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How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Clothes? (Complete Guide)

How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Clothes

We’ve all been there – you’re labeling clothes for a garage sale, writing a name on a shirt tag, or letting the kids get creative and the next thing you know, there’s permanent marker staining your clothes! While it can seem impossible to remove, there are actually several easy methods you can try at home to get permanent marker out of clothes and fabric.

In this complete guide, we’ll cover the most effective home remedies, techniques, and products to remove permanent marker from any type of fabric. With a little bit of effort, you can erase those marker stains and save your clothing items.

Home Remedies to Remove Permanent Marker

Home Remedies to Remove Permanent Marker

Before you toss your stained clothes in the trash, try these surprisingly simple homemade permanent marker removal tricks:

Rubbing Alcohol

One of the most effective and easiest solutions is rubbing alcohol. Simply soak a cotton ball or cloth with some rubbing alcohol and dab it onto the stained area. Let it sit for a minute or two, then scrub gently to remove the marker. The alcohol will dissolve the ink and lift it from the fabric.


Another common product found in homes, hairspray can work wonders at getting marker out! Spray some directly onto the stain and let it sit for 30-60 seconds. Then take an old toothbrush and gently scrub the spot to remove the marker. The alcohol in hairspray breaks down the ink molecules.

Hand Sanitizer

The high alcohol content in hand sanitizer makes it ideal for destroying permanent marker stains. Apply a generous amount over the stain and rub it in. Let it sit for a minute or two, then wipe away with a damp cloth. The ink should lift off.

Baking Soda

For a non-toxic and natural option, baking soda is surprisingly effective. Make a paste by mixing 2 tablespoons of baking soda with just enough water to form a thick paste. Spread this over the stain and let it sit for an hour. Scrub with an old toothbrush, then rinse with warm water.

White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is another go-to natural cleaner that can remove permanent marker stains. Dip a cloth in undiluted white vinegar and blot the stain until the ink transfers to the cloth. For extra-stubborn stains, rub gently with a soft brush.

Lemon Juice

Fresh lemon juice is an excellent stain remover for permanent marker because the natural citric acid will break down the ink. Simply apply some directly onto the stained spot and let it sit for 10 minutes. Scrub gently with a brush, then rinse with warm water. The stains should disappear!

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Believe it or not, plain white toothpaste (not gel) can also help erase permanent marker stains due to its cleaning agents. Rub some directly on the stain with a cotton swab or old toothbrush. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then gently scrub the area and rinse off. Repeat as needed for tough stains.

Nail Polish Remover

Since nail polish remover is designed to break down tough, coloring staining like nail polish, it makes sense that it can also tackle permanent marker stains. Use a cotton ball to blot pure acetone-based nail polish remover directly on the stain until it lifts. Reapply as needed and wash normally.

Hydrogen Peroxide

The mild bleaching power of hydrogen peroxide can also help lift permanent marker stains. Simply apply it directly to the stain and let it bubble for a minute or two. Scrub lightly with a soft brush, then rinse with cold water. Don’t leave it on for too long, as it may bleach the fabric.

Specialized Products to Remove Permanent Marker

In addition to items already in your home, there are some commercial cleaners made specifically for permanent marker stains:

  • Hairspray: As mentioned, hairspray is highly effective for permanent marker stains. Specialized hairspray stain removers such as Shout or Afta can work even better.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Drugstores sell higher concentrations of rubbing alcohol, which can tackle those stubbornpermanent marker stains.
  • Stain removal wipes: Convenient stain removal wipes like Shout Wipes or Tide to Go Pens are infused with ink-fighting ingredients perfect for marker stains on the go.
  • WD-40: While not designed as a stain remover, the solvents in WD-40 actually do a great job erasing permanent marker. Spray it on and let it sit, then scrub with a toothbrush.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: These melamine foam cleaning pads lift stains through abrasion. Dab some water onto a Magic Eraser, then gently rub the stain. Rinse when finished.
  • Hair dye remover wipes: Wipes designed to remove hair dye stains also work great to erase permanent marker. The color-removing agents break down stubborn ink stains.
  • Dry erase marker: Believe it or not, you can use a dry erase marker over permanent marker stains to help lift the ink! Color over the stain with a dry erase marker, wipe off, then wash as usual. The solvent in dry erase markers helps dissolve permanent marker.

How to Remove Permanent Marker from Specific Fabrics/Materials

Removing permanent marker stains isn’t just a one-size-fits-all solution. The fabric or material stained will determine the best removal method. Here are tips for common materials:


Most T-shirts and types of clothing are made from cotton fabric. For cotton, start by blotting as much marker as possible with a clean cloth. Then apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol or hairspray directly onto the stain. Let it sit briefly, then scrub with an old toothbrush. Launder as usual.


On polyester fabric, rubbing alcohol is the most effective method. Dip a clean rag in alcohol and blot the stain repeatedly until it lifts. For tough stains, apply hairspray and scrub gently with a brush. Wash normally. Avoid excessive rubbing, as it may damage the polyester.

