Removing these types of stains from carpet or upholstery fabric is one of the most common challenges encounter by professional cleaners.
The wide variety of pens, markers and inks present different appearances and challenges. Employing the correct spotting methods will almost always result in an improvement and, more often than not, complete removal of the stain.
The same basic procedures will apply to all types of ink – ballpoint, permanent markers such as Magic Marker or Sharpie, printer ink and so forth. The type of ink and age of the stain will effect how a stain responds to cleaning attempts. An even more important factor is the effect of previous cleaning attempts.
Ink consists of three components. The carrier, for example alcohol, holds the other components in suspension but quickly evaporates with exposure to the air. The second ingredient serves as a binder and lubricant. The third part of the formula is the dye or pigment.
Cleaning attempts will often remove the binder but leave the dyes behind. Separated from the binding agents, it is easier for the dyes to penetrate the fibers and be set.
Ink can migrate or spread very easily. This is especially true if the spot you are working on is a blob of ink rather than just an ink mark. I recall one of my first ink removal requests. I had just successfully removed a big red stain from spilled Kool Aid when the lady of the house moved aside a reclining chair and asked if I could remove a ½” dark blue blob of ink.
Information I had from a carpet cleaning class in the recent past gave me the necessary confidence to tackle this project. I apply the POG. After 20 minutes, my three white spotting towels were all blue, the waste water in my extractor was blue and I had turned the dark blue spot into a 10”light blue circle.
Some techs have mastered this trick to remove the ink as quickly as it is dissolved. Application of your solvent – usually P.I.G. – can be followed immediately by dry (vacuum only) extraction strokes. With a little practice, you should be able to apply the solvent with one hand and follow with the extraction tool in the other hand. Don’t get the carpet wet. Water repels the solvents you are using to dissolve the ink.
I prefer an extra step to assure the ink won’t spread. “Build a wall” around the ink. That is create a barrier. StainZONE can be used to saturate the fibers all around the outside of the stain. Wet the fibers from the top all the way to the bottom. The ink will not spread past this barrier. StainZONE can also be used to help remove any last colored traces that remain.
Keep in mind the basics of spot and stain removal –
Here is the process for ball point ink.
Apply your solvent of choice, P.I.G., Solvent Clean or Oink, to the mark. If the ink is just on the surface, you may be able to apply the solvent using a towel and gradually wipe away the ink.
When the stain is gone. Rinse using hot water extraction.
For deeper stains, use either the two-handed method with P.I.G. or OINK or build the wall with StainZONE followed by applying P.I.G. or OINK.
If you have removed all the ink you can with these products, and some color is still left, saturate the stain with StainZONE, Bridgepoint’s oxidizing stain remover. Agitate gently, allow several minutes of dwell time and then extract with hot water.
When the stain is caused by permanent marker, the techniques described above will often work. For older or more difficult stains, use All Solv rather than one of the other solvents.
Highlighters will usually be easier to remove. The process used for other types of ink works, but for a simpler and often faster process go directly to StainZONE. Simply apply this one part product, agitate slightly, allow dwell time and extract. Sometimes a RedZONE, a reducer, will work even faster on the yellow and green colored highlighters. You can test a few tufts to see which works best.
When working on natural fiber upholstery fabrics, oxidizers and reducers have the potential to do some damage to the fabric. Try the solvents first. If you have access to the back of the fabric, you may be able to pull the staining material through with your vacuum hose rather than trying to pull it back to the surface.
For a handy Technical Bulletin on this topic or other stain removal guides, click on “Technical Resources” on this site. Then choose “Cleaning & Restoration Technical Bulletins” from the drop down menu.
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