How To Get Fountain Pen Ink Off Your Hands

How To Get Fountain Pen Ink Off Your Hands

Let’s face it – fountain pens can be messy. Whether you’ve smudged the ink when writing or gotten excess ink on your hands when refilling your pen, getting ink stains off of your hands can be difficult.

While simply washing your hands with soap and water may lighten the stain, it’s not the most effective way to lift the ink. Some fountain pen users opt for harsher cleaning products, but there are easier ways to remove ink stains from your skin.

Our quick and easy remedies will help you get rid of those pesky ink blotches so you can maintain a clean and professional appearance.

How To Get Fountain Pen Ink Off Your Hands Quick & Easy

messy ink hands fountain pen

What Is Fountain Pen Ink Made Of?

The first step to get ink off of your skin is understanding what goes into fountain pen ink.

The makeup of your pen ink depends on the manufacturer, although most inks contain a handful of staple ingredients.

Fountain pen ink usually contains water as both a base for the ink and a solvent, as well as a dye to give the ink its color.

These dyes can give the ink almost any hue, although the most common colors for fountain pen inks are blue, black, or red. And dyes do just what they’re named for – they dye the product they’re applied to. Unfortunately, your hands are no exception.

The ink also has a mix of humectants, surfactants, and biocides.

Humectants are substances that allow moisture retention and slow the drying of the ink. While this helps to keep your ink wet and ready for writing, when spilled on your skin, the humectant allows the skin to retain moisture, too. That means your skin absorbs the water-based ink, making it more difficult to wash off.

Surfactants are used to reduce surface tension, which allows for a smoother feel when writing.

Because the ink has a large quantity of water, it has a higher chance of bacterial growth. Biocides are added to the ink to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi and give the ink a longer shelf-life.

Most modern pens also contain solvents and other additives like lubricants. Lubricants speak for themselves here. The grease or oils in lubricants make ink harder to remove with just soap and water.

To remove ink from your skin you need to break down the three main culprits, namely: the dye, humectants, and any oils or lubricants found in the ink.

Remove Ink Using Natural Methods

When removing ink from your hands, it’s best to clean the skin as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to use household products you already have lying around.


Milk contains natural properties that separate the oils in fountain pen ink.

By pouring milk into a bowl and soaking your hands for a few minutes, it can lift the stain off your skin. Alternatively, you can use a cloth soaked in milk to gently rub the stained area until the ink dissolves.


If you open your fridge and find you’re out of milk: butter or vegetable shortening are fantastic substitutes. Similar to milk, butter breaks down the oils in the ink to slowly remove the stain.

Slowly rub the butter or vegetable shortening into the skin with a cloth. Once the ink has lightened, whatever’s left will wash away along with the excess grease by using soap and water.

Tea Bags

This method might be our favorite because not only is it useful in removing ink, you also get a delicious cup of tea out of the deal.

Using a lukewarm, used tea bag breaks the ink down and pulls it from your skin. After steeping the bag in boiling water, you can remove it and let it cool before applying it to your skin to avoid burning your hands.

The tea bag is abrasive enough to use directly on the skin and aid in scrubbing the ink off of your hand.

Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the teabag when scrubbing as it could cause the bag to break.

White Vinegar or Lemon Juice

The acid in the vinegar and lemon juice serves to dissolve the ink and can be rubbed into the skin with a cloth. Lemon rinds also work and can be used directly on the skin. The rough underside of the rind creates a semi-abrasive surface to help scrub at your skin, and they make you smell good.

Once the stain has lifted, you can wipe the excess liquid away with the dry corner of your cloth or a paper towel.


Rubbing oil into your skin helps remove the ink stain, and almost any oil in your home will work. Coconut, baby, and olive oil are all easily accessible.

Tea tree oil is also a great option, although you should exercise caution when using essential oil on your skin. Some essential oils are sold in higher concentrations which, if applied directly to the skin, can cause adverse reactions or sensitivity. It’s recommended to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil.

You only need a few drops on a cloth to rub the ink off of your skin.

If you’re removing ink from a child’s hands, you should mix the tea tree oil with another, softer oil. Create a base with something like coconut or baby and blend it in to avoid skin sensitivities or reactions.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a great way to lift ink from your skin. To get an effective ink-removing product, simply combine a teaspoon of soda with enough water to create a slurry or paste.

The granules of soda create an exfoliating effect and will help to dissolve the ink faster. You can rub the paste into your skin using a cloth or with fingers.

Once the ink has disappeared, wash the excess paste off using hand soap and warm water.


Some non-gel toothpaste also contains baking soda and can be used as an alternative to the soda and water mixture.

Remove Ink Using Alcohol-Based Products

fountain pen ink hands

One of the fastest and most effective ways of removing fountain pen ink is using an alcoholic liquid.  Alcohol breaks down the ingredients in the ink and generally doesn’t leave any lightened stains or traces of the ink like some other methods.

You should also make sure to wash your hands after using any alcohol-based product.

Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is something we all have at our disposal nowadays, and so if you are looking for a quick way to remove ink at the office or on the go, it may be the simplest solution for you.

You can also simply wipe away any excess sanitizer with a paper towel or napkin.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol or products that contain concentrations of isopropyl alcohol like surgical spirits or rubbing alcohol can work wonders when removing ink from the skin.

It’s important to note that these alcohols break down the natural oils from your skin as well as the oils in the ink, so make sure to moisturize the area after you have dissolved the ink.

Alcohol products should also be used in areas that have good ventilation and away from open flames.


Hairspray contains low levels of alcohol, although can work just as well as other alcoholic products in a pinch. While you may have to apply the spray more than once, with a bit of patience the hairspray will completely dissolve the stain.


In a pinch, you can also use acetone, more commonly known as nail polish remover. While acetone is not technically an alcoholic product, it is a solvent with similar properties to rubbing alcohol that can serve just as well when it comes to cleaning. Acetone is perfect for degreasing and breaking down the oils in the ink and allows it to lift more easily.

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