How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Clothes

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
sharpie marker
Despite the name of the product, there are some ways to get permanent marker out of clothes and home furnishings. padnpen/Thinkstock

Just because you or your kid had a slip-up with a permanent marker doesn't mean the affected piece of clothing or household item is doomed for the trash heap. In fact, a few common household products are true superstars at getting rid of pesky ink stains. The main thing to know is, as with most types of stains, time is of the essence! Your odds of total stain elimination skyrocket if the item is treated soon after the offense takes place with one of the following helpful remedies.

Prior to applying any of these cleaning hacks, test the substance on a part of the clothing that's inconspicuous, just in case the fabric is ultra-sensitive. Here are some time-tested ways to remove permanent marker from clothes.



Hairspray is a commonly used tool to remove ink and permanent marker from clothing, although some of its effectiveness has waned over the years. Many brands have changed their formulations to reduce or eliminate alcohol, so read the label before plunking down payment. Any hairspray that's labeled "alcohol-free" is not going to get the job done. The best brands for this purpose are the cheap, aerosol ones high in alcohol content, which is what actually gets the stain out.

Keep in mind, hairspray is not suitable for a permanent marker stain on all surfaces. It generally works best for stains in polyester or poly-blend clothes and most cotton or denim fabrics. It should never be used on leather or wool [source: Groth].

To use hairspray to get permanent marker mishaps out of clothing, follow these simple steps:

  • Place the garment on a flat, hard surface with a clean cloth or towel underneath the stained part of the clothing. This will help to absorb the treatment measures and any ink that comes out.
  • Soak a cotton ball with hairspray, then press it firmly against the stain.
  • Repeatedly blot the stain with the cotton ball as needed. If it works, you should notice the stain transferring from the garment to the cotton ball.
  • Continue as long as is necessary, replacing the cotton ball when it gets dirty. Once the stain is fully removed, wash the garment as indicated on the label.

Rubbing Alcohol

Run-of-the-mill rubbing alcohol is another extremely effective way to remove marker stains. This is because it's an excellent degreaser, able to break down oily stains better than many other cleaners. If you have a handy bottle of 70/30 rubbing alcohol (that is, 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and 30 percent water), it could be just the solvent you're looking for to get rid of tough marker stains [source: Ecolink]. To use:

  • Place the stain face down on top of some paper towels.
  • Dip a cloth or sponge in rubbing alcohol and dab first around the stain, then directly on it. You should see the ink transfer to the paper towel underneath the stain.
  • Change the paper towel often so that the paper can absorb the color.
  • After the stain is removed, wash the clothing as directed in the washing machine.

Hand Sanitizer

The high alcohol content of hand sanitizer makes it an effective ink stain remover, much in the same way that rubbing alcohol and hairspray are. It's likely you have a bottle in your pocket or purse, making it an easy way to spot-clean something. Here's how to use it [source: Prahl]:

  • Apply hand sanitizer (about the size of a dime) to the stain.
  • Rub the gel in, using a circular motion.
  • Blot with a clean towel, then repeat as needed.
  • Rinse the piece with clean water, then launder as the tag specifies.

White Vinegar

This is a gentler method for fabrics (like leather) that can't handle alcohol:

  • Apply white vinegar to a cotton ball or cloth.
  • Dab the stain and wait five minutes.
  • Blot the area, replacing the cloth as needed until all the stain is removed.
  • Launder the garment per the tag's instructions.

Of course, more items are susceptible to permanent markers besides clothes. Keep reading to find out how to get permanent marker out of common household items.


Removing Permanent Marker From Couches, Walls or Carpet

Occasionally, the couch, carpet or even a person's own skin has a run-in with a permanent marker. Fortunately, the situation is totally fixable with materials commonly found around most homes.

How to Get Permanent Marker off Skin

Once again, rubbing alcohol is an excellent stain-removal choice, especially if the affected "material," so to speak, is skin. A staple of bathrooms everywhere, rubbing alcohol can get your skin back to its normal tone quickly and easily with just a little elbow grease. To use rubbing alcohol to clean permanent marker off skin, follow these steps:


  • Pour some rubbing alcohol on a paper towel or washcloth.
  • Then, rub the affected area until the ink is gone.

If that doesn't work, try using nail polish remover, which is great at removing inks that aren't water-soluble.

How to Get Permanent Marker out of Leather

No one wants a permanent marker to mar their leather couch. Such a stain is easily treatable using distilled white vinegar [source: Moore]. However, make sure to treat the area as soon as possible after the offense occurs for best results. To remove the stain:

  • Lightly dab or spray the stain with distilled white vinegar.
  • Gently blot in circular motions with a clean, damp cloth. Replace the cloth when it becomes dirty.
  • Repeat as needed until the stain is a thing of the past.

