Is India Ink Toxic – Our Breakdown!

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Although India ink has been used for centuries for writing and tattoos, its old school look and ease of use has resulted in a sharp increase in the use of India ink in recent years with it continuing to become more and more popular as time goes by. Due to the surge in popularity and the sheer number of people who are starting to use India ink, we have noticed more and more questions about how to use it for both writing and tattoos being asked from the community.

Although we have already answered a number of these questions in other articles, we have noticed people reaching out to ask if India ink is toxic or not. We have decided to dedicate today’s article to taking a look at the toxicity of India ink in the hope that we are able to help as many of our readers as possible who may be considering using it.

The short version is that all ink does have a toxicity level but this can vary depending on the formula of the ink and India ink is no different. Some formulas, especially homemade India ink can have a higher toxicity level and then there are products such as Winsor & Newton Liquid Indian Ink that has a much lower toxicity level making it a very popular option.

Is India Ink Toxic?

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If you are only wanting to use your India ink for writing on paper with a fountain pen then the toxicity level probably won’t matter much but if you are looking to tattoo with India ink then it is important to keep toxicity levels as low as possible. We have our dedicated article going over if India ink is safe for tattoos though where we go into using it for body art in much more detail that we would recommend you read if you are planning to use the ink for tattooing.

Is India Ink Toxic If Ingested

Although ingesting India in by accident is less common that the oil based ink in a ballpoint pen due to people chewing their pen, we still see people asking about the side effects of accidentally ingesting India ink. As we touched on above, all ink does have a toxicity level to it but thankfully, it is usually so small that it has no effect on the human body when ingested and will not cause you side effects.

As the majority of people who do use India ink for writing with a pen usually use it with either a dip pen or a fountain pen, it is less likely that they will be chewing the pen and due to the piston filler, cartridge convertor or dip system used on these pens, chewing them does not necessarily release the ink into your mouth. If by some chance you do end up ingesting India ink from your pen then the amount of ink that the standard pen holds is so small that it is extremely unlikely that it will cause you any issues.

Is India Ink Toxic If It Gets On Your Skin

Although it is common for ballpoint, rollerball, and gel pen ink to end up on a child’s skin as they draw or color in with their stationary, it is unlikely that they will use a fountain pen or dip pen for these activities so it is less likely that India ink will end up on your skin. Due to the toxicity levels of India ink being so low though, it is doubtful that it will be able to cause any problems with a reaction on your skin as India ink is carbon based with minimal allergins.

This is for the commercially available India ink products on the market though as their ink formulas do tend to be based around charcoal ash and water with minimal additional ingredients. As there are a number of different homemade India ink recipes online that people use to make their own India ink, there is a higher chance of an allergin accidentally being added to homemade India ink that may cause a reaction when your skin is exposed to it but this is still rare.

Is India Ink Toxic Enough To Erode Paper

Although India ink does not have a toxicity level high enough to erode or damage paper, we have seen reports from people who have been updating old documents and has issues with the paper eroding after writing on it. From what we can tell, this is not due to the toxicity levels of the ink but the delicate competition of the older documents that they were editing and it is likely that any water-based ink would have had the same effect.

As paper ages it begins to naturally degrade and even a high GSM paper will stat to become delicate and potentially have issues. Although India ink is water-based and other water-based inks can have this same issue, if you are using a wet writing nib with an oil-based or alcohol-based ink then the additional ink added to the paper could cause the same eroding problems. This is not due to the toxicity of the ink as we have seen some people claim on social media and online forums.

Is India Ink Toxic For Tattoos

As we mentioned earlier in the article, India ink is a very popular option for both modern tattoos as well as traditional stick and poke tattoos with Winsor & Newton Liquid Indian Ink usually being the more popular India ink option for tattooing. We would point any of our readers who are curious about the toxicity levels of India ink for tattoo work to our article going over if India ink is safe for tattoos as we go into much more detail in that article.

Can India Ink Cause Cancer?

Although we are unaware of any suspected link between India ink and cancer, some homemade India ink recipes do include ingredients that are not commonly used in commercially available ink formulas. These are often added to offset the slightly larger grains of charcoal ash used in homemade India ink as the commercial grinders are not available for the majority of people who are making their own ink for fun.

Due to this, some homemade India ink formulas may have things in them that may be a carcinogen and potentially lead to cancer. This is why we try to get our readers to stick to commercial products such as Winsor & Newton Liquid Indian Ink that put their ink formulas through rigorous testing prior to shipping it or just keep their homemade India ink recipes to the basic components of water and charcoal ash.


That brings our article going over if India ink is toxic or not. We hope that you have found it helpful and as we touched on above, although all ink does have a slight toxicity level to it, the majority of India ink tends to be so low that it has no thread to humans. Still, we would not recommend that you take any unnecessary chances, especially when it comes to tattooing with India ink as actual tattoo ink is usually around the same price as India ink these days and is much after to use.