in doubt, always choose to hang dry the garment in question.
If you need to repeat the process from the beginning, you can always do so, and if you prefer to let the professionals handle it, your local cleaner will always be there for you.
Prepare Beforehand And Avoid Staining Altogether
Like any other problem, the best way to avoid tattoo ink stains on clothing is to avoid it altogether.
While mistakes happen and are often unavoidable, a little preparation goes a long way when dealing with tattoo ink.
On the day of your tattooing (and for several days after), try and wear clothes you won’t mind getting stained.
Something people often don’t think about is tattoos bleeding into their sheets, which can also cause stubborn stains.
Before you get your tattoo, put on a pair of old sheets you don’t care too much about.
Making sure you avoid wearing clothes or using sheets you care about is truly the only way you can steer clear of tattoo ink stains on your clothing.
When you find yourself unable to do that, follow these instructions to help you get rid of almost any stain.