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 permanent marker doesn't mean the affected piece of clothing is doomed for the trash heap. In fact, a few common household products are adept at getting rid of pesky ink stains. 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.


Hairspray is a commonly used tool to remove ink and permanent marker from clothing, although some of its effectiveness has waned over the years. The best brands for this purpose are the cheap ones high in alcohol content, which is what actually gets the stain out. Many brands have changed their formulations in recent years to reduce or eliminate alcohol. Also, hairspray generally works best for stains in polyester or poly-blend clothes. To use, 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. If possible, select a hairspray with a pump, rather than an aerosol sprayer. 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 an extremely effective way to remove permanent marker stains, too. 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.


Milk isn't just for cereal and shakes. It's also a handy, easy way to eliminate ink and permanent marker stains from clothing. Simply place the garment in a bowl, fill it with enough milk to cover the stain and allow to soak overnight. Repeat as needed with fresh milk, then launder the stain-free garment as appropriate.

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


Removing Permanent Marker from Couches, Walls or Carpet

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


Once again, rubbing alcohol is an excellent stain-removal choice. 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. Just pour some on a paper towel or wash cloth, then rub the affected area until the ink is gone. If that doesn't work, try nail polish remover, which is great at removing inks that aren't water-soluble.



Be it the couch or a favorite jacket, no one wants permanent marker to mar leather. Treat the area as soon as possible after the offense occurs by dabbing or lightly spraying the stain with distilled white vinegar, aerosol hairspray or even sunscreen. Then blot gently with a clean cloth to remove.


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, 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 greatly faded. Once that's made a serious dent, 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, instead. Just use the product sparingly and try not to scrub too vehemently, or else you'll take some paint right off with it.


Most of us have carpet-specific cleaner lying around, but in a pinch just hit the fridge and pantry to find the fixings for a homemade concoction. Milk mixed with cornstarch produces a very effective stain-removing paste. Simply apply it to the stained portion of the carpet and allow to set for several hours. Once dried, brush away the residue and vacuum any leftover bits.If that doesn't do the trick, try blotting it with a clean white towel and rubbing alcohol.


Originally Published: Apr 8, 2011

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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  • Aguirre, Sarah. "Does Hair Spray Really Remove Ink Stains?" The Spruce. Feb. 15, 2017 (March 26, 2018).
  • Edmonson, Robin. "How To Remove Permanent Marker from a Painted Wall." Den Garden. Oct. 20, 2015 (March 26, 2018).
  • Peterson, Christina. "Does Hairspray Remove Ink? A Cleaning Myth Busted." Good Housekeeping. July 23, 2010 (March 26, 2018).
  • Readers Digest. "How to Remove Ink Stains: 12 Household Solutions." (March 26, 2018).
  • Smith, Lauren. "How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains". Good Housekeeping. Dec. 12, 2017 (March 26, 2018).