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How to remove ink stains from fabric sofas

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If you’ve got a toddler who’s crazy for crayons or a Sudoku-mad partner who can’t help but lose pen lids, then you’ve probably had your fair share of sofa stain scares.

Difficult to hide and even tougher to clear up, ink stains – especially from permanent markers – can be a real eyesore. But don’t worry if you’ve tried to remove them and failed in the past – there is still hope.

Learn how to easily remove ink and biro from your fabric sofa with our top tips, below.

Firstly, check the cleaning code

Before you get started with any of the methods below, it is worth checking the individual cleaning codes of your sofa fabric (usually found on the underside of your sofa cushions).

Here is what each cleaning code means:

  • “W”: means it can be cleaned with water. Effective water-based cleaning solutions include gentle soap, washing up liquid, carpet cleaner and upholstery shampoo.
  • “S”: means it shouldn’t be treated with water. If your sofa is marked with an “S”, clean it with water-free solvents, such as rubbing alcohol, clear alcohols, dry-cleaning solvent and baby wipes.
  • “S-W”: means you can use either a solvent or water.
  • “X”: means you can only clean it with a vacuum. To deep clean these types of fabric you will need to visit a dry cleaner.

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The rubbing alcohol method

For the most stubborn stains, you need a strong cleaning solution. Thankfully, rubbing alcohol is great for working deep into sofa fabric without damaging its exterior (fun fact: it’s also a fantastic stainless steel cleaner and homemade disinfectant).

If you’re unsure where to buy your rubbing alcohol from, many online retailers sell bottles for less than £5. For those with frequent ink woes, it’s certainly worth buying for future clean-ups.

Here’s how to remove biro from fabric with rubbing alcohol:

What you need:

  • Clean cloth or paper towels
  • Rubbing alcohol

How to do it:

  1. Quickly grab a clean cloth or paper towel and blot the ink stain dry. Avoid rubbing the ink mark, as this can spread the stain and make clean-up twice as difficult (if you’re cleaning a biro stain, you can skip this step).
  2. Then, test the cleaning agent in a discreet spot to check that it doesn’t alter the colour or cause any damage to your fabric sofa.
  3. Once you’re happy, apply the cleaning agent to a clean white cloth and dab the ink stain carefully until no more ink is absorbed.
  4. If there is more ink to clean up but your cloth is dirty, swap it for a fresh one so that you aren’t dabbing more ink onto your sofa.
  5. Finally, dip a fresh cloth in water and wipe the area clean before drying with a towel.
  6. If the stain doesn’t disappear, repeat the process above, or try a dry cleaning solvent to replace the rubbing alcohol.

TOP TIP: When dabbing your stain, work from the outside before gradually moving towards the centre. This will ensure you’re absorbing as much ink as possible without smudging it deeper into the fibres.

TOP TIP: Avoid pouring alcohol directly on the stain; this will simply make your fabric sofa wet and difficult to blot dry.

Woman With Biro Pen On Sofa (1)

The white vinegar method

Probably the most universal cleaning solution of all, white vinegar is ideal for cleaning up stubborn sofa blemishes. From cleaning a leather sofa to stripping bad smells from fabric, white vinegar naturally clears away marks so that your sofa is given a new lease of life.

To see how to use white vinegar to remove ink and biro stains, take a look below:

What you need:

  • Washing up liquid
  • White vinegar
  • Water

How to do it:

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 from the ‘Rubbing alcohol method’
  2. Next, make your own vinegar solution by combining 1tbsp washing-up liquid, 2tsp white vinegar and 250ml water.
  3. Follow step 4 from the ‘Rubbing alcohol method’ and let the solution sit for around ten minutes.
  4. Follow step 5 from the ‘Rubbish alcohol method’. If you can still see the stain, repeat the process again, or try a different method.

Dark Ink Stain On Grey Fabric Sofa (1)

The hairspray method

Did you know hairspray is just as good at cleaning up ink stains as it is at holding your locks in place? That’s right – there’s no need for expensive cleaning products with this method; all you need to do is pay a visit to your vanity cabinet to get going.

Here’s how to clean ink stains using hairspray:

What you need:

  • Alcohol-based hairspray

How to do it:

  1. Spray the hairspray directly only the ink while it is still wet (you can still use it to remove dry ink stains, although you may need to wait a little longer for the ink to come out).
  2. Wait 30 seconds while the hairspray does its magic.
  3. After the time is up, wipe the ink away with a damp cloth. Easy!

TOP TIP: This method works a treat on in-stained clothing, too (remember this next time a biro bursts in your shirt pocket). If you follow any of these methods, it is not our responsibility if the fabric is damaged

If you’ve tried all three methods and your stains still aren’t coming away, you may need to hide the mark with a matching sofa cover. To see our sofa cover range and list of fabrics, take a look at the Plumbs website.

As a reupholstery specialist, we are experts at sourcing the best fabrics for our customers. However, we are not responsible for any damage caused to sofa fabrics as a result of these methods, or any other cleaning methods.

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