How to Get Ink Out of Carpet: A Complete Guide



As a professional carpet cleaner with over 10 years of experience, I know just how frustrating ink stains can be. That vibrant blue ink from a leaky pen or the black smudge from a marker that found its way onto your light colored carpet can seem impossible to remove. But don’t stress! With the right techniques and products, even set-in ink stains can be eliminated from carpeting.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide tips and step-by-step instructions for removing ink from carpet based on my extensive experience in the carpet cleaning industry. Read on to learn:

  • Why ink stains are so difficult to remove
  • How to identify the ink type (permanent vs. washable)
  • When to call in a professional carpet cleaner
  • What household products work to get out ink
  • Our proven step-by-step process for ink stain removal

Plus, I’ll share before and after photos of real ink stain removal projects completed by my carpet cleaning company so you can see just how effective these techniques can be.

Why Are Ink Stains So Difficult to Remove from Carpet?

Ink stains can be notoriously stubborn to clean because ink is specifically designed to permanently adhere to surfaces. Most inks are composed of three main elements:

  • Colorants: Pigments or dyes that provide the ink color. These tend to bind very tightly to carpet fibers.
  • Resins or binders: Act like a glue to help the ink adhere to the carpet.
  • Carriers or solvents: Keep the ink fluid until it dries on the surface. Common solvents include water, oils, and alcohols.

This unique chemical composition makes it challenging to find a removal solution that can break down the inks binders and release its grip on carpet fibers. Improper cleaning attempts can inadvertently set the stain or cause it to spread and become worse.

[Before and After Ink Stain Removal]

{Before photo of large blue ink stain on light beige carpet}

{After photo showing stain completely removed from carpet}

Identify Washable vs. Permanent Ink

The first step in treating an ink stain is identifying what type of ink you are dealing with. Was it from a washable marker or a permanent ink pen?

Washable ink is designed to be – you guessed it – washable! It is made to be easily removed from skin, clothing and other surfaces with just soap and water.

On the other hand, permanent ink is very difficult to remove once applied. It is formulated to resist fading and withstand washing without losing pigment.

If you can identify the ink source, that makes things easier. But when in doubt, there’s a quick test you can do:

  • Apply a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a cotton ball.
  • Use the cotton ball to gently rub the ink stain.
  • If the ink smears or comes up, it is likely washable.
  • If it doesn’t budge, you are probably dealing with a permanent ink.

Knowing the ink type will help you choose the best removal tactics.

When to Call a Professional Carpet Cleaner

While many ink stains can be treated at home with a bit of patience, there are some situations where calling in a pro is advisable:

  • Large or multiple ink stains that cover a significant portion of carpet
  • Inks that have extensively penetrated and set into the carpet backing or padding
  • Delicate or expensive carpets where trial-and-error stain removal is risky
  • Severely discolored or bleached carpet fibers from previous failed removal attempts

Reputable professional carpet cleaners like my company have industrial-strength cleaning solutions, powerful suction equipment and the experience needed to fully extract set-in stains without risking damage to your carpets.

[Before and After Professional Ink Stain Removal]

{Before photo showing large purple ink blotch deeply staining beige carpet}

{After photo with ink completely extracted from carpet – good as new!}

Helpful Products for Removing Ink from Carpet

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the removal process, let’s take a look at the common household products I recommend having on hand for treating ink stains:

White vinegar: The acetic acid in white vinegar can help break up inks. Distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity works best.

Isopropyl alcohol: High concentration (91% or above) rubbing alcohol is extremely effective at dissolving stubborn ink stains.

Hairspray: The alcohol content helps dissolve ink while the lacquer ingredients work to lift it out of fibers.

Hand sanitizer: Look for a formula with at least 60% alcohol content. The alcohol acts as the solvent.

Hydrogen peroxide: The oxidizing properties help lift certain ink stains, but avoid using this on carpet with colors you want to preserve.

Dish soap: Choose a mild soap. A small amount mixed with warm water can help emulsify some inks.

Table salt: Forms an abrasive scrub when mixed with liquid to help lift ink particles.

White cloth/paper towels: For blotting and dabbing up ink rather than rubbing it in.

Old toothbrush: To do light scrubbing and work solutions into carpet fibers.

Vacuum: Wet/dry vacuums help extract ink dissolved by cleaning solutions.

Oxi-type carpet cleaners: Look for ones formulated for ink and stain removal.

With the right products in your arsenal, you can tackle even the most difficult ink stains. Now let’s go through the fool-proof process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Ink from Carpet

Here is the proven multi-step process I’ve perfected over many years for getting ink stains out of carpet:

Step 1: Blot Up Excess Ink

If the stain is fresh and still wet, start by blotting up any liquid ink sitting on top of the carpet before it has time to penetrate deeper.

  • Use a clean, absorbent white cloth or paper towels to gently dab at the stain. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing which can grind ink into fibers.
  • Work from the edges in toward the center of the stain to prevent spreading.
  • Change cloths/towels as they become saturated.
  • Continue blotting until no more ink transfers.

Step 2: Spray Vinegar or Alcohol Solution

Once excess ink has been absorbed, it’s time to break down the remaining stain.

  • For washable inks, mix 1 part white vinegar to 1 part warm water in a spray bottle.
  • For permanent inks, reach for a high concentration isopropyl alcohol.

Lightly mist the stain with your chosen solution until damp but not soaked. Let sit 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Blot Stain Again

After a few minutes of dwell time, the ink binders and colorants will have started breaking down. Gently dab the stain again with clean cloths or paper towels to lift dissolved ink from the carpet.

You should see the ink transferring from the carpet onto the towels. Repeat steps 2-3 as needed until no more ink comes up.

Step 4: Rinse with Water

Once the stain has been lifted to the surface, rinse away any vinegar or alcohol residue that could attract dirt.

  • For vinegar solution – blot with clean cloths dipped in plain water
  • For alcohol – rinse with spray bottle of water and blot dry

This prevents any sticky cleaning solution residues from remaining.

Step 5: Use a Detergent Solution

At this point, there should be no visible ink left on the surface. But for stubborn stains that resist vinegar or alcohol, make a mild detergent solution.

  • 1/4 teaspoon clear dish soap
  • 1 cup warm water

Use a small scrub brush or toothbrush dipped in the solution to gently work it into fibers. Let soak briefly then blot stain again with water.

Step 6: Repeat as Needed

You can repeat the vinegar or alcohol spraying, blotting and water rinsing cycle 2-3 times until no ink remains on the cloths. This ensures any remaining traces absorbed deeper into fibers get fully lifted out.

Be patient! It may take several rounds, but you should see the stain progressively get lighter and lighter.

Step 7: Flush with Water

Once no ink remains on the surface, flush the full stain area with clean water. I recommend using a spray water bottle for controlled application. Blot repeatedly with towels changed as needed.

This makes sure no cleaning solution residue gets left behind to attract soil.

Step 8: Absorb Remaining Moisture

At this point the stain should be completely gone but there may still be dampness in the carpet from rinsing.

  • Lay clean, white paper towels or cloths over the area.
  • Weigh them down with a heavy book or pan to wick up moisture.
  • Change towels as they become soaked until dry.

You want to remove any excess water so the backing and padding don’t stay wet

How to Remove Ink Stains from a Carpet

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