Whether you’re at home, in the office, at a print shop, or in the library, no one wants to end up with printer ink on their hands. Printer ink is notoriously difficult to get off of skin and can cause quite a hassle when it spills.
Depending on where you are, figuring out how to get printer ink off your hands may be difficult. Here we will go over how to get ink off your skin and several products you may have lying around that can do it.
Let’s start with the basics: what is ink made of? The composition of ink is important as it determines what solutions will or won’t have any effect.
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What Is Ink Made Of?
Inkjet printer ink contains a wide array of compounds. While the formula varies by brand and color, the basic ink ingredients are the same.
All printer ink contains a combination of pigment, dispersants, resins, and preservatives. The dispersants are there to help the ink flow and are most often linseed oil, soybean oil, or petroleum distillate. The resin component makes the ink adhere to the paper.
Some colored inks and all black inks contain varnish to create a smooth, shiny finish. Colored dyes contain salts.
Various other additives define what the ink is suited for – i.e. what type of paper, printer, or images it works best with. Different additives determine how fast an ink can dry, what type of finish it has, how well it adheres, and whether or not it will fade.
7 Ways to Remove Printer Ink from Skin
Figuring out how to get printer ink off your hands depends on the method you want to use.
Some of the following solutions can cause skin irritation, so read carefully and choose wisely. If you are prone to rashes or have skin allergies, always read the ingredients before use.
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil. Many people use tea tree oil for cosmetic reasons such as improving hair health and shine, softening skin, combating acne, fragrance, and cleaning.
Tea tree oil has some wonderful antibacterial properties and works well as a skin-safe cleaning solution. Here is an economical option from Amazon.
To remove printer ink from your skin with tea tree oil, start by applying some to your skin and rubbing it in. Use a cloth to scrub the ink off and add more tea tree oil as needed.
Use a small brush to clean under your nails and between your fingers.
Be warned, tea tree oil has quite a potent smell, and you may need a lot of it to remove the ink. Wash your hands once you have removed the stain.
2. Isopropyl Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol, more commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is a very effective method for removing ink stains.
Apply the rubbing alcohol to your hands and scrub them together like you are washing your hands. For any especially tough or hard-to-reach stains, use a small brush. Wash your hands after the stain is gone.
Some people like to apply a lotion after as well, to prevent dry skin.
If you do much printing, it would be a good idea to have a supply of alcohol wipes to clean up your water-based printer ink.
Acetone, the main ingredient in nail polish remover, is another sure-fire method for removing ink stains.
If we consider for a moment that one of the main ingredients in black inks is varnish, and nail polish remover is made to remove what is essentially colored varnish, then it makes plenty of sense that acetone is the perfect solution for removing ink stains.
The acetone in nail polish dissolves the varnish component of ink as well as some of the other ingredients.
To remove ink with acetone, soak a cotton swab or a corner of a cloth and rub it on the ink. Do not get any on your desk or other wood surfaces, as it will strip the varnish.
Rub until the ink stain is gone and then wash your hands. Pure acetone is harsher than nail polish remover, so you may want to moisturize after.
These acetone wipes will help make the job less messy.
Hairspray is a mostly vinyl polymer-based product. This means it is essentially glue. However, some hairspray contains alcohol, and it is this component that helps to remove the ink.
Spray the ink with an alcohol-based hairspray and let it sit for about 30 seconds. Then rub at the ink to remove it and then wash your hands.
There are some rather harsh chemicals in hairspray, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
More reading: Is printer ink toxic?
5. Mineral Oil
Just like tea tree oil, mineral oil, or baby oil, is a fabulous solvent for printer ink.
Spread a liberal amount of mineral oil on the stain and rub it with a cloth. Continue applying and rubbing until the stain is gone, then wash your hands.
6. Glass Cleaner
When it comes to removing ink stains with glass cleaner, it is the ammonia component that does the heavy lifting.
Nearly all glass cleaners contain at least some ammonia. It is very effective for dissolving ink stains.
Spray your hands with the window cleaner and let it sit for about 30 seconds, then rub your hands together like you are washing them.
After the ink has dissolved, wash your hands thoroughly.
If you don’t have any of the above products and are desperate, bleach is also an option. Keep in mind that bleach is a corrosive material, and you need to be careful when using it.
Never use bleach with ammonia-based products.
Dilute one part bleach in ten parts water, and rinse your hands in it for a few seconds.
If the stains are particularly stubborn, you can let your hands soak but don’t exceed one minute. Immediately wash your hands after.
Scented moisturizers are a good way to remove the smell of bleach and prevent your hands from drying out.
More reading: How to Fix a Printer that Prints Blank Pages
Tip: If printing on construction paper, wait until the ink dries before touching it. Because of its porous finish, it takes longer than you might think.
Here’s how to troubleshoot a printer that won’t print in color.
Now that you know how to get printer ink off your hands and skin, you can go forth into the world of inkjet printing without fear.
In all seriousness, printer ink is a tricky substance to remove, and some of the solutions listed here can be quite harsh on the skin. Always remember to thoroughly wash your hands after trying any of these methods.