Monday, August 1, 2016

Removing Ink from Iron-On Transfer

If you've worked much embroidery, you're likely familiar with iron-on transfers. And, you have probably discovered that transfer ink doesn't always wash out, even after several times through the laundry. I've discovered two reasons for this.

First, many people don't know that the transfer ink is considered permanent. However, the content of the fabric does play a role. Transfer ink may eventually wash out, given enough time, if the fabric is 100% cotton. Unfortunately, the ink typically doesn't wash out of a poly/cotton blend - at all, ever. Yikes! Most pillowcases are a blend, even those that are called "cotton-rich." So, if you're using a blend, you need to be extra careful to use a light touch with the iron and then use enough embroidery thread to cover the ink entirely. I have pillowcases that, after thirty-seven years of washing, still show the ink under the slightly threadbare designs. Haha, you're probably wondering why I'm still using those pillowcases! I can only admit to being sentimental. And, remember that fabric was much better in those days and the pillowcases are still useful, if somewhat shabby.

Secondly, when you transfer the ink, sometimes you will end up with a very dark transfer that bleeds through both layers, ruins your ironing board cover and won't wash out. Follow the instructions on the transfer envelope carefully. It does take some practice and "finesse" to get a clear transfer and to know when to quit.  I will post my best tips for using iron-on transfers in a couple of days. I always err on the side of a lighter transfer even though I sometimes end up with spots that I have a hard time seeing.

So, how to remove the ink? That's the subject of this post because Miss Abigail has a particular set of pillowcases for the hope chest that needs an answer to this question. The design is unfinished. That was deliberate, I think. Miss Abigail's grandma just got tired of working the design and wanted to leave the ends. It doesn't take away from the design at all, but there is remaining ink on the fabric. My sweet mother-in-law finally decided she was just finished with embroidery. She doesn't see well anymore and she just doesn't enjoy it. So she passed the last of her unfinished projects on to me, along with tools and threads. This set of pretty pillowcases was in that box. The fabric is a really nice, quality percale blend. So I know I'm going to have a hard time removing the remaining ink from the transfer. In fact, I'm not sure I can get it out at all.

However, because I use a clothesline to dry all of our laundry, I do know one secret -- sunshine. Yup, sunshine fades all kinds of ink! Sadly, there is more experience talking here. So, I'm trying direct sunlight and hope that it will fade the stamped ink. It's worth a shot, but so far it isn't working very well. I could try to finish them, but the threads won't match and that will look awkward. While I know it is probably a lost cause, I'd rather remove the ink somehow.

Does anyone else have experience or suggestions for removing this ink?


  1. I've had luck with using 409 and then machine washing. Sounds strange but we have used plain old 409 for years with stains and it usually works and doesn't ruin the item. donna

    1. I'll try that Donna! Thanks for the suggestion. I've certainly tried everything else - hairspray, straight bleach, oxyclean, several stain sticks. Here's hoping the 409 might do it.

    2. hope it works for you! My mom discovered the 409 for stains many years ago for red GA clay stains. Works great for boys white baseball pants to ~ of course, those do get to the point that not too much will work on them later in the baseball season!

    3. so for me to use 409 should I put the pattern in a bowl of the 409 and let it soak or just put on the ink spots?

    4. Try it first just on the ink spots. If that doesn't work, try soaking it, if the fabric and threads are not fragile. The ink on these pillowcases was too tough even for 409. I hope you are more successful.

  2. I love that you have 37 year old embroidered pillow cases still in use!

  3. I have use hair spray to remove ink from men's white shirts. Work well.


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