Furniture Tips: Ink is for Squids

Of all the ways you can ruin the fabric on your furniture, ink is the most common. You may not cry over spilled milk, but spilled ink can bring tears to yours eyes. Here’re some suggestions on how to clean up the mess. 

Ink, ballpoint
Ballpoint ink can be easy to remove – or it can be nearly impossible. Each pen manufacturer uses a different recipe to create the ink – and with the advent of gel pens, roller balls and the like, the ingredients used to make the ink could cover a wide variety of cleaning solutions. There’s no easy way to find out what cleaning method will work on your particular ballpoint mark except to experiment with various cleaning techniques. The key to trying any of the recipes listed below is to NEVER rub at the stain. Dab at the stain or blot at it, but don’t rub it or you will simply spread the stain further.

The most common “fixes” are listed first. If you try these in order, you should be able to at least lighten your stain, if not remove it.

One important caveat: DO NOT PUT THE SOLVENTS DIRECTLY ON THE STAIN- put the solvent on a clean, white rag or towel. Using a colored fabric as a rag may cause the rag’s color to bleed onto the stain making it worse.

Some of these substances can bleach or damage certain types of fabrics or materials. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s tag and test any of these methods in an inconspicuous place first.

1. Put a bit of water on your rag and blot at the stain. If no ink begins coming up, put a bit of dry-cleaning solvent (or other solvent cleaner) on your rag and blot at the stain.
2. Take a clean, white rag and spray heavily with hair spray. Dab this at the stain and then blot dry.
3. Put a bit of rubbing alcohol on your clean, white rag and dab at the stain. Blot dry.
4. Take another clean, white rag and put some nail polish remover (or acetone) on it. Dab at the stain, blot dry.
5. Put a bit of turpentine on a clean, white rag and dab at the stain. Blot dry.
6. Take another clean, white rag and pour some AftaR or CarbonaR on it. Dab at the stain, blot dry.

Ink, marker
Put some dry-cleaning solvent on a sponge and blot at the stain.
Next, take one teaspoon of a mild detergent (something non-bleaching and non-alkaline) and mix it with a cup of barely warm water. Dampen the stained area with this mixture.
Next, take a small amount of rubbing alcohol and dab carefully at the stain. Do not overdo it. Blot the area dry. Repeat until the stain is gone.
Last, when you’re satisfied that the stain is gone, use a clean sponge and water to dampen the area and remove all remaining detergent. Blot dry.

And, yes, if none of it works, it’s perfectly permissible to sit down and cry at the smeary mess you made of things. At this point you may want to fix a cocktail and call a professional cleaner.

If you have questions about any of these articles, or suggestions for future columns, you can always drop me a line at