Maybe you have spilled your old fountain pen’s ink on your favorite plastic item, or your child has drawn it all over the plastic table with a permanent marker.
Whatever the case, it’s good to know how to remove those dark blue or black ink stains from plastic so that you do not end up permanently ruining your item.
Fortunately, you can try a few excellent ways, depending on the type of ink and the severity of the stain. One of the best is a product called “rubbing alcohol.” Yes, I am talking about the same standard isopropyl alcohol in most stores that sell medical supplies.
Start by soaking a piece of rag or cotton ball in a cup of rubbing alcohol and then dabbing it onto the stain. If the ink stain is not strong or permanent, you should see it starting to come off onto the cotton ball.
You will need to be a little more forceful for more persistent ink stains. Also, if it’s a spot of permanent ink, you must take it up a notch and get something more powerful.
So, further, in this blog post, I will go over some different ways to remove ink stains from soft and hard plastic surfaces. Maybe one or the other of these methods will help you.
How to Get Pen Ink Off Plastic?
Methods for removing more brutal pen ink from plastic vary depending on the kind of ink and the degree of the discoloration, as shown below:
1- WD-40 Spray
For stubborn ink stains that don’t seem to be coming off quickly, try using a little bit of WD-40.
Just spray a small amount onto the stain or lettering of the plastic containers and scrub it with a clean cloth until the ink comes off.
The good thing about WD-40 is that it can be used on almost everything, including plastic, rubber, wood, metals, etc. You can even put it on painted surfaces for a quick cleanup without harming the underlying paint.
You should, however, keep in mind that there are many types of plastic. And it is recommended that you do not use petroleum-based WD-40 on polycarbonate and clear polystyrene plastic, as they can be damaged by petroleum. It’s important to double-check the type of plastic before cleaning it using WD-40.
2- Magic Eraser Sponges
Most magic eraser sponges are white in color and non-abrasive, resembling tiny bricks. Plus, they are readily available at your local grocery store – mainly in the cleaning department.
They are designed to remove the toughest stains and dirt from all types of surfaces without harming the material. You can even use it on American Girl Doll’s face to get the pen off, just in case your daughter tried to draw on her face and have a new look.
To use a magic eraser, get the sponge damp and scrub at the ink stain (in circular motions) until the stain disappears. Do not apply excessive pressure when scrubbing, as you might damage the plastic. Once you are done, wash the area with soapy water to remove any residue from the sponge.
This is a method that works fast in terms of results. However, you’ll need to be patient and let it work for about five to ten minutes before you start seeing any changes.
Did you know that hairspray can be used for more than just holding your hair in place? Yes, you can use this sticky substance to remove ink stains from plastic surfaces and even clothes. Hairspray contains alcohol as a solvent that helps break down the ink molecules, making them easier to remove.
To use hairspray on plastic, start by holding the can about 6 inches away from the stain. Then, evenly spray the stained area until it’s fully covered. Allow it to sit for a few minutes to give the alcohol time to work its magic.
After that, take a clean cloth and gently rub the stain in a circular motion. The ink should start to come off onto the fabric. If the stain is still there, you can repeat the process until it’s gone.
Just make sure to blot the area dry with a clean towel once you’re done to remove any leftover hairspray.
Warning: Hairsprays can be sticky and might be damaging for certain types of plastics. So, it’s recommended to test it on a small, hidden area before using it on the entire stain.
4- Baking Soda and Toothpaste
Mix baking soda and toothpaste in a 1:1 ratio to form a thick paste – it acts as a powerful all-purpose cleaner for plastic surfaces such as phone cases, containers, car interiors, etc.
Apply the freshly prepared paste to the ink stain and rub it with your fingers or an old toothbrush. Leave it for 5 minutes, and then rinse it off with water.
Remember to use non-abrasive white-colored toothpaste such as Colgate or Crest. Do not use any gel-type colored toothpaste, as it might leave another stain that can be challenging to remove.
Also, remember that since this method uses baking soda, it’s certainly not the ideal way to use it if you are working on painted plastic surfaces – it can remove the coating or damage the surface.
5- Warm, Soapy Water
This ink remover method is pretty safe and fast for ballpoint ink, stamp ink, or printer ink that is still fresh. You can even use it on painted surfaces without worries.
However, if you are trying to remove dried permanent markers from surfaces like plastic folders, this might not be very effective.
To use this method, mix a few drops of dishwashing soap in warm water. Then, blot the ink stain with a clean cloth soaked in soapy water.
Gently rub the stained areas in a circular motion until the ink starts to come off. Once the ink stain has gone, rinse the area with clean water and dry it with a towel. You can repeat the process if the stain is still there.
Tips and Precautions When Removing Ink from Plastic
While all the products mentioned above are safe to use on plastics to remove pen marks, you still need to take some precautions. These are as follows…
- Always wear gloves when working with any cleaning solution to avoid getting it on your skin.
- Read the product’s label before using it on plastic, as some chemicals might damage the surface.
- Avoid harsh chemicals like acetone or bleach, as they can damage and discolor a softer plastic material.
- If you want to use the strongest and most effective acetone-based solution or nail polish remover, always test the cleaning solution on a small, hidden area of the plastic before using it on the entire stain.
Also, if you are working on an important or more significant project like removing ink from PVC pipes, you should consider calling a professional, as they have the proper equipment and experience to do it without damaging the plastic.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are many different ways to remove ink stains from plastic. Which method you use should depend on the type of ink you’re dealing with and the type of plastic you are working on.
Always start with the gentlest method and work your way up to the more harsh ones if necessary.
If the ink stain is still present after trying all the methods, it’s best to consult a professional, as you might end up damaging your expensive plastic surface if you continue trying to remove it.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.