What can I use to dissolve inkjet ink that won't harm mylar?

I have a stock of large sheets of translucent mylar that I want to use as tracing medium. The trouble is that I got them from an engineering shop, so they have plans printed on them.

I've had some success "erasing" the drawings using either alcohol hand sanitizer or acetone, but both require some elbow grease and some kind of abrasive, which leaves the surface mottled.

Is there a solvent that will dissolve the ink and leave the surface of the mylar more-or-less undamaged? My research suggests that the ink was laid down by an inkjet printer, though I can't be entirely certain.

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canucksgirl4 years ago
What you have is a drafting film made of polyester. It has a matted/frosted surface which allows inks to soak in (including ink jet printer ink). They come as either single or double matted surfaces (if you have a glossy side, then its a single side use only).

As far as removing the ink is concerned, it may be very difficult without damaging the surface. Its best to treat the material like a silk blouse. Don't rub the surface or use anything oily. (Hairspray which is usually good on inks, is a no-no for this). Rubbing alcohol will work, but you literally have to soak it in, and BLOT like crazy until your pull up all the ink (but may not be worth it). You may want to try some tests with chlorine bleach. I can't say how well it will work, but on one sheet its worth a try. I've had really good results with the Tide Stain Remover pens... so even that's worth a shot.

If nothing works, then get large sheets of tracing paper from an art supply store or check out Dupont. They manufacture the drafting film under the brand name "Mylar". Azon is another company that makes it under the name "Herculene".
yoyology (author)  canucksgirl4 years ago
I have a large amount of this stuff, so I'm willing to try a few different things to see what works and doesn't. I've had some success with rubbing alcohol (actually hand sanitizer) but haven't given it much soaking time. I'll give that another shot and try your other suggestions as well.
Aside from using an electric eraser (which will rub off some of the "frosting"), the only other thing I know of is KOH-I-NOOR Rapido-Eze Pen Cleaning Fluid. Though designed to clean the pens themselves, it will work on Mylar (I know this from my previous job) if used in small amounts. Inkjet ink has a hard enough time sticking to the mylar as it is, so it should come off relatively easily that way. If it is toner, you may as well find another use for the Mylar. If you call up a local civil engineer or land surveyor that has been in business for 25 or more years, they may be able to give you some help or pointers.

yoyology (author)  Quercus austrina4 years ago
I don't mind removing the frosting on one side, since the film I have is double-frosted. The trouble I'm having is that it removes it unevenly, and I get a mottled look. That's fine for tracings, but not so good if I want to use it as the substrate for a finished piece of art.

I'll look into an electric eraser. Thank you!
Try looking into the pen cleaner as it is designed to dissolve the ink and it is a lot less than an electric eraser. I think you'll find it works well.

If you do get an electric eraser, get the erasers meant for mylar (the white ones) and when you do erase, keep a moist (water) paper towel nearby. Dab the eraser on the towel and start erasing. After a time, you'll need to moisten the tip again. After a bit of practice, you'll get to know when you need to remoisten the eraser before it dries out too much. Also, let the weight of the eraser do the work, excess pressure will work through the frosting/mylar.

All of these items can be found wherever drafting supplies are sold - Staples type stores and art supply/craft stores.

In case you are wondering, I've been in the Land Surveying business since 1983 and have been drafting since the mid '80s. We didn't get any sort of CAD machines until the mid '90s, so a lot of revision work was done on existing plans using those methods.

yoyology (author)  Quercus austrina4 years ago
I'm loath to spend $11 on 8oz of anything that wasn't distilled from a single malt. :-)

Looking around, it seems that the folks at the Fountain Pen Network have done some sleuthing about the components of Rapido Eze. I might give their ammonia/water concoction a try.

As for the electric eraser, I wasn't planning on buying one. I was going to upcycle a battery-powered fan.
MisterArt  has it a few dollars cheaper, and a 32 oz container is probably the best value. But you can try the FPN method. If the ink is from a pen or from an inkjet printer, you should be able to get it off of the Mylar pretty well. If it is toner from a Laser printer, it'll be a lot harder to get rid of.

If you do make the electric eraser, make sure you get the correct eraser (the white one, plastic or vinyl eraser) or it'll just make things ugly.

Good luck.

yoyology (author)  Quercus austrina4 years ago
The ammonia didn't do a thing (other than stink up my kitchen).

I spent some time with hand sanitizer and plastic silverware last night, and got all the print off of one sheet in about an hour of scraping. The frosted surface is mostly intact. I'm thinking more and more that this is toner, not ink. It scrapes off in little chunks rather than dissolving and smearing.

I will give the heat transfer method below a shot at some point, but for now it looks like I'm for more evenings of scraping.

There may be an instructable in all this. Thanks again for all your assistance!
That has to be toner. Ink, any ink, would start to soften and smear at least somewhat. Well, at least you know what you have to do now.

Good luck. I'll be waiting to see your 'ible.

You really need to know what kind of ink was used. Chances are it wasn't from an inkjet printer. The liquid ink in an ink jet needs a surface that is able to absorb the ink to an extent otherwise the ink won't hold to the surface. To print on mylar you would need a toner based printer where the toner is a form of plastic that gets fused to the surface. There may be some wax based printers that would do the same. But i'm pretty sure your dealing with a plastic based toner there. In which case you would end up damaging the mylar with anything that could dissolve the toner.

You could try a heat transfer method. Similar to that used in etching a circuit board. Place the mylar print side down on a piece of paper. Cover it with parchment paper and heat it up with an iron. You may be able to heat it up enough to release the ink from the mylar and have it left on the paper.
yoyology (author)  mpilchfamily4 years ago
I'll give that a try. The surface of the mylar does have a "frosted" appearance, which is what I was assuming the ink was adhering to. It's certainly what gives it such a nice "tooth" for drawing on.

I will try to find out from my source what kind of printer they used.
If it's frosted, there is a good chance it is inkjet ink - designed for the ink to be able to grab hold but still be mostly transparent.