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How to Remove Ink from a Hard Cover Book

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A hardcover book can be an expensive purchase. Numerous types of paper are used in book printing--and many formulas of ink can leave stains on the pages. To remove ink spots or distracting scribbles, you first must find the right solvent to dissolve the ink. A few general solvents will remove most common types of ink. Any time you are working with paper, however, you run the risk of damaging the surface. Approach removing ink from a hardcover book with caution. Work carefully and deliberately to salvage the book.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Use the towel to blot any wet ink from the paper.

Dip a cotton swab into the isopropyl alcohol. The percentage of alcohol is on the label. The higher the percentage of isopropyl alcohol, the better it will work. Many drug stores sell products with at least 50 percent alcohol content. If you are unsure, ask the clerk or pharmacist for help.

Dab the alcohol-soaked swab onto the ink stain. Let the alcohol sink in.

Blot the stain with a paper towel to soak up as much of the ink as possible.

Acetate or Acetone

Saturate a cotton ball or swab with acetate or acetone. Acetone is the main ingredient in most nail polish removers, while ethyl acetate is the main component of non-acetone nail polish removers. You can buy pure acetone at most drug stores in the nail care aisle.

Dab the stain with the acetate-soaked cotton ball or swab.

Blot the stain with a dry paper towel to soak up the ink as the acetate dissolves it.

Gently wipe the area with a damp towel to remove any residue.


Use bleach if the other two solvents don't work. Test it first on a small unnoticeable area to make sure it doesn't discolor the paper. Use a cotton ball or swab to dab a tiny amount of bleach onto the paper. Let it dry. If there are no problems, proceed with the next step.

Dip a cotton swab or cotton ball into the bleach.

Dab the bleach-soaked cotton ball or swab onto the the stain.

Blot the stain (and bleach) with a damp paper towel. While the other solvents are meant to dissolve the ink, bleach will simply fade it. You may find that a shadow of the original stain remains after bleaching.

Last Resorts

Cut the stain away if it is located in the corner or on the edges of the page.

Use a fine-grit nail file to rub the surface of the paper and remove the stain. This should be the very last resort, as it will damage-- and possibly tear--the paper.

Use a soft paint brush to remove any dust or residue.

Things You'll Need:

  • Paper towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Acetate
  • Bleach
  • Fine-grit nail file


Use a professional conservator for rare or expensive books. Applying a solvent to aged paper may have an unexpected result. If the book has value, let an expert handle the clean up.


  • The chemicals may be drying to your skin. Consider wearing rubber or latex gloves when working with the solvents.
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