How to Get Ink Out of a Dryer

Overcoming obstacles and strengthening our understanding of things is just part of everyday life. Still, life, being the miraculous, unexpected rollercoaster, will throw you a curveball, like figuring out if you can clean ink out of a dryer.

There are many ways you can clean ink out of a dryer, but some methods are much safer than others. Here are the safe alternatives below:

  1. Heating the dryer first
  2. Saturate towels in bleach
  3. Use a magic eraser
  4. Use heavy-duty cleaning products
  5. Goo Gone product
  6. Dish soap
  7. Clean the paddles

Still, you will want to ensure you take the proper precautions before starting this process. This article discusses ways to clean ink out of a dryer. If you wish to learn more information, keep reading on!  

Can I Clean Ink Out of a Dryer?

Before we even dive into that difficult question, you might want to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Can I clean ink out of a dryer entirely?
  2. Do I have to settle for some occasional dried ink stains appearing over my clothing from now until I purchase a new one?

Thankfully, the answer to that question is you can indeed clean ink out of a dryer, but it will take more than just a little elbow grease to get the job done correctly. That would be assuming you have taken the most effective cleaning it into account first.

Taking up arms against stained areas as opposed to allowing them to make it into your dryer would be the best way to prevent yourself from needing to clean your dryer in the first place. 

You will want to check each set of clothing before placing it in the dryer if you’re going to avoid it entirely. However, as most of us are well beyond that point, let us get into it.

Some of these cleaning methods will involve some powerful chemical agents like the following:

  • Isopropyl alcohol (which is rubbing alcohol)
  • Various mixtures of bleach
  • Mr. Clean

However, we recommend avoiding harsh chemicals and using:

  • Essential orange oil
  • Dawn Powerwash

In that case, wearing a mask or letting the dryer air out some will keep you from inhaling too much and getting ill.

How Can You Get Ink Out of a Dryer?

Now that we have taken the most crucial step in the process, we can get into the nitty-gritty of things! 

We will discuss how to get these pesky pen marks or fresh stains out of your dryer and your hair (or clothes, in this case!)

1. Heat the Dryer First

In most cases, the ink has dried onto the surface area of your dryer drum. Doing so makes it more or less immune to just wiping at it with a rag, so you will want to soften it.

You will want to turn your dryer on and run it on the hot setting for about 10 minutes. Heating the ink in this fashion will make the job more accessible. 

Depending on how nasty the stain itself is, it will make the difference between getting the job done correctly or smearing it further inside your dryer.

2. Best Ways to Remove Permanent Ink from the Dryer Drum

Use Essential Orange Oil

To clean your dryer without harsh chemicals, use orange oil instead of commercial products and harsh chemicals like bleach. Orange oil will remove the topcoat of ink and you’ll need to follow with a second application using orange oil on a magic eraser.

Fold a paper towel soaked in orange oil and rub the stained area. You can use cotton balls as well, but the paper towel will clean a larger surface area. This will not remove all ink spots in the first application.

Dawn Powerwash (Spray Dawn Dish Soap)

Good old-fashioned dish soap, while it will take more than just a little time to get dried stains off using only this, it will happen, eventually, and you might put on some muscle mass in the process, so there’s an added positive.

Assuming you did want to do this, you would need to get a bit of soapy water in a bucket or bin, then begin scrubbing away at the stain and rinsing your cloth.

Using Dawn powerwash (or a dawn spray mixture) spray the inside of the clothes dryer and use an old white towel or soft cloth to wipe out the permanent marker and ink spots.

3. Magic Eraser

One of the best tools in your arsenal to effectively deal with ink and avoid using any harsh chemicals comes in the form of a magic eraser. Magic erasers are good for removing stubborn stains.

Now traditionally, you might think it would not be that effective. To an extent, if you did not plan on putting in some serious effort, you might be right in that assumption.

Suppose you do not mind getting your hands dirty and putting in the effort. 

In that case, you’ll find hitting the problem areas with the magic eraser will do the trick. Afterward, use a damp cloth to wipe the area. 

Make sure you are gradually working at it (as opposed to smearing it around). Doing so is a safe and effective way of getting the job done. 

As we mentioned before, safety is a severe topic, and for that reason, this sub-section will explain that you can indeed use the cleaning solutions and similar products below. 

Still, because these products can be flammable if you are not careful, they do not rank very well on the list.

If possible, you should attempt to utilize any of the other methods to combat your ink stains on this list before using these purely as a precaution and potential time-saver.

While these may get the color out faster, you will be exceptionally diligent in cleaning up afterward to avoid damaging your clothes or starting a fire.

4. Clean the Paddles

Bringing most of the normalized methods to a close, it’s worth noting you need to hit the paddles or fins depending on where you are from inside the dryer itself. 

It’s not enough to get the stains off the central portions of the dryer drum if you leave ink stains on the paddles.

All of the methods we have gone over will be able to clean the paddles to the same degree and achieve the same result. 

Ultimately, you want to make sure you didn’t waste time cleaning one part of your dryer to have stains show up in the next laundry set, regardless of your time invested.

The paddles themselves will also tell how stained the inside of your dryer is because, in most cases, they will have more contact with your clothing and washables and have more ink/build-up on them.

Other Cleaning Methods Include:

Saturate Towels in Mixture of Bleach & Water

An excellent method to get the job done and not strain yourself would be to soak a few paper towels in equal parts water and bleach. 

