How to Remove Ink from Carpet

Ink’s purpose is to create a stain. That’s great for its intended use on a writing surface, but when ink is accidentally spilled onto a carpet, the dyes penetrate and saturate the absorbent carpet fibers just as well — if not better — than they do paper.


Removing ink stains from carpets can be a difficult task due to the composition of ink and the nature of carpet fibers. Ink contains solvents, dyes and water that can quickly penetrate carpet fibers and dry, making it challenging to clean. Additionally, some carpets are more porous and absorbent than others, which affects the ease of ink stain removal.


Here, we have expert advice on how to remove ink from carpet, including a step-by-step guide, the best products to use and helpful cleaning tips. 

Types of Ink and Why They Can Be Challenging to Remove from Carpet

Ballpoint pen ink is oil-based and contains a mixture of pigments and dyes, as well as chemical components that are suspended within those contents. The dyes alone are a major problem for staining, but the present chemicals are what make ink removal even harder. Each manufacturer has its own patent on the ink they use, so each ink consists of a unique formula. 


Other types of ink that are likely to stain carpet include printer ink and tattoo ink, which are usually pigment-based and water-based respectively. Water-based ink, which is also found in non-permanent markers, is considered temporary so it can be dissolved in water. Permanent ink, however, is usually non-water based as it isn't water soluble.


This guide will focus on removing ballpoint pen ink from carpet. However, similar methods may be appropriate for other types of ink. Always read product labels and ensure you’re using the proper solutions and techniques for the job to avoid making matters worse.

How to Remove Ink From Carpet

The following two methods involve a selection of specialized products designed to break down ink particles and lift them out of the carpet fiber. Depending on the severity of the stained area, you’ll need to determine which method is better suited for your needs.


The type of carpet may also influence the approach to ink removal. 


Basic Method

  1. Using clean water, create a perimeter around the ink spot to prevent the ink from spreading.
  2. Apply Matrix® Ink Away Stain Remover to a clean cloth then lightly press the towel onto the spot, starting around the outside and working inward.
  3. Once the majority of the ink has been removed, apply a few extra drops of Matrix® Ink Away Stain Remover on the remainder of the ink and quickly flush with water.
  4. Rinse the area thoroughly with warm water. If ink residue remains, repeat all steps starting from the top.

Advanced Method

  1. Apply Matrix® Break Down P.O.G. undiluted to a spotting towel and use a tamping brush to blot it against the spot. Do not apply directly to the carpet, as it may cause delamination.
  2. Agitate the area gently with a bone spatula, starting from the outside of the spot and working toward the middle.
  3. Dry vacuum the spot.
  4. Apply Matrix® Citrusolve Spotter to a spotting towel and gently blot, working from the outside inward. Do not apply directly to the carpet, as it may cause delamination.
  5. Repeat step 2.
  6. Rinse the area thoroughly with Matrix® Confidence Premium Extraction Detergent diluted per label instructions.
  7. Speed dry the area with an air mover.

Ink Removal and Carpet Cleaning Tips

For the best results, consider these additional carpet cleaning tips to treat and remove both non-water-based and water-based ink stains:

  1. Ink is easier to remove before it’s completely dried. However, to treat a dried ink stain, simply wet the stained area with water using a damp towel before following either of the two cleaning methods listed above.
  2. Blotting is always better than rubbing when treating ink stains. Rubbing can cause the ink to work its way further into the carpet.
  3. Household products, like rubbing alcohol and dish soap, may be effective in the short term to treat ink stains. However, we always recommended hiring a professional carpet cleaner for the best results.

Warning and cautions: Always test material for colorfastness, follow label directions, and never mix products unless specified in the label directions. Each situation reacts differently and results may vary.

Best Products to Remove Ink From Carpet

Matrix® Ink Away Stain Remover: Specially formulated for stains caused by shoe polish, markers and other heavy inks, this stain remover is safe to use on cotton, wool and synthetic carpet fiber.

Matrix® Break Down P.O.G.: A ready-to-use solvent is designed to break down oil-based stains, which is perfect for removing ballpoint pen ink.

Matrix® Confidence Premium Extraction Detergent: This liquid detergent breaks down oil- and water-based soils with the power of a powder, but without the extra steps.

Matrix® Citrusolve Spotter: This double-duty pre-spray and spotter works to cut through tough oil- and water-based stains.

Sanitaire TRADITION™ QuietClean® SC889B Upright Vacuum: This CRI Silver seal of approval and LEED compliant vacuum offers a 12-inch cleaning path, dual motor and 6.1 quart dust bag for quiet, quick cleaning.

Bone Spatula: An essential tool for a carpet cleaner to scrape excess ink and other residues out of the carpet fiber before applying products.

For more expert tech tips and training, check out our calendar of carpet cleaning seminars. These instructional sessions are geared towards technicians, owners and managers of carpet cleaning companies to ensure that your clients receive the best care possible.

Sanitaire TRADITION™ QuietClean® SC889B Upright Vacuum
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Matrix® Ink Away Stain Remover

Starting at $20.24

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Matrix® Citrusolve Spotter

Starting at $14.22

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Matrix® Confidence Premium Extraction Detergent

Starting at $19.94

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Matrix® Break Down P.O.G.

Starting at $12.82

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Bone Spatula
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