You can use permanent markers for everything from marking packing boxes to tie-dying t-shirts, but once in a while a marker slips and stains your clothes. Do you need to throw away the marker-stained garment, or can you rescue it? The good news is that you can learn how to get permanent marker stains out of clothes at least most of the time!
The best way to get permanent marker stains out of clothes is to use an alcohol solution. You can use rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or even hairspray containing alcohol. Other household products such as nail polish remover, WD40, and some kinds of toothpaste can also remove permanent marker stains.
In this article, you will find easy step-by-step instructions for how to use common household products as marker stain removers. You will learn how to get dried-on marker out of the fabric after clothes have gone through the dryer. Finally, you will find out how to get Sharpie out of a sofa or upholstery.
Can You Get Permanent Marker Out of Fabric?
You can quite easily remove permanent marker stains from fabric such as clothing or upholstery most of the time. For the best success, you want to make sure you catch the stain while still fresh. You will find the ink much easier to remove if you notice it right away!
That said, you can sometimes get permanent marker stains out of clothes even after you have washed the clothing and put it in your dryer. For this method, check out the section on “How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains (After Being Washed)” later in this article!
The second critical step in removing permanent marker stains is to apply a two-part process. First, you will need to apply a solvent to break down the alcohol and oil in ink. Then you will need to follow up this treatment with a regular wash using laundry detergent to make sure all the color particles wash away.
In this article, you will find ten handy pretreatments you can use for that first crucial step. These solutions include things like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and even bleach!
As one final word of caution, you should always check the care label inside your garment before trying any of these treatments or even before placing the clothing in the washing machine. If you have a dry-clean-only garment, you should ask your dry cleaner about the stain instead of trying to remove it yourself.
Does Sharpie Wash Out of Clothes?
Sharpie does not wash out of clothes in the washing machine unless you apply acidic pretreatment to the stain to break down the alcohol and oils in ink. On its own, sharpie has a pretty permanent hold on fabric!
Sharpies and other permanent markers have a soft, spongy tube inside the plastic pen case. Manufacturers use a small needle to force the ink into this spongy material, creating an ink reservoir for you to write with later.
Sharpie ink is primarily composed of several different types of alcohol that act as solvents to carry color pigments. The ink often also contains some type of polymer or resin to bind everything together. Some of the chemicals contained in Sharpie ink include Propyl, Butyl, and Diacetone alcohol.
Washable ink contains color particles carried on a water-soluble solvent. Sharpie markers use alcohol and resin as the dye carriers, and these do not dissolve when exposed to water or soap. This is why you need to take that additional step of applying something acidic to the stain as a first treatment.
How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Clothes: 10 Methods
You can get permanent marker stains out of clothes using several different acidic solvents, including common household products like rubbing alcohol or vinegar. The “permanent” label in this kind of ink just means that it does not dissolve in water on its own, not that you can’t ever remove it from your clothing!
Of course, as with all stains, you will have the best luck if you catch the stain while it is fresh. If you don’t notice that you accidentally scribbled Sharpie on your favorite jeans and put them through the washer and dryer, the ink tends to set in the fabric almost like real fabric dye. In this case, it gets much tougher to remove.
Even if you do catch the stain right away, you may need to patiently apply a stain removal treatment a couple of times to make sure you lift all the color away from the fabric. Small dots or lines of ink will likely come out quickly, but large inkblots may take more work.
All of the ten methods listed here follow the same basic concept: you apply a solvent to the stain first and then follow up this pretreatment with a cycle in your washing machine. Plus, all ten methods use simple, basic household products that you probably already own!
As a safety tip, please note that you can try more than one method if you try one and don’t like it. However, please do not mix the stain removal products–make sure you thoroughly rinse out the fabric from one solvent before trying another! In general, you never want to mix cleaning products, as this can sometimes create a toxic reaction.
