Dealing with a heavy ballpoint pen stain that has leaked through from a jacket’s inside pocket to leave a heavy stain on the outer material can be a daunting prospect for any cleaner, and due to the time factor involved, coupled with unpredictable outcomes it is one which many might refuse to accept. A frank discussion with the customer about the chances of success and / or incomplete removal is essential. Bear in mind the time factor which is likely to involve well over an hour’s work on the spotting table. The chances of success or otherwise will be dictated by the fibre/fabric type, the age of the stain and the colour of the ink – reds tend to be the most difficult. The chances of success are perhaps better with man-made fibres as the ink may have penetrated beneath the scaler layer on animal hair fibres considerably reducing the chances of success.

Before You Start

My advice is, if you have not removed heavy biro before, discharge some ink from a pen tube into the inside pocket and adjacent interlining of an old stock jacket, and leave to soak through before practicing the removal procedure. It will be necessary to unpick part of the lining to gain access to the jacket interlining where most of the ink will be located. What you can see on the outside of the jacket is normally just the tip of the iceberg As there is often a lot of ink in the pocket, normally the most practical solution is to cut out and renew the pocket lining. Absorbent material (old terry towel is ideal) should then be placed inside the lining to soak up the ink from the interlining and the outer fabric. Any ink in the lining of the jacket should be removed separately or the affected panel replaced.


It is important to control the spread of the ink away from the stained area, so place a ring of glycerine around the stain, then apply paint remover and start padding off the ink from the top using absorbent material. Keep moving the absorbent material underneath the stain as it will quickly become saturated. Keep working on the stain until the ink stops being liberated, this may take a long time and it wilL help if you use more than one paint remover product – when the ink stops coming out another product will often remove a little more. Finally the steam gun can be used to gently warm the stain and hopefully remove a little more ink. Never use heat until no more ink can be removed. Premature use of heat may result in a lot of ink suddenly being liberated and redeposited on the textile which, swollen by the heat, may absorb the ink leaving a stain that might be impossible to remove, particularly from animal hair textiles.

It will usually be necessary to move to the wet side to remove the last vestiges of a heavy ball point pen stain. Try using a kit protein remover or bar soap and 5% ammonia but never move to the wet side until you have removed as much ink as possible on the dry side. If necessary the final traces of ink can often be removed by bleaching with 9% hydrogen peroxide after first testing the fabric to make sure the colour is not affected.