Another great substance for getting permanent marker out of leather is WD-40, a lubricant that most people use to stop squeaky door hinges and such [source: Groth]. To use:

  • Spray a little bit of WD-40 onto a clean paper towel or cloth. DO NOT spray it onto the leather directly, unless you want to totally overdo it.
  • Blot the stain in a circular motion. Change out the towel/cloth as needed to make sure it's clean.
  • Repeat as needed until the stain is fully removed.

How to Get Permanent Marker off Walls

Sometimes a wall just too greatly resembles an art easel, so parents wind up with a "masterpiece" on a surface where such artwork wasn't intended. If disaster so strikes, a little rubbing alcohol is usually all it takes to reverse the damage. Here's how to get things back to normal:

  • Pour some rubbing alcohol on a washcloth (test it on a part of the wall that isn't conspicuous first to make sure it doesn't further damage the paint).
  • Then, gently scrub the stain with the washcloth until it is mostly faded.
  • Once it's almost gone, dip the abrasive side of a sponge in water and continue scrubbing until all of the color is removed.

If you're out of rubbing alcohol, you could try hand sanitizer gel, nail polish remover or hairspray. Just use the product sparingly and try not to scrub too vehemently, or else you'll take some paint right off with the ink.

Another option: Use a dry erase marker to get rid of the stain! Triple-check that it's indeed a "dry erase" marker (the kind that teachers use on whiteboards) before proceeding, though. This works because dry erase markers actually contain stain-removing rubbing alcohol [source: Massimilian]. To use:

  • Draw on top of the permanent marker stain using the dry erase marker.
  • Wipe away with a clean paper towel or cloth.

That one almost seems too easy, right? Yet people swear by this odd cleaning technique.

Yet another option involves two popular home cleaning products — a window cleaner and one of those "magic eraser" sponges. Here's how to use these tools to get marker off painted walls:

  • Liberally spray the affected area with the window cleaner.
  • Using the magic eraser, scrub the stain. Rotate and rinse the sponge as needed to make sure it's clean [source: Groth].
  • Repeat as needed until the stain is completely gone.

How to Remove Permanent Marker From Carpet

Most of us have carpet-specific cleaners lying around, but in a pinch, household items will do the trick nicely. This method involves hairspray (not oil-based) or rubbing alcohol [source: Molly Maid].

  • Apply either rubbing alcohol or the hairspray to the stained area.
  • Blot the stain using a clean cloth or towel. Repeat as needed.

Once the stain is all gone, use a towel dipped in clean water to get rid of any remaining stain-removing substances.

How to Remove Sharpie From Plastic

Many of the same cleaning tools are also helpful at removing Sharpie stains from plastic. This method involves a dry erase marker, hydrogen peroxide and some rubbing alcohol [source: Massimilian].

  • First, color over the permanent marker stain using the dry erase marker. Allow it to soak in for a couple of minutes.
  • Next, use a microfiber towel or other cloth to wipe the marker away.
  • Repeat as needed until all the Sharpie marker stains have been removed.
  • If any stubborn bits remain, soak a cotton ball or pad in some rubbing alcohol.
  • Rub the remaining stain until it's gone.
  • If even that didn't totally do the trick, apply some hydrogen peroxide to a clean cotton pad or cloth, then gently rub the area.

Whichever method you choose to clean any of these permanent marker stains, remember to tackle it quickly, but carefully. You don't want to make the damage any worse than it is by applying the wrong type of cleaning method for the material.


Remove Permanent Marker FAQ

How do you get dried permanent marker stains out of clothes?
One of the most effective ways to get dried permanent marker stains out of clothes is by using rubbing alcohol. Place the stained area on a paper towel, dip a cloth or sponge in rubbing alcohol and gently apply it to the stain. Dab around the stain first, then directly on it. Change the paper towel as needed. Once the paper towel has absorbed the ink, you can wash the garment as directed.
Which household products can you use to remove permanent marker stains?
There are several household products you can use to remove permanent marker stains. These include hairspray, rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, vinegar and even milk.
How do you remove permanent marker ink from your skin?
The fastest way for removing permanent marker ink from your skin is by using rubbing alcohol. Apply it on your skin using a cotton ball, hold it for a few seconds and then rub the stain until the ink is gone.
How do you get permanent marker stains off walls?
If you don't have rubbing alcohol or a melamine foam (magic eraser), you can try hairspray, nail polish remover or hand sanitizer. However, whichever product you use, make sure you don't scrub too aggressively as it may take some of the paint off as wall.
Does vinegar remove permanent marker stains?
Vinegar isn't the go-to choice for removing permanent marker stains. However, it works quite well on leather jackets and couches!

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