Although tattoos are known for their permanence, this mainly comes from how they’re done rather than the inks used.
That said, the ink itself behaves like any other kind of ink, so you should act quickly if you notice a stain.
Let’s cover how to get tattoo ink out of clothes, so you’ll hopefully have the information before you actually need it.
What’s in Tattoo Ink?
It’s always helpful to know the components of a stain, as it can help you know what products to use on it. So, what’s in tattoo ink?
Tattoo ink consists of water or ethyl alcohol and pigments. Some types may also have preservatives or additives to make the mixture more viscous.
The pigments can range massively depending on the colour and manufacturer, but they could be organic or inorganic compounds.
Unfortunately, most manufacturers protect their ingredient lists as proprietary secrets.
Unsurprisingly, the pigment is the bit we’ll struggle to remove. As with other inks and paints, pigments are ingredients designed to dye or colour things.
We can use pretty much all the same methods regardless of the colour, though, which is helpful.
How to Get Tattoo Ink Out of Clothes
You’ll usually have far more luck if you’re working on fresh ink transfer, such as on your clothing after the tattoo is first done.
Also, tattoo stains are usually imprints, meaning there shouldn’t be much dye to remove.
So, whether you’re dealing with a tattoo stain on a t-shirt, bedsheets, or any other fabric, here are some options for removing it.
A good place to start when removing fresh ink is by hand washing the item as soon as you can. Mix a tablespoon of laundry detergent with 2 litres of lukewarm water and allow the stained area to sit for around 10 minutes.
Only submerge the stained area, as this will minimise the risk of the ink running elsewhere.
Once you’ve done that, scrub the area with a clean cloth. Then, rinse it in warm water. Repeat until the stain has been removed.
Hairspray is something of an industry secret for removing dried-on tattoo ink. It contains ingredients that act as mild solvents. Spray some on the stained area, leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes and then wash in cold water.
3. Rubbing alcohol
Rubbing alcohol works on the same logic: it has mild solvent properties. Soak the affected area in rubbing alcohol for 10 minutes and then agitate slightly with a clean cloth. Wash in cold water and repeat if necessary.
The final solvent on our list is acetone, the main ingredient in nail varnish remover.
However, look for pure acetone, such as Mylee 100% Pure Acetone. This just reduces the risk of it containing colours that could further stain your clothes!
Again, just pour some acetone onto the stained area and leave it for 10 minutes or so. Scrub it with a toothbrush or cloth and then wash in cold water.
5. Stain remover
If you want to hit the stain hard, go straight for a stain remover. Make sure the one you pick works on ink stains, such as Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Survival Kit.
If a stain remover works on biro or felt tip, it’s should also be fine to use on tattoo ink stains, as the basic stain-removal logic remains the same.
These products are pretty simple to use. You’ll either need to soak the item or just chuck it straight in the washing machine with the stain remover.
Be aware, some products might need more than one application to completely remove the stain.
Does Tattoo Ink Come Out of Clothing?
Tattoo ink can come out of clothing if you’re proactive about dealing with the stain.
You’ll have more luck if it’s fresh rather than when it’s dried on. You might need to be patient with your stain removal product, but you should be able to get it out completely.
Instead of trying to remove the stain, a better option is to only wear clothes you don’t mind getting stained.
Tattoo ink will only seep out for the first few days while the wound is still fresh.
For that time, then, wear old clothes to bed, or wrap it in a breathable material. Kitchen paper is a good option, as are wound dressings. Another option is to lay a towel on your bed and sleep on that.
As you can see, there are a few options for breaking down the pigments in tattoo ink.
If all else fails, a heavy-duty stain remover should get rid of it in a few washes. Failing that, speak to a dry cleaner to see if they can help.
Another tip is to speak to your tattoo artist to see if they have any recommendations. Ideally, they should know what ink they’re dealing with and how to get it out of clothing!
Jacob is a freelance writer based in Wales, where he lives with his partner and two dogs. All his work is fuelled by extensive research and buckets of coffee.