Remove an biro stain from clothing

How To Get Biro 0ut Of Clothes

Biro stains are so difficult to remove, you can work for hours on them with no success. The time spent and the cost of cleaning materials can make the whole thing seem like a waste of money and effort.

We’ve found a way to remove biro that is always worth your while. It won’t take ages, and you don’t need to buy any expensive detergents. It is straightforward and uses products that you will already have in your cupboard.

Removing biro stains with alcohol

This easy technique uses rubbing alcohol to lift the stain from the fabric. Rubbing alcohol isn’t suitable for drinking but is found in many everyday household items. When it is applied correctly, it effectively removes even the most stubborn biro stains. 

Choosing a stain removing product

It may surprise you which household items contain alcohol. 

Products with enough to remove a biro stain can include:

  • Methylated spirits – This is available from most DIY stores and some supermarkets. It is also known as denatured alcohol and contains ethanol combined with other ingredients such as methanol. It’s cheap, easy to use and should be stored securely.
  • Isopropyl cleaning products – This is an alternative to methylated spirits and cleans differently. However, it will be just as useful for this job. You can buy isopropyl alcohol on its own, but it is also present in several cleaning products.
  • Alcohol hand gel – This comes in small bottles and is used to clean your hands when on the go. It is also a quick and cost-effective way to remove biro stains.
  • Alcohol-based hair spray – Check the label carefully because fewer hair sprays contains alcohol. If you can find some, it is one of the best products for ink stain removal because the force of the spray drives it deep into the material.
  • Mouth wash (containing alcohol) – Alcohol is still a crucial part of many modern types of mouthwash, but it’s worth reading the ingredient list to make sure.
  • Rubbing alcohol – This is available online and in several high-street home stores. It’s often reasonably priced and easy to apply to clothes, carpet or soft furnishings.

How to remove a biro stain

Remove biro from clothing
Image by C.Aphirak from shutterstock

Step 1: Act quickly

The quicker you can get started, the more likely are you to succeed. If the ink is heated or allowed to dry over a long period, it will set and cause a permanent mark. Always treat a biro stain first before putting the item through a hot wash or tumble dryer.

Step 2: Check the care instructions

Before you start, read the care instructions of the garment. Use them as a guide to prevent any damage. This method is effective on most fabrics, including items labelled ‘dry-clean only’. But if you are concerned, take it to a dry cleaner.

Step 3: Choose your product and pre-test it

Select one of the products suggested above and using a cotton bud apply a small amount to the material. This is best done on an area that won’t be seen, in case it causes any damage. After ten minutes, rinse it off and let it dry. If there is no damage, this product should be safe to use, if it left a mark, repeat this process with another item on the list.

Step 4: Isolate the stain

As you work on the ink, it may start to run. To prevent it from spreading to other parts of the garment place a cloth or bundle of tissue paper behind the area you’re working on to soak up any excess.

Step 5: Work it into the stain with a paper towel or cotton wool

Cotton buds can be used for smaller stains. Pick up a small amount of the product onto the paper, cotton wool or bud. Firmly rub it into the clothing, moving in small circles. You should see the ink beginning to run into the alcohol.

Step 6: Keep replacing the cotton wool

With every new piece of cotton wool, add small amounts of the product until no more ink comes off. Then, soak the stained area in the alcohol and leave for ten minutes.

Step 7: Wash the garment

Rub liquid washing detergent directly into the stain and wash the clothing according to the care instructions. Avoid any hot washes and don’t tumble dry until it is completely gone. If it is still there and you expose it to heat, it could become impossible to remove.

Step 8: After the wash, check the stain

If it is still there, repeat steps 4 to 7 as many times as necessary.

Does this method work for all biro stains?

Remove pen stain from fabric
Image by C. Aphirak from shutterstock

This process is suitable for removing biro and other ink stains from most fabrics. With some small changes, you can use it for specific situations like:

  • Getting biro out of fleece – In step 5, apply the alcohol-based product directly to the fabric instead of on onto the cotton wool first. This will let it soak into the fibres further.
  • Tackling larger stains such as ink spills or leaks in pockets  Before you apply the product, use a paper towel or clean piece of cotton wool to blot the area on the front and back. Soak up any excess ink before you do step 5.
  • Cleaning a biro stain on a carpet  This works in the same way as above. However, if you can lift the carpet slightly, it would help to put a cloth or tissue paper behind the stain to soak up any ink or alcohol product.
  • Getting biro off leather  Use the same method as above.
  • Removing ink stains from furniture  If possible, put tissue behind the stain but if not just follow the steps above.

Other products with extra stain-removing power

Alcohol-based products, like those suggested here, should be enough to get most biro stains out; however, for tough stains, you might want to add some extra cleaning power. Get as much of the stain out with repeated applications of the alcohol and then gently rinse and leave to dry. Next, try one of these items:

Nail varnish remover (acetone) – This is another product that can act as a powerful stain and glue remover. Acetone doesn’t contain alcohol but is an organic compound with similar properties.

Full-fat milk/ Butter – Strangely, some dairy products are effective at removing unwanted marks in fabric. The material absorbs the fat, and when it dries, it lifts the stain out. Once you’ve applied it to the stain, your regular detergent should effectively remove remaining dairy product and prevent any smell.

White toothpaste – Using a toothbrush to apply toothpaste directly to the stain can work wonders to get that last little bit out. Once you’ve scrubbed it as much as you can, leave a layer of paste on the mark and wash it as usual.


With this simple method, you will never need to throw out ruined, biro stained clothes ever again. It can also be adapted to most situations and uses materials that you may have already.

Remember, the quicker you act, the more successful you will be. To prevent the stain from setting and becoming permanent, avoid any heat and apply an alcohol-based product as quickly as you can.

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