1. Rubbing AlcoholBy far the easiest, most effective way to remove permanent marker stains is to apply rubbing alcohol as a first treatment and then wash the garment in your washing machine. Rubbing alcohol will break up the alcohol and polymer carries that bind the dye to the fabric. After this, a good cycle in the washing machine will carry away any lingering dye particles!
To apply rubbing alcohol to sharpie or permanent marker stains:
- Place a piece of cardboard or a pad of folded paper towels on the backside of the stained fabric. This way, any kink that soaks away will not create new stains on other parts of your garment!
- Next, get a clean sponge or white rag and pour a generous amount of rubbing alcohol onto it. You can also use a cotton ball or paper towel, but you will have to replace these frequently as they absorb the ink.
- Starting at the outside edge of the stain, dab from the edge toward the center with your alcohol-soaked rag. You should instantly see color transferring to your sponge or white rag!
- Repeat this motion until you can no longer see the stain.
- Finally, place your stained garment in the washing machine with your regular detergent. Make sure you carefully inspect the clothing before putting it in your dryer to make sure the stain is gone!
2. Baking SodaBaking soda is alkaline, which can easily break down the oils in an oil-based stain. It is not necessarily the best way to get a permanent marker out of the fabric, but it will work if you catch the ink stain while it is fresh. Plus, baking soda is non-toxic and does not even have strong odors like some other methods listed in this article!
To use baking soda on a permanent marker stain:
- First, protect the unstained part of your clothing by placing cardboard or paper towels behind the stain.
- Next, get a disposable cup and mix up two tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of water. You can also try substituting lemon juice for the tablespoon of water, as the juice has a high acidity that can also help treat the ink stain.
- Use a cotton ball or paper towel to smear the baking soda paste thoroughly over the stain. Let this sit for half an hour.
- Rinse away the baking soda under running water. Do you still see ink? If so, you may want to try another removal method. If most of the ink is washed away with the baking soda, move on to the next step.
- Finally, run the garment through the washing machine using your normal detergent.
3. VinegarVinegar has a natural acidity that makes it an excellent cleaning agent for all kinds of household needs, including ink stains! However, since it is not quite as strong as a treatment like rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, you will want to let the vinegar sit on the stain for a while.
- First, set up your stained clothing with a protective piece of cardboard or paper towel beneath the stain to absorb any runoff.
- Soak a paper towel or sponge in vinegar and apply it liberally to the stain, always moving the sponge from the outside of the stain to the inside.
- Let this sit for 30 minutes.
- Next, soak another sponge or towel with vinegar and dab at the stain from the edge toward the middle. This time you should see lots of color coming away! Repeat this till you can’t see the stain anymore.
- Rinse all the vinegar out under running water.
- Wash your clothing in the washer machine and check to make sure you can’t see the ink anymore!
4. Hand Sanitizer
Most hand sanitizer is made almost entirely of alcohol, which means it works just like rubbing alcohol to remove ink stains. You can also use hand sanitizer to remove permanent ink from many surfaces, such as the wood or metal of your desk at work! The great thing about this is that you almost always have sanitizer around you in public, so you can perform an emergency stain treatment even when away from home!
It probably goes with saying, but you do not want to try this with one of those colorful or glittery mini sanitizers you may have in your purse. Make sure you use a plain, clear sanitizer with high alcohol content.
- Squirt a dab of hand sanitizer onto a paper towel or tissue.
- Gently rub at the stain with the wet part of the paper towel, moving from the outside of the stain to the inside, so you don’t smear the ink around.
- You may need to use two or three paper towels as the ink comes away onto the paper.
- Rinse out the hand sanitizer when you can’t see the stain anymore. If you can’t take the garment off at the moment, carefully blot the wet spot between two paper towels, and then make sure you rinse and wash the clothing once you get home!
Back in the old days, most hairspray had a high alcohol content, but this is not always the case today. Make sure you check the ingredient in your spray before trying this method! If your hairspray does contain a lot of alcohol, you can try this easy marker removal method.
