How to Remove Pen Ink from Plastic

Most of us have been victims of pen ink stains on our plastics. However, when you stain your plastic, do not explode because it is removable. Learning how to remove pen ink from plastic is important especially if you have toddlers at home.

Whereas pen ink stains are a pain to remove, do not give up. With the right supplies, grit, and mindset, you can remove various pen ink stains from plastic.


Some solvents are strong and may discolor or melt the plastic surfaces. It is primary to perform a test in an inconspicuous section of the plastic surface before proceeding to the main project to ensure that the solvent is not detrimental to the surface.

Wear protective gear such as a respirator, mask, and rubber gloves as some solvents may cause skin burns on close contact or breathing complications if you breathe in the toxic fumes.

Ensure the workstation is well ventilated to allow free circulation of air.

How to Remove Pen Ink from Plastic Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is the safest alcohol you can use to remove ink stains from plastic. However, you may be required to repeat the process a few times compared to using other powerful chemicals such as acetone.

Avoid purchasing already diluted rubbing alcohol. Ensure the concentration of the rubbing alcohol is strong enough, for instance, 90% to 99% concentration.

The Supplies You Will Need

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton ball
  • Soft cloths
  • Gloves

The Steps

  1. Wear Gloves

Beware that any solvent strong enough to remove pen ink stains is capable of irritating your skin. So, it is advisable to wear rubber gloves before continuing with the DIY project.

Minimize contact with the solvent if you can’t access rubber gloves. Do not use cloth/textile gloves because fabrics will absorb the solvent, which will get to your hands, causing skin irritation. Use soap and warm water to clean your hands after removing the stains.

  1. Dampen the Cotton Ball with the Rubbing Alcohol

Tip out just enough rubbing alcohol on the cotton ball. Take caution not to spill off the solvent on your body or unwanted areas of the plastic surface.

Use rubbing alcohol in a well-ventilated area where the fumes may not be detrimental. If you are cleaning electronics plastic cases, fixed plastic surfaces, or large and heavy equipment that you cannot move outside, switch on the fan or air conditioner or open the windows to get the air circulating before commencing the ink removal process.

  1. Rub the Cotton Ball on the Ink Stain

Rub the cotton ball on the stain repeatedly to dissolve the pen ink. You will notice the ink stain dissolving after a few rubs. Continue rubbing in circular motions until you remove all the ink stains.

If you don’t succeed on the first attempt, re-dampen the cotton ball and rub again to remove all the ink stain residues.

  1. Rinse and dry the surface

After removing the ink stain, wet a paper towel and rub it gently over the surface to wipe off the residues of the solvent. Dry the surfaces using a clean, dry towel/soft cloth.

You can use a hosepipe for larger surfaces to save time. Avoid exposing your electronic appliances to moisture. Let the solvent rest on their plastic casing for 10-15 minutes. Most solvents will evaporate, leaving the surface sparkling clean.

You can also apply these steps when using denatured alcohol, sanitizer, acetone, hydrogen peroxide, and chlorine bleach.

Acetone is the most powerful solvent to use of all the solvents listed above. However, acetone-based cleaners may melt the plastic surface. Conduct a spot test in an inconspicuous area of the plastic to gauge its detrimental effects. If you find it efficient, continue with the cleaning process.

This shows that using acetone is not ideal for plastics. Use it only if other softer solvents have failed the task.

If you have opted for bleach, dilute it to lower the concentration levels. I would recommend 1 tablespoon of bleach for every cup of water.

How to Remove Pen Ink from Plastic Using Nail Polish Remover 

Most plastics are porous, so ink stains do adhere to them. However, nail polish remover contains ingredients that can remove pen ink stains effortlessly.

The Supplies You Will Need

  • Ammonia
  • Baking soda
  • Bowl
  • Clean clothes/ rags
  • Gloves
  • Lemon juice
  • Nail polish remover
  • Soap
  • Water

The Steps

Step 1: Dampen a clean cloth with nail polish remover

Step 2: Rub the damp cloth in circular motions on the ink stain to remove it. Rub gently since using force and pressure may damage the plastic surface.

Step 3: Continue rubbing as you dampen the cloth to remove all the ink stain. You may be required to replace the rubbing cloth once it has absorbed more ink stains, especially when removing them from a large plastic surface.

Step 4: Once the stain is gone, wash the surface using a clean cloth and soapy water, then rinse using clean water. Your plastic surface should be sparkling clean.

Step 5: If, after applying these steps, the ink stains don’t lift off, mix equal parts of ammonia, water, lemon juice, and a tablespoon of baking soda in a bowl to create a paste. Apply it on the stained area and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes before wiping off with a clean cloth.

Step 6: Rinse the surface using clean water.

Apply these steps when using hairspray. You will achieve the same results.

How to Remove Pen Ink from Plastic Using Baking Soda and Toothpaste

Baking soda and toothpaste are common household items in every part of the world. So, you will not hustle hard to acquire them.

Go for the white-colored, non-gel-based toothpaste since it is more abrasive. We are looking for a rough texture that can scrub off the stains from the plastic surface.

Please do not use this method on painted surfaces since it’s an abrasive technique that might damage the surface or strip off the paint.

