Highlighter pens sitting on a table.

How to remove ink stains and highlighter marks from clothes

Whether it’s a highlighter doodle on a school shirt, or ink smudges after a day of colouring, ink stains are a part of every parent’s life. The good news is that, however striking these blue or neon marks may be, they’re simple to get rid of. Here’s how to remove ink stains from clothes easily, so that your little one can get back to their latest masterpiece.

How to remove ink stains from clothes

Most everyday pens contain water-soluble ink, so while these stains may look alarming, they’re usually easy to handle. Here’s how to remove an ink stain from clothes:

  1. Use a paper towel or clean cloth to gently blot the stain. The idea is to soak up the ink that’s still wet. 
  2. Massage a bit of Surf excel Liquid Detergent into the stain using a clean toothbrush. Or use the Surf excel Bar. Just remember to be gentle: you don’t want to risk damaging the fabric!
  3. Wash according to the recommendations on the care label. If the stain hasn’t completely disappeared in the wash, repeat the process before allowing the item to dry naturally. 

Top tip: Before you remove ink from a shirt or other garment, read the care label and check the packaging of any laundry products to get the best results.

How to remove ink stains made from highlighter pens

Those garish neon highlighter stains call for a little more effort. Try the method above first, then move on to the steps below if the stain is still visible. F

or this method, you’ll need a solvent: rubbing alcohol, hand sanitiser, or even hair spray will do. Just test your chosen product on a small, hidden area of the fabric first to rule out any damage. 

Now, let’s move on: here’s how to remove an ink stain from a highlighter: 

  1. Apply a little solvent to the stain, gently blotting it with a clean, white cloth. Continue until the ink stops transferring from the fabric onto the cloth. Keep your movements light – you don’t want to rub the stain further into the fabric. 
    Top tip: Solvents are also a good bet if you’re wondering how to remove old ink stains from clothes.
  2. Soak in salt water for a few hours. Just add a couple of tablespoons of everyday table salt to a basin of cold water. This salty solution should absorb some of the remaining ink.
  3. Wash according to the recommendations on the care label. Make sure that the stain is gone before allowing your garment to dry. If it hasn’t, repeat the process again. 

Top tip: It’s a good idea to let stained clothing air-dry after the wash, since the heat of a tumble dryer may set the stain permanently – making it much harder to remove. 

So that’s how to remove ink stains from clothes! With your newfound knowledge, you should be able to deal with broken pen disasters and your kids’ artistic accidents with ease. Now, to become an all-round craft stain removal expert, don’t forget to check out our articles on how to remove glue stains, pen stains, and paint stains.


Cleaning tips for all your housekeeping needs. Whether you're tidying up or tackling stains, click here & find out how to clean almost anything!