This technique tends to work well, even on synthetic fabric like polyester. Sometimes ink stains can get tricky to remove from that type of fabric, so keep this method in mind!
- As always, start by putting a protective layer of something like cardboard or paper towels behind the stain to catch any leaking ink.
- Next, spritz the stain with hairspray. You want to see the spray soaking the stain, so apply it thoroughly!
- Let this sit for ten minutes.
- Rinse the wet spot out under running water. Check to see if the stain remains. If it does, repeat the method.
- If no ink remains, go ahead and wash your clothing in the washing machine.
6. Nail Polish RemoverNail polish remover is mostly acetone, a powerful solvent that can dissolve many kinds of stains, including ink and paint stains. You do want to use this with care, as it can damage some fabric types. Instead, try dabbing a tiny drop on an inside seam in your clothing to make sure the solvent will not hurt your clothing before attempting this method.
- Place something absorbent behind the stain to catch any oozing ink.
- Soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and swipe it across the stain from the outer edge toward the center of the stain. You do not want to just pour the nail polish remover onto the stain, as this will cause the ink to spread out further into the fabric.
- Keep swiping across the stain until all the ink lifts away.
- Rinse out the nail polish remover under running water.
- Wash your clothing in a washing machine, but inspect it carefully to make sure you do not see the stain before drying.
7. Without Alcohol – WD40If you want to avoid using any type of alcohol or strong chemicals on a permanent marker stain, you can try using WD40 instead. The danger with this method is that the oil may create a new, oily stain on your clothes, so use it with care!
All you have to do to remove a permanent marker stain with WD40 is soak the stain in a generous amount of the WD40, let it sit for ten minutes, and then blot with a paper towel.
You will then want to apply laundry detergent to the oily area and wash the garment promptly to avoid getting an oil stain on your clothing.
This one may seem like a stretch to you, but you can use some types of toothpaste on permanent marker stains quite effectively! The key here is that you can only use a non-gel type of toothpaste for this. You can also mix the toothpaste with a teaspoon of baking soda to create a thicker, more effective paste.
- Using about a half teaspoon of toothpaste, gently rub it into the stain with a cotton ball or your fingers.
- Let the paste sit for ten to fifteen minutes.
- Using a clean paper towel, wipe away the paste moving from outside the stain toward its center.
- Rinse away any remaining paste and check to see if the ink remains.
- As always, you will want to wash your clothing using regular detergent as soon as possible.
9. Hydrogen PeroxideHydrogen peroxide works much like bleach to make stains colorless rather than removing them from the fabric. It does a great job on permanent marker stains in particular! Hydrogen peroxide has the chemical ability to break up the molecular bonds between dye particles and solvents and will essentially make the dye colorless as a result.
This is the same process most types of bleach use, though they contain even stronger chemicals.
- First, make sure you place a thick protective pad behind the stain to avoid soaking ink into other areas of your clothing.
- Next, dampen a clean rag with hydrogen peroxide and wipe from the edge of the stain toward its center. Repeat this multiple times until you start to see the color disappearing.
- Allow the peroxide to soak into the fabric for ten to fifteen minutes.
- Rinse the stained area under running water and check if the stain remains.
- If you do not see any ink, go ahead and wash your clothing as you normally would!
10. Oxygenated BleachIn some cases, you can remove permanent marker stains by using oxygenated bleach such as OxyClean. This type of bleach contains a large percentage of hydrogen peroxide and works in much the same way.
Follow the instructions on your bleach bottle to try this method. In most cases, you will mix a solution of water and bleach and allow the garment to soak before washing it in your washing machine.
If you have a completely white garment, you may want to try using chlorine bleach. Remember that this super-strong product can damage some types of fabric, though, so read the care label inside your clothing before trying this!
How Do You Remove Permanent Marker from Colored Clothes?
The trick to removing permanent markers from colored clothes is to get out the ink without damaging the fabric dye in your clothing. Rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or vinegar will usually safely remove the ink without damaging the dye job.
