Maybe you have spilled your old fountain pen ink on your favorite plastic item, or your child has drawn 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.
Fortunately, there are a few excellent ways you can try, depending on the type of ink and the severity of the stain. One of the best is by trying a product called “rubbing alcohol.”
Yes, I am talking about the standard isopropyl alcohol that you can find 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 is not very strong or permanent, you should see the ink starting to come off onto the cotton ball.
However, you will need to be a little more forceful for more persistent ink stains.
So, further, in this blog post, I will go over some different ways that you can remove ink stains from soft and hard plastic surfaces.
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, you can try using a little bit of WD-40.
Just spray a small amount onto the stain or lettering of the plastic containers (you need to remove them), 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. Not only on metals, but it’s also safe to use on rubber, wood, and even plastic.
You can even put it on painted surfaces to clean the surface without harming the underlying paint.
That said, avoid utilizing a petroleum-based product like WD-40 on polycarbonate and clear polystyrene plastic. These types of plastic materials can be harmed by petroleum.
2- Magic Eraser Sponges
If you don’t have any WD-40 at home, you can try using a magic eraser sponge.
Most magic eraser sponges are non-abrasive, white in color, and resemble a tiny brick.
Plus, they are readily available at your local grocery store – mainly in the cleaning department.
Magic erasers are designed to remove the toughest of stains and dirt from all types of surfaces without harming the material.
To use it, get the sponge damp and then start scrubbing at the ink stain (in circular motions) until it disappears.
Once you are done, wash the area with soap and 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.
Also, avoid using large amounts of pressure when scrubbing as you might end up damaging the plastic.
Did you know that hairspray can be used for more than just holding your hair in place?
This sticky substance can also be used to remove ink stains from clothes and plastic surfaces.
Hairspray contains alcohol, which is a solvent that can help 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 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 at 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 out 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 that acts as a powerful all-purpose cleaner for plastic surfaces.
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.
Keep in mind that you should not use gel-type colored toothpaste as it might end up leaving another stain.
It’s also essential to use non-abrasive white-colored toothpaste such as Colgate or Crest.
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 damage it significantly and even remove the coating entirely.
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.
However, if you are trying to remove permanent markers from surfaces like plastic folders, this might not be the best method as it can damage and fade the plastic.
To use this method, start by mixing a few drops of dishwashing soap in some warm water.
Then, with a clean cloth soaked in soapy water blot the ink stain.
Gently rub the stained areas in a circular motion until the ink starts to come off.
Finally, rinse the area you have cleaned with some 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, there are still a few things that you need to keep in mind to avoid damaging the material.
Here are some tips and precautions to follow:
1- Always wear gloves when working with any cleaning solution to avoid getting it on your skin.
2- Avoid using harsh chemicals like acetone or bleach as they can damage and discolor the texture of plastic.
3- Read the label of any cleaning product before using it on plastic as some chemicals might damage the surface.
4- Always test the cleaning solution on a small, hidden area of the plastic first before using it on the entire stain.
5- If you are working on an important or more significant project like removing ink from PVC pipes, you should consider calling in 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 – will depend on the type of ink you’re dealing with and the type of plastic.
Always start with the gentlest method and later 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 the plastic 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 more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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