Afterward, place them into the dryer, running it on the high heat setting, allowing you to automate the entire process, depending on the severity of the stain.

Doing this also benefits from disinfecting the dryer itself. It might be more useful if actively scrubbing the inside of the dryer itself is not an option for you due to a health concern or other potential issues.

Of course, you will not unplug the dryer for this method. Also, when dealing with bleach, always make sure to wear a mask and gloves for further protection. 

You also might want to consider wearing an old shirt if you accidentally get the soaked towels on your shirt.

Heavy-duty Cleaning Products

Suppose you deal with an absolute monster of ink build-up in your dryer and not just the sparse inconspicuous spot or two. 

In that case, you may need to change your plan of attack and enlist the help of industrial-strength cleaning agents.

While they will get the job done, you will need to put effort into the back end once the fight is done.

On the one side, these juggernauts of stain slaying will make short work of the stains themselves. 

You will need to be incredibly diligent and ensure all of the chemical residues are gone before utilizing the dryer again to avoid damaging your clothing afterward.

The best way to do that would be simply taking some old damp towels you have lying around and allowing them to soak it all up in a separate run. 

Once finished, go back to using your dryer as intended. (If you want to be specific, two runs with the damp towels might give you more peace of mind).

It might be wise for you to wear gloves and a mask for this particular project. Inhaling any fumes could potentially cause severe damage to your health if you are around harsh chemicals often. 

Goo Gone

You might think Goo Gone is only intended for your oven or sink, but truthfully, it is just as good at cleaning up ink as most other methods on this list. 

It is also alcohol-free, so you will not have to worry about it potentially damaging your next load of clothes.

That being said, you would want to spritz any problem areas you see with the solution. 

After that, use a damp cloth with a bit of soap to break down the stains inside the dryer, and it should come away excellent and easy. 

Follow that with a quick wipe down with a different rag to remove any soap residue, and you are all done!

Note: Before moving on, a bit of a warning on a product that goes by a similar name but can have disastrous results assuming you aren’t paying attention. “Goof Off” is not the same as “Goo Gone.” 

While they can easily be confused for one another, “Goof Off” is flammable, while “Goo Gone” is not, so pay special attention to avoid anything disastrous happening.

What Not to Use in a Dryer

1. Acetone (Nail Polish Remover)

Almost everyone is aware of how strong a stain fighter acetone can be. While it is hugely versatile, it can make it tempting; you need to be cautious about how you go about using it. 

Assuming you did want to use it, dab some onto a cotton swab and meticulously attack the problem stains section by section. 

Doing so will keep you from blanketing the inside of your dryer and making the clean up process afterward more troublesome. 

Once again, acetone is highly flammable, so if you decide to use it, make sure you wash the areas you cleaned utilizing the solution with soap and water before doing your next load of laundry.

2. Rubbing Alcohol

It is essentially the same approach as using acetone, especially regarding the need to clean it out exceptionally well after the scrubbing. 

You would still want to employ the same tactic of putting a bit of it on a cotton swab and etching away at the stains to achieve the best results. 

Another safety tip would be to wear a mask while using either of these products, as inhaling the fumes for too long can be bad for your health. 

It could potentially make you light-headed and allow you to forget about cleaning up appropriately when the job finishes.

3. Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is about 70% rubbing alcohol and is essentially the same as using straight rubbing alcohol. You’ll need to use precaution when using large quantities of hand sanitizer in tight spaces as it can make you light-headed and dizzy.

4. White Vinegar Solution

White vinegar is an effective homemade cleaning product that is often used in place of commercial cleaning products. However, it does have a pungent odor and can cause light headiness or dizziness when cleaning confined spaces like the inside of a dryer’s drum.

If using white vinegar, you’ll need to rinse thoroughly with fresh water to prevent the vinegar odor from getting into your clothes during the next use. For these reasons, we don’t recommend using vinegar.

Can Pen Ink Mess Up the Dryer?

Assuming you are not just slam-dunking pens into your dryer to find out what happens, ballpoint pen ink can most certainly stain your dryer. However, you can remove a ballpoint pen stain.  

However, blanketing the inside of your dryer during the load could be the least of your problems. 

As we briefly touched base on above, there are also two different kinds of pens, to begin with, water-based and non-water-based. 

The latter’s ink is highly flammable and harder to clean by association, so refer to the related section above to know how to handle it appropriately.

If any of the ink itself gets into a hard-to-reach spot or behind something, you may require a professional to take some pieces of your dryer apart to reach the stains inside and give you the peace of mind you deserve. 

The chances of needing a professional are typically pretty slim, though. Still, you can expect a tough cleaning job and an intense conversation with whoever was responsible for the pen being forgotten in the clothing!


Dealing with any stains within your dryer may not be the most fun experience. 

Still, having the right mindset and tools to handle the job will make it much less of a nightmare and more something that you can manage easily and in a short amount of time.

Suppose you haven’t had to deal with this messy job yourself. In that case, you may want to pick up some of the solutions and cleaning options listed here as a preventative measure for when that day does come. Perhaps even double down on the conversation about leaving pens in pockets while you are at it!

Photo of author

Brandi Miles, BSW, MS Human Services

Brandi Miles, BSW, MS Human Services is the mother of two adult children and three beautiful grandchildren. Brandi has 20+ years of experience helping people with developmental disabilities.
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