The Supplies You Will Need 

  • Dish
  • Baking soda
  • Toothpaste
  • Clean rag
  • Water
  • Scrubbing sponge

The Steps

Step 1: Create a paste by combining equal parts of baking soda and toothpaste. You may use 1 tablespoon of both baking soda and toothpaste.

Step 2: Spread the thick paste over the stained area using a clean rag. Ensure to cover all the stained areas thoroughly.

Step 3: Let it rest for 2-5 minutes to allow the paste to dissolve the ink stain.

Step 4: Dampen a scrubbing sponge and scrub the stain in circular motions. Scrub gently to avoid scratching the surface.

Step 5: Continue scrubbing until you remove all the ink stains. You may want to repeat the process if the stain does not lift off on the first attempt.

Step 6: Rinse the surface using clean water after removing the pen ink stain. Dampen a clean towel for water-sensitive plastic surfaces and wipe off the paste residues.

Step 7: Allow the plastic surface to dry.

The toothpaste and baking soda technique have always worked on my outdoor plastic chairs. You can also try it.

How to Remove Pen Ink from Plastic Using Magic Erasers

Magic erasers can also remove ink stains from surfaces, including plastics. They are readily available in the stores and are easy to use.

I recommend a plain magic eraser as some may contain bleach additives.

The Supplies You Will Need

  • Magic eraser
  • Knife
  • Water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Clean towel
  • Gloves

The Steps

Step 1: Moisten the sponge with clean water. You may need to cut the sponge into smaller pieces that you can easily hold using a knife.

Step 2: Rub the damp sponge over the ink stain in circular motions until all the ink lifts off.

Step 3: If this does not work, dampen the sponge in rubbing alcohol, then rub again. The ink should lift off.

Step 4: Once the ink is gone, rinse the surface using warm water and wipe clean using a dry towel.

Using a magic eraser requires your patience, though. It will take 10 to 20 minutes of rubbing before you start seeing positive results.

How to Remove Pen Ink from Plastic Using a Dry-Erase Marker

Using a dry-erase marker is the simplest way to remove ink from plastic. A dry-erase marker is specifically designed to remove ink stains from various surfaces.

The color does not matter; however, I recommend a darker shade. It works best on smooth plastic surfaces.

The Supplies You Will Need

  • Dry-erase marker
  • Clean rag
  • Water
  • Towel
  • Gloves
  • Glass cleaner

The Steps 

Step 1: Color the ink you want to remove with a dry-erase marker. Cover only the ink-stained part because you may not want to stain other areas.

Step 2: Let it rest for 5 minutes, then rub the surface using a rag. The ink should lift off along with the dry-erase marker.

Step 3: Repeat the process if you spot traces of ink after the first attempt. You can also use glass cleaner. Glass cleaners effectively remove weakened ink stains on plastic surfaces.

Step 4: Wipe the surface clean using a damp towel and allow it to dry.

Remember, this method does not work well on rough plastic surfaces.

How to Remove Pen Ink from Plastic Using an All-Purpose Cleaner and Ammonia

Ammonia dissolves inks from various surfaces, including plastic.

The Supplies You Will Need

  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Ammonia
  • Cotton balls
  • Mild soap
  • Soft cloths
  • Water

The Steps

Step 1: Spray the all-purpose cleaner on the pen ink stain and let it rest for a few minutes.

Step 2: Wipe away ink and sprayer residues with a clean cloth.

Step 3: If you spot traces of ink after wiping, dampen a cotton ball/soft cloth with ammonia

Step 4: Lay the damp cloth or cotton ball on the ink and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Remove the damp cloth/cotton ball and wipe using a soft cloth

Step 5: Clean the area using soapy water to remove traces of ammonia and ink stain.

Step 6: Dry the surface with a clean, soft cloth.

Some of the all-purpose cleaners you can use are;

  • Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Mr Clean Multi-Purpose Cleaner
  • Purell Multi-Surface Disinfectant

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Remove Ballpoint Pen Ink?

Use acetone to remove ballpoint pen ink. Nail polish remover contains acetone, so you can use them to remove ink from paper. Add enough acetone to a cotton ball or rag and apply it to the pen ink stain. Acetone performs best on regular ballpoint pen ink.

Does Vinegar Remove Ink?

Yes, vinegar will remove the ink. White vinegar is a readily available stain remover and is commonly used to remove ink stains from jeans.

Does Baking Soda Remove Pen Ink?

Baking soda will remove pen ink—combine baking soda and water to create a thick paste. Apply the paste over the ink stain and dab it gently using a cotton ball. Once you have removed the ink stain, wipe the paste with a paper towel.

Does Hairspray Remove Ink?

Hairspray removes ink because it contains alcohol. Pen ink is usually oil-based, so its stains can easily be removed with hairspray or rubbing alcohol. Hairspray works best when the ink is fresh. In the past, hairspray used to contain high levels of alcohol; however, the manufacturers reduced the amount of alcohol because of the several hair damage reviews.

Bottom Line

The above techniques will remove pen ink from plastic. However, remember that the most efficient way to remove pent ink from plastic is to remove it as quickly as possible, i.e., when it is still fresh.

If you leave the ink stains to absorb into the plastic material, then be ready to try the ink removal techniques.

Observe the precautions. Be safe.