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For cotton/polyester blends, try hairspray or rubbing alcohol first. If needed, make a baking soda paste and let it sit on the tougher stains for up to an hour before scrubbing and washing. Test hairspray or alcohol on an inconspicuous spot first to make sure it doesn’t damage the fabric.


Go easy when trying to remove marker from silk, satin, wool, or other delicates. Opt for gentle liquids like lemon juice or diluted vinegar using a soft cloth to dab – don’t vigorously scrub. If needed, very lightly brush stained area with soft toothbrush. Rinse extremely well.


Marker stains on leather can be tricky. Use a small amount of non-acetone nail polish remover on a cotton ball. Gently roll it over the stain – don’t rub. This helps lift the ink without damaging the leather. Condition treated area when finished.


For permanent marker on upholstery like couches or chairs, use a small amount of rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or nail polish remover (non-acetone) applied with a cloth. Blot repeatedly to lift the stain, then rinse with water. Test on inconspicuous area first.


Tackle carpet stains by spraying hairspray or rubbing alcohol directly onto stain. Let sit 2-3 minutes. Blot stain with clean cloth until transfer stops. Mix 3 parts water with 1 part white vinegar and spray onto area. Blot again with towel.


On painted walls, wipe with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser lightly dampened with water. Don’t over-scrub. The melamine foam will lift the stain. You can also try toothpaste or baking soda paste. Use a damp cloth to remove and rinse. Repaint if needed.


For plastic surfaces, use rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, or hairspray depending on the type of plastic. Check to make sure the product won’t damage the surface. Gently scrub with soft cloth or toothbrush. Avoid rough scrubbing or heat, which can damage plastic.


Remove permanent marker from glass by using nail polish remover, alcohol, or acetone-based glass cleaner applied to a soft cloth. Wipe stain until it disappears. Avoid abrasive scrubbing. Another option is to use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with water.

Tips for Preventing Permanent Marker Stains

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep these tips in mind to avoid permanent marker stains in commonly used items:

  • Cover surfaces like tables or desks with a washable tablecloth or plastic mat when using permanent markers for art projects.
  • Store permanent markers out of reach of young children to avoid accidental stains on walls, furniture, clothing, etc.
  • Attach nametags to clothing using safety pins or iron-on vinyl labels rather than writing directly on fabric with permanent markers.
  • Test permanent markers on an inconspicuous area before using them to label or decorate clothing, linen, or other fabric items.
  • Opt for dry erase markers on whiteboards instead of permanent markers which can “ghost” or stain if not fully removed.
  • Use painter’s tape when labeling boxes for moving to avoid marker bleeding through cardboard.
  • Laminate labels or signs made with permanent marker so the ink is sealed between layers of plastic.
  • Ask family members to be careful when using permanent markers for hobbies, crafts, etc. to avoid accidental stains.
  • Wipe down any surfaces where permanent markers were used to avoid ink residue that could transfer or stain later.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FQA)

Still have some questions about removing permanent marker from fabric? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:

1. Does hairspray really remove permanent marker?

Yes, hairspray is surprisingly effective at removing permanent marker stains from clothing and other fabrics. The alcohol in most hairspray formulas helps break down and dissolve the ink so it can be lifted or scrubbed away. Just be sure to test it first on an inconspicuous spot.

2. Can you remove permanent marker from dry erase boards?

While it can be challenging to remove, it is possible to get permanent marker stains off of dry erase boards. Try wiping with dry erase marker fluid or alcohol-based glass cleaners. You can also try scrubbing lightly with baking soda paste or nail polish remover. Just be careful not to damage the dry erase surface.

3. Will rubbing alcohol take permanent marker out of clothes?

Rubbing alcohol is one of the best and most effective solutions for permanent marker on fabric and clothing. The alcohol dissolves the ink bonds and allows the stain to be lifted. Be sure to test it first on an inconspicuous area as alcohol could damage some delicate fabrics. But it works great for cotton, polyester, and other common clothing materials.

4. What removes old, set-in permanent marker stains?

For older, set-in permanent marker stains, try nail polish remover, alcohol-based hairspray, or rubbing alcohol. These solvents can penetrate and lift even dried permanent marker stains. Scrubbing gently with an old toothbrush also helps work the stain free. Just don’t give up – you can get that old stain out!

5. Will bleach remove permanent marker from clothes?

Bleach is not recommended for removing permanent marker stains because it can damage or discolor the fabric being treated. A bleach-based product is very harsh, so it’s best to try safer options first. If using as a last resort, dilute the bleach heavily with water to avoid ruining the clothing item.


As you can see, removing permanent marker stains is very doable with ingredients like alcohol, hairspray, toothpaste and more. While it may take a little time and elbow grease, you can successfully erase those marks using the techniques outlined above. Just be sure to work gently to avoid damaging delicate fabrics. With some persistence, your clothing can be rescued and saved from those permanent marker mishaps.

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