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Removing Ink from Carpets: A How-To Guide

My Pro Cleaner™
Josh Almanza, Owner SINCE 2004
Please Note: This is general information. Ink stains can be tricky to remove, and I do recommend calling me for this one if you’re in the Spring TX / Houston TX area.

My Pro Cleaner cannot be responsible or liable for any damage that may result from any do-it-yourself carpet cleaning or spot removal procedure. You do so at your own risk. Thank you. Having said that, here’s some information and actionable advice if you get ink on your carpet.

You might think that an ink stain is a fatal blow to the beauty of your carpet, especially if your carpet is a light color. If you have accidentally dropped an ink bottle or stepped on a pen, breaking it open and spilling ink on your carpet, it is only natural to feel worried.

The good news is that it’s possible to remove ink from your carpet with the right solution. This guide takes an in-depth look at the products you can use to remove ink, and it provides a step-by-step guide using denatured alcohol.

Determining the Type of Ink

Knowing what type of ink you are dealing with is critical to ensure that you use the proper cleaning solution. Each ink type has a unique chemical composition, and the cleaning product you use should be able to dissolve the ink, loosening it from the carpet fibers.

The ingredients of ink include:

● A water-soluble dye or pigment

● A stabilizing polymer, such as polyvinyl acetate or polyvinyl chloride

● A liquid solvent, such as water, alcohol, or petrochemicals

● Additives, such as silicates or glycerides

Below, we look at the different types of inks and their chemical properties.

Water-Based Ink

Water-based inks are typically in gel pens, washable markers, and rollerball pens. This type of ink has water-soluble dye, and it doesn’t contain alcohol or petrochemicals. For example, red water-based inks often get their color from eosin, a dye consisting of bromine and a fluorescent compound.

This type of ink is the easiest to remove from a carpet. Using warm water and dish soap, you’ll likely have no problem removing the ink stain and restoring your carpet’s appearance.

Ballpoint Pen Ink

Ballpoint pen ink has a dye content of up to 40%, with solvents such as phenoxyethanol or benzyl alcohol. This type of ink also contains fatty acids and oils to lubricate the ballpoint tip and ensure the quickest possible drying time.

The quick drying time of this ink is problematic if it lands on your carpet, and you need to clean the stain as quickly as possible. If you are late to the scene, you will need to implement a more abrasive cleaning approach using alcohol.

Permanent Marker Ink

Permanent ink that you typically find in Sharpies and some permanent whiteboard gel pens contain stubborn pigments, such as carbon black. These inks are also quick-drying.

Removing these stains requires a lot of elbow grease, even when using denatured alcohol, which is the correct chemical remover for this type of ink.

Permanent marker ink spills are not common. Unlike ballpoint and fountain pens, Sharpies and whiteboard markers can’t open, and the ink will only flow out if these pens break.

Printer Ink

Commercial ink that copiers and fax machines use typically spill on office carpets. The two types of printer ink include water-based liquid ink and powder ink. The water-based printer inks are generally easy to clean using water, dish soap, or a mix consisting of cornstarch and milk.

If you spilled powdered ink on your carpet, start the cleaning process by vacuuming as much of the powder as you can. Then, you can clean the fibers using one of the liquid solutions we discuss below.

The Best Ink-Removal Solutions

When removing ink from carpets, many options are available. You may not have products such as shaving cream or hydrogen peroxide in your home. However, most people have dish soap and bleach, which might work just as well to remove water-soluble ink from a carpet.

The sections below take an in-depth look at each cleaning option for removing ink from your carpets.


Water’s polarity and hydrogen bond-forming ability make it an excellent solvent for many different kinds of molecules. As a “universal solvent,” water can dissolve polar molecules and ions, including dye-based inks. However, oils don’t dissolve well in water, so you will have difficulty removing ballpoint pen ink containing fatty acids.

When removing inks from gel pens or washable markers, use hot water. Adding dish soap makes the water more effective in removing water-based inks from a carpet.

Shaving Cream

The emulsifiers in shaving cream do a decent job cleaning some types of ink, including water-based inks, liquid printer ink, and the remaining powdered ink after vacuuming. Shaving cream also removes some inks containing polyvinyl acetate as a stabilizing polymer—for example, a non-permanent Sharpie ink stain.

Spray the shaving cream generously over the ink stain, then dab the cream into the carpet fibers using a wet kitchen sponge. After saturating the sponge with the shaving cream, wring it out, then repeat the process until the ink is gone.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is one of the most effective products for removing water-based inks. Mix one part dish soap with one part hot water and apply the solution to the stain. Using a hard kitchen sponge, agitate the carpet fibers, loosening the ink particles.

If you have a stubborn stain or the dish soap doesn’t work well for the type of ink, try using laundry detergent or shampoo. If the ink is oil-based, dish soap can work, but the cleaning process might require a lot of scrubbing.

Milk and Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a cooking ingredient that can double as an ink stain remover, thanks to its absorbing capabilities. The milk and cornstarch mix is ideal for dye-based inks.

Add a few spoons of cornstarch to a bowl, then add milk to the powder while stirring until you have a thick paste. Apply the cornstarch paste to the ink stain and leave it overnight. The next day, use an old toothbrush to remove the paste. The ink stain should be gone.

