10 Ways to Avoid & Remove Printer Ink Spills & Stains

avoid printer ink spills stains

Printers are office essentials that are convenient for a wide variety of uses. From printing school reports and copying family photos to generating shipping labels, packing slips, and expense reports, they are used for a vast range of personal and professional projects. Just about everyone has one sitting on their desk at home and has access to others at work or at school. They come in a never-ending array of styles to meet any need imaginable.

There are inkjet printers that deliver professional-quality photographs and laser models that can output hundreds of pages for businesses in a matter of minutes. Printers have come a long way over the last few decades, and they are undeniably convenient in just about every way.

One time when they aren’t so convenient, though, is when ink spills or stains occur. While replacing an ink cartridge is an easy task, accidents can happen, and messes are almost always a possibility. Since most printer inks are formulated to be permanent, cleaning up the mess can be quite difficult.

It’s best to avoid spills whenever possible, but sometimes accidents happen in spite of your best efforts. Don’t despair, though. Here are a few easy ways to avoid printer ink spills and clean up those that have already occurred.  


yellow ink cartridge leaking

If you are careful, you can prevent most spills and stains before they happen. These accidents usually occur when refilling or replacing ink cartridges, and they can lead to some serious messes. The good news, though, is that they are usually pretty easy to avoid.

Read the Instructions

Replacing an ink cartridge is usually a straightforward process, so you may not feel like reading the instructions is a necessity. Every printer and cartridge is different, though, so it is important to understand what you are working with. It is a good idea to read the instructions every time you replace a cartridge, but it is especially important to do so when you have a new printer. Doing so ensures that you know exactly how to do it correctly and helps reduce the risk of spilling ink.

Wear Gloves

Getting ink on your hands is the most common problem when changing or handling ink cartridges. This can happen as the result of a leaky cartridge or by just accidentally touching the wrong spot. Donning a pair of disposable gloves is the best way to keep your skin clean.

Don’t Refill Cartridges

Refill kits promise to enable you to use your cartridges over and over while avoiding the expense of purchasing replacements. Unfortunately, using them also greatly increases the risk of spilling ink. If you aren’t extremely careful and don’t know exactly what you are doing, it’s easy to make a huge mess when using one of these kits. They don’t always work properly, either, and they can cause cartridges to leak inside your printer, creating an even bigger mess. Unless you are extremely familiar with using one of these kits, it’s best to just buy replacement cartridges. You can save yourself a bundle by purchasing remanufactured ink cartridges rather than OEM ones.

avoiding spills and stains graphic


Despite your best efforts, you are still likely to find yourself facing an ink spill or stain at some point. Whether you’ve managed to get it all over your hands, spill it on the carpet in your office, or get it on your desk, there are, fortunately, ways to clean it up and minimize the damage. Here’s how to remove ink from a few of the most common surfaces.


If you are like a lot of people, you almost always end up with a little ink on your hands when you replace a cartridge. It takes a bit of effort to remove ink from your skin, but the good news is that you won’t be stuck with black, cyan, magenta, or yellow fingers when you follow these steps.

Start by washing your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water. Do this as soon as possible to remove as much ink as possible. Next, scrub using a soap that contains pumice. This helps eliminate more of the ink quickly. Once most of the ink has been removed, fill a bowl with a very weak solution of bleach and water. It should contain at least 10 parts water to every one part bleach. Wash your hands using this mixture, and repeat as necessary until the ink has been removed to your satisfaction.

When you are finished, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands again using warm soapy water to remove the bleach from your skin. You may also want to apply some lotion or moisturizer to keep your hands from drying out.


blue ink stain on fabric

Getting ink off of clothing is much more difficult than removing it from your skin. It quickly penetrates the fabric and stains instantly. If you want to have any chance of removing it, you cannot allow it to dry.

Start by using cold water to dilute the ink. Dab the stain with a damp cloth or paper towel until the excess ink stops coming up. Let dry for a few minutes, and then use a stain remover to get rid of the remaining ink. Be sure to choose a product that will break up the ink without bleaching or otherwise damaging your clothing.

Apply stain remover to two damp cloths or paper towels and sandwich the stain in between the two. Blot from both sides to remove the stain. Be sure to shift the cloth/paper towel while blotting to avoid re-applying ink that you have already removed. Repeat until the ink is gone, and then wash in cold water.


removing ink from carpet graphicSpilled ink on your carpet? Start by applying detergent or stain remover and scrubbing the spot with a toothbrush or a cleaning brush. Next, dab the area with a paper towel or a clean cloth to lift as much ink as possible. Repeat these steps until they are no longer picking up additional ink.

Another option is rubbing alcohol. Moisten a cloth or paper towel with rubbing alcohol, and blot the stain from the outside edges inward. This helps dilute and release the ink from the fibers. If you do not have rubbing alcohol on hand, hairspray may work in a pinch. When rubbing alcohol doesn’t do the trick, try hydrogen peroxide.

When dealing with ink on a carpet, time is of the essence. Ink that sets at full dilution is likely to be impossible to remove, even when using professional stain removers and rug shampooers. Work quickly to clean up as much of the ink as possible before it has time to set.


Unfortunately, if you get ink on a piece of leather furniture or a leather jacket, being able to remove it isn’t likely. This is also true with suede. There is one method that may work to at least make the stain a bit lighter, though. If it does work, it will not make the problem worse, so it is worth a try.

Apply a high-quality leather cleaner and conditioner to the stain. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions, as these vary from one product to another. You may also want to test the cleaner and conditioner in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it won’t damage the material.

Let air dry, then apply more cleaner/conditioner. This does not work with all stains, but it could help and is certainly worth a try.


removing ink from wood graphicSoft surfaces are not the only ones that can be plagued by ink stains. When you spill ink on a desk or another wooden surface, the stain can be quite difficult—though not impossible—to remove. Start by mixing dish soap and water until you have lots of suds. Dip a cloth in the suds and gently wipe the stain to pick up excess ink. Rinse with cold water.

If the stain is still there, dip fine steel wool in liquid wax and let dry. Use the steel wool to scrub the stain until it has been completely removed. This also removes a fine layer of the wood’s surface, so you will need to wax or polish the wood immediately after cleaning.


Printer ink stains on stone surfaces are not common, but they can still occur. In most cases, wiping up ink immediately keeps it from staining the stone, but large spills and those that are not cleaned up right away can leave behind stains. If you have ink stains on brick, asphalt, concrete, terrazzo, slate, or sandstone, follow these steps to remove them.

Combine water and a small amount of washing soda and use this solution to clean the stain until the ink is no longer being removed. Next, dip a soft-bristled brush in the solution, and gently brush the stain for several minutes. Rinse with clean, cold water, and inspect for any remaining ink. Repeat until all traces have been removed.


specialist fixing broken inkjet printhead

With a bit of care and caution, most ink spills and stains are easily avoidable. When accidents do happen, though, it is important to know how to properly clean up the mess. In most instances, acting quickly is vital. The longer the ink sets, the more likely the stain is to become permanent. Use the correct products and techniques for the type of surface or material that was spilled on, and you should be able to clean up most stains.

When trying to remove stains from clothing, carpet, leather, etc., it is always a good idea to do a spot test in an inconspicuous area. Remember to never use chlorine bleach unless you are cleaning clothing or fabric that is pure white. With the tips listed above, you can make most ink stains disappear.