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How to Clean Up Printer Ink

How to Clean Up Printer Ink

One of the unfortunate costs of being able to get great quality prints from your home or office is the risk of spilling ink. While a spill on your desk or table may be easy to wipe up, when it gets on your clothes, carpet, or your person, things get messy fast. Modern ink cartridges are designed to keep ink contained so it doesn’t spill or dry out, but occasionally mistakes will happen. Thankfully, there are easy and inexpensive ways to limit the amount of damage ink cartridge spills can cause. No single cleaning method is foolproof, but getting to work blotting out spills fast—and doing it the right way—can prevent ink from setting in sensitive fabrics, and make it much easier to prevent permanent stains. Here are some of our favorite helpful tips for when you need to clean up printer ink:

Remove Ink From Your Hands
Getting ink off your hands is surprisingly easy and there are several approaches you can take (depending on what you have lying around the house, that is). The simplest method is scrubbing with soap and cold water for a few minutes, rinsing and repeating until the ink is gone. This can be a tad bit laborious, as the soap doesn’t actively break up the ink on a molecular level. If you’re looking to wash the ink away faster, hand sanitizer contains alcohol, which starts to break up the ink compounds.

Removing Ink From Fabric
Getting spilled ink out of your clothes can be a much more difficult task. Unlike your skin, ink is quickly absorbed into fabric and stubbornly sticks there. If you want any hope of getting the stain out, you have to act quickly before it dries. Once the ink is dried, it’s difficult to lift out of your garment. Another key thing to remember: use cold water. Warm water will actually push the ink into setting faster. Always use cold water. 

Step one in dealing with ink on your clothing is diluting the ink with cold water. Dab the spill with a damp paper towel until the ink excess stops coming off on the paper towel. Let it air dry for a minute or so. Your next step is trying to release the rest of the ink from your fabric using a solvent that will break up the stain without damaging or bleaching your garment. Rubbing alcohol will dilute and release the ink, as will hairspray in many cases. Damp two paper towels with your solution of choice and sandwich the stain between the two. Start blotting the stain from both sides to lift the ink. As you are pressing, be sure to keep using fresh parts of the paper towel to avoid re-applying the ink you’ve just removed from your shirt. Repeat this cycle a couple times until the ink is gone.

Removing Ink From The Carpet
Spilling printer ink on your rug presents a unique challenge, but not one that you can’t handle. Your first step is to blot the stain with a damp paper towel, going from the outside of the ink toward the center. Do this until the paper towel is no longer picking up ink when you apply pressure. Take a cotton towel or rag and dampen it with rubbing alcohol. Blot the ink from the outside inward once again to loosen the ink particles from the fibers in your carpet. If this isn’t breaking up the stain, try using hydrogen peroxide. In most cases, if the ink sets at full dilution it will be near impossible to pull up from your carpet, even using professional grade rug shampooers and stain removers. Working quickly to pull up as much ink as you can before it sets is key.

One key takeaway from each of these ink spill scenarios is the importance of working quickly before the ink sets. For this reason, it’s smart to always have the supplies you need to clean up a mess on hand and ready to go. Having rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and/or clean towels next to you when you replace cartridges will save you from running around hunting for supplies in the event a spill happens. Also, using disposable gloves when replacing cartridges will help you avoid getting your hands messy. In most situations, ink cartridges won’t leak enough where they will damage anything, but if you are refilling a cartridge yourself or replacing a cartridge that isn’t completely empty, it’s best to be prepared.

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1 Comment

  • March 2020
    Just to reply about a positive outcome [using an Oxiclean product]:
    re: Ink spill while putting in a replacement black ink, inkjet printer cartridge:
    Ink spilled onto a white, cotton clothing article. (yes, I should have been protective, to keep clothing away from the path of the install process. nothing beats prevention ..)
    Although I first tried another stain remover probably not formulated for ‘black ink on cotton’ [car bo na stain wizard], I was later surprised by a positive ‘stain all gone’ outcome by using Oxiclean Max Force [‘gel stick’] which calls itself a “Pre Treater” [I just call it a stain remover]. After not 1 but 2 rounds of: ‘rub it in, very very thoroughly in varying angular directions [even on both sides]; let it sit 5 to 10+ minutes; and, then wash it out under a cold water faucet;, the stain was gone.
    ( Need to label fully those new ink cartridges boxes: ‘Beware exploding ink!; Keep all cloth or carpet Far Far away from path of install’ …)

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