Isopropyl Alcohol (or an Alcohol-Based Hairspray)

An alcohol-based hairspray is a convenient solution for removing inks containing water-insoluble pigment or oil, such as ballpoint pen ink or permanent ink.

If you don’t have rubbing alcohol in your home, you might try using an alcohol-based hairspray or a product containing acetone, such as nail polish remover.

Apply the hairspray to the stain, then very gently massage the area with an old toothbrush. Avoid aggressive scrubbing that my damage carpet fibers. If the permanent ink stain is dry, you will likely need to repeat the application and gentle massaging process several times.


WD-40 has the ideal formula for removing all types of ink and contains petroleum-based oil, aliphatic hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide. These ingredients can loosen water-insoluble pigments, stabilizing polymers, and most additives from your carpet fibers.

Spray the ink stain with the WD-40, then agitate the fibers using a toothbrush. Remove the ink-oil mixture buildup using paper towels.

After cleaning the stain, there might be some remaining discoloration. Clean the area using a warm dish soap solution.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide removes most water-insoluble ink pigments, making it a suitable option for removing dry ballpoint pen, fountain pen, and printer inks. Though hydrogen peroxide is an effective ink remover, it can remove the dye from your carpet, so apply it to a test spot beforehand.

If the hydrogen peroxide doesn’t affect your carpet’s appearance, apply the compound to the stain using a clean towel and blot gently until the ink loosens from the carpet fibers. Using water, clean the area and let your carpet dry.

Mild Bleach Solution
(one part chlorine bleach to five parts water).

WARNING: Only carpets that are “solution dyed” are resistant to damage caused by using bleach, but do not exceed the recommended concentration. DO NOT USE THIS PROCEDURE UNLESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THE CARPET IS SOLUTION DYED – CARPETS DYED BY OTHER SYSTEMS MAY BE DAMAGED. Products with olefin and nylon blends can not be exposed to bleach without removing the color from the nylon fibers unless the nylon component is solution dyed.

If in doubt, please call me: Josh Almanza: 713-545-1316.

Oxygen- or chlorine-based bleach is a highly effective ink stain remover. However, this option is only available if you have a white carpet, as bleach will whiten your carpet’s dye.

Apply a small amount of bleach to the ink stain, then blot the area gently using a clean cloth. The ink will loosen and start sticking to the cloth. After removing the ink, rinse the area with water.

Removing Ink from Carpets with Denatured Alcohol: A Step-by-Step Guide

Denatured alcohol is industrial ethanol and an ingredient in hand sanitizers, household cleaning products, skincare products, and some types of fuel. This rubbing alcohol shares similarities with isopropyl alcohol, but it is more effective in removing all kinds of ink from carpets.

If you want to remove a stubborn water-based or polymer ink stain wholly and quickly, we recommend using denatured alcohol. This chemical will not damage or discolor your carpet, and it is easy to use. To remove ink using alcohol, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Blot the Ink Stain

Using a clean, absorbent rag, softly blot the stain to remove as much ink as possible. This step is critical if the ink stain is still wet, as it prevents you from spreading the ink over a larger area during the following steps.

If the ink is already dry, blot the area to pick up any large clots that might liquefy and cling to your carpet fibers.

Step 2: Apply Alcohol

Apply enough denatured alcohol to cover the stain, then wait five minutes for the chemical to penetrate the carpet and loosen the ink. Then, take a clean rag and blot the area, picking up the ink from the carpet. Repeat this process two or three times.

Step 3: Agitate the Carpet Fibers

The rag will only pick up the excess ink that doesn’t cling to the carpet fibers. Using an old, clean toothbrush, massage the denatured alcohol into the fibers, agitating and loosening the remaining ink. You might need to apply more alcohol and continue rubbing until you remove all the ink from the carpet.

Use the blotting rag to pick up the ink particles you removed from the carpet fibers.

Step 4: Use an Extractor or Vacuum

The blotting process might not pick up all the ink particles from the carpet’s surface. Vacuum the area thoroughly using a vacuum cleaner or extractor.

Step 5: Repeat the Process

If you have a stubborn ink stain from a permanent marker or ballpoint pen, you might need to repeat the process. However, if the ink comes from a washable marker or printer cartridge, you will likely remove it within a few minutes.

Contact My Pro Cleaner

After reading this how-to guide, you hopefully have some information you need to know how to deal with ink spilled on your carpet. However, getting a professional on board might be necessary if you have a large stain containing a stubborn pigment.

I created My Pro Cleaner back in 2004 to help homeowners in the Houston area maintain a thoroughly clean, beautiful, stain-free and healthy carpet. I continually study the science of stain removal, and all the latest advancements, and I’d be happy to help you remove an ink stain from your carpet.

Please call soon! The sooner we tackle the stain, the better.

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Josh Almanza Expert Carpet Cleaner

If you have any questions about this article, or anything related to cleaning carpet, upholstery, tile and grout, and maintaining a healthy home, please feel free to give me a call, and let’s talk!

Josh Almanza
My Pro Cleaner™