That said, you can always test a cleaning product on your garment before committing to one of these methods. Just turn the piece of clothing inside out and find the finished edge of a seam. Dab a drop of the product onto the seam allowance. Wait fifteen minutes and check for any bleaching or discoloring of the fabric.
If you do not see any damage to your test site, you can safely try using the product as a stain remover.
You do not want to use chlorine bleach on colored clothing! If you decide to use color-safe oxygenated bleach, use it with care. These products are designed for use with colored clothing but can sometimes negatively affect certain types of fabric anyway.
How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains (After Being Washed)
It’s much harder to remove permanent marker stains after washing and drying the garment, but it’s not impossible! The key to getting dried permanent marker stains is finding a really strong version of rubbing alcohol. You will need 91% alcohol for this process.
- Fill a clean bucket or bowl with the extra-strong alcohol. You may want to do this next to an open window!
- Place your garment in the bucket and let it soak. Alternatively, you can just scrunch the stained area into the alcohol if you want to use a smaller bowl or dish filled with alcohol.
- Let the stain soak for ten minutes.
- Take out the wet garment and gently rub a handful of salt into the stain.
- Next, mix one-fourth a cup of milk with one-fourth a cup of rubbing alcohol. Pour this over the stain.
- Scrub the milk, alcohol, and salt-covered stain using a clean rag. Don’t worry about rubbing briskly here! This process takes a little effort.
- Rinse away the stain removers and check to see if any ink remains. If so, just add more salt and pour on more of the milk and alcohol mixture for another scrub.
How to Get Dried Sharpie Out of Clothes?
To get dried permanent marker stains out of clothes, you can often use the rubbing alcohol method described earlier in this article. That said, your success will depend on how long the ink has remained on your clothing. Also, if you have already washed the dried sharpie, you will need to use the process described above in the second on how to get permanent ink out of clothing after washing.
If you have not washed your clothing, but the ink stain has dried, you can use a strong solvent like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or nail polish remover on the stain. Make sure you rinse this product away afterward and then wash your clothing in the washing machine.
It’s true that sharpie stains come out most easily if you catch them immediately, but you can usually still get out a somewhat set stain with a little patience and the right solvent!
How to Remove Permanent Marker From Fabric Sofa
Getting permanent marker stains out of a fabric sofa or other upholstery may seem impossible, but you can do it by applying a multi-step stain removal and rinsing process. You need patience for this method, but it’s worth it to rescue something as expensive as a sofa!
You will need several different cleaning products for this method.
- First, combine two cups of cold water with a tablespoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of blue Dawn dishsoap. You can stir this in a bowl to apply with a rag or shake them up in a spray bottle.
- Apply the solution to the stained upholstery. You want to dampen the stain, but don’t oversoak it.
- Dab at the damp stain with a clean white rag or paper towel.
- You want to let this solution sit for half an hour, but keep dabbing with your clean cloth every few minutes to lift away as much ink as possible.
- “Rinse” out the soap solution by dabbing again with a rag dampened in plain water.
- Soak another clean rag or paper towel in straight rubbing alcohol. This time, make sure you do not smear the rag around. Gently dab directly onto the stain.
- Rinse again with a clean rag in water.
- Check to see if any color remains. If so, you can try using a lightly dampened magic eraser to get any last bit of color off the couch.
You can get permanent marker out of clothes by using several different types of solvents such as rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or nail polish remover. You can also use household products like vinegar, baking soda, or toothpaste as stain removers! Any alcohol-based product such as hand sanitizer or some hairsprays will also work in a pinch.
The best way to treat a Sharpie stain is to catch it while still fresh, but you can remove stubborn dried stains by using stronger rubbing alcohol and salt scrub. You can also get a permanent marker stain out of upholstery by applying a multi-step rinsing and blotting process to the marker stain.
Have you ever gotten a permanent marker stain out of fabric? What method did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!