How To Remove Permanent Marker From Clothes

    They call permanent markers permanent for a reason. The ink is designed to stay put on a variety of surfaces, including everything from plastic to wood to fabric. It can be a real pain to get rid of, but if you don’t want to throw out clothes with permanent marker on them, it’s important to know what to do to erase permanent marker stains and make your clothes look like new. Whether you’re a mom whose kids like to draw on their clothes, a professional cleaner, or someone who’s looking for pro assistance with house cleaning, our Pros can help you learn the process.

    What Are the Differences Between Permanent Markers and Washable Markers?

    There are a few elements that all markers, whether they’re permanent or not, have in common. They’re all constructed in a similar way.

    The main components of a marker are:

    • An external casing
    • A hollow plastic tube inside the casing
    • A porous stick of spongy material that’s saturated with ink

    Part of the spongy stick protrudes from the end of the external casing. That’s the tip of the marker. The biggest difference between permanent and washable markers is the composition of the ink. 

    How To Remove Permanent Marker From Clothes

    What Makes Permanent Marker Difficult to Remove?

    What sets a permanent marker apart from its impermanent relatives is the ink. The ink in a permanent marker consists of three components.


    The colorant in a marker may be either a pigment or a dye. Most permanent markers use pigments, which aren’t soluble in water. Professional cleaners know that a lack of water solubility means you can’t get a stain out by throwing clothing in the washing machine.

    By contrast, washable markers usually contain water-soluble dyes that wash out easily.


    A solvent is a substance into which other substances can dissolve. Water is sometimes referred to as the “universal solvent” because it can dissolve almost anything.

    The solvents used in permanent markers are alcohol-based. The reason for using alcohol is that it evaporates quickly when exposed to air.

    To understand why that matters, it may be helpful to think of something that’s not worth crying over: spilled milk. When you spill milk, it’s easy to clean because it stays in a liquid form, meaning you can sop it up with a paper towel or a rag.

    The alcohol used in permanent markers evaporates almost as soon as you write with the marker. Once it’s dry, it can’t be removed with water.


    Resin is a form of glue. As the necessary third component of a marker’s permanence, resin is also dissolved by alcohol. It provides the “stickiness” needed to make the pigment in a permanent marker stick to any surface where it’s applied.

    Once the solvent dries, the resin holds the pigment in place – and that’s why permanent marker stains can seem impossible to remove.

      Can You Remove Permanent Markers from All Types of Fabric?

      If you have clothing that’s got permanent marker stains on it, you might be wondering if you can remove permanent marker from all types of fabric. 

      The answer isn’t a simple one because different fabrics react in a variety of ways to the application of permanent marker ink. In theory, at least, it is possible to get rid of permanent marker stains on any type of fabric.

      There are some special considerations for things like leather, but as a rule, the same cleaning products and techniques may be used on any fabric.

      How To Remove Permanent Marker From Clothes

      What Cleaning Products and Supplies Do You Need to Get Rid of Permanent Marker Stains on Clothes?

      There’s more than one way to remove permanent marker from fabric. Here’s an overview of some of the cleaning products and basic supplies you might need.

      Cleaning Products
      Rubbing alcohol
      Clean towel
      Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
      Paper towel
      Color-safe bleach
      Cotton balls
      Baking soda
      White vinegar
      Washing machine
      Lemon juice
      Hairspray (must contain alcohol)
      Laundry detergent

      For many types of fabric, hand sanitizer is the best option. Here’s an overview of what the cleaning products we’ve listed do to help you remove permanent marker from clothes.

      • Rubbing alcohol acts as a solvent to liquefy the pigments and resin in permanent ink.
      • Hand sanitizer is an alternative to rubbing alcohol.
      • Color-safe bleach may be used to lift tough stains that don’t come out with alcohol.
      • Baking soda is an alternative that may be ideal for specialty fabrics such as leather.
      • Lemon juice and vinegar work with baking soda to remove stains.
      • Hairspray with alcohol may be a convenient solvent for some.
      • Laundry detergent removes the last of the stain after you’ve pre-treated it.

      In terms of cleaning supplies, here’s what the items we’ve listed do.

      • Paper towels or a clean cloth towel are necessary to absorb ink once it’s been dissolved with alcohol.
      • Cotton balls may be used to dab alcohol onto a stain.
      • A toothbrush’s gentle bristles are ideal for applying baking soda and lemon juice.
      • Your washing machine rinses the remaining ink and solvent out of your clothing.

      Cleaning products and other supplies work together to help you dissolve permanent ink and remove it from your clothing for good.

      How to Remove Permanent Marker from Colored Clothes

      Here are some simple steps to follow if you have permanent marker stains on colored clothing.

      Step 1: Place the clothing on top of some clean paper towel with the stained side down. You want the ink to be right on top of the paper towel, which will absorb it once you apply the right cleaning product.

      Step 2: Start with either rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. If you use rubbing alcohol, use a cotton ball to dab alcohol around the stain, then on it. If you use hand sanitizer, take a dime-sized dollop and apply it to the stain.

      Step 3: With rubbing alcohol, you should see the ink transfer from the clothing to the dry paper towel underneath it. Swap out the paper towel and reapply alcohol as needed until the stain is lightened or gone. With hand sanitizer, use your finger or a soft brush to massage the hand sanitizer into the fabric.

      Step 4: Blot with a clean towel, then repeat application of alcohol or hand sanitizer as needed. You may need to rinse the fabric with water to assess your progress.

      Step 5: Treat with color-safe bleach after blotting away as much ink as possible. Allow the bleach to sink into the fabric for several minutes.

      Step 6: Put the clothing in the laundry and wash per the instructions on the tag.

      These steps should get rid of most permanent marker stains on clothing. It’s important to treat the stains as soon as possible.

      Watch this tutorial to see an alternative method using baking soda, lemon juice, and a toothbrush!

      How to Remove Permanent Marker from Leather Clothes

      What happens if you get permanent ink on leather clothing? Don’t panic, and follow these steps.

      Step 1: Lay the stained leather out with the stain facing up.

      Step 2: Saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol or white vinegar and dab it on a hidden area of the garment to make sure it doesn’t discolor the leather.

      Step 3: Take a new cotton ball soaked in alcohol or vinegar and gently rub it in circles over the stain.

      Step 4: Replace the cotton ball as ink is removed.

      Step 5: Repeat as often as needed until the ink has been completely removed.

      Step 6: Allow the leather to air dry.

      The process we’ve outlined here will also remove permanent ink from leather shoes and leather furniture.

      How To Remove Permanent Marker From Clothes

      How to Wash Permanent Marker from Clothing by Hand

      Not all clothing can be thrown into the washing machine. Here’s the process to use if you get permanent ink on delicate fabrics such as silk and linen.

      Step 1: Treat the stain using one of the methods we’ve already mentioned, using rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.

      Step 2: If you’re using alcohol, use cotton balls to avoid ripping delicate fabrics.

      Step 3: If you’re using hand sanitizer, gently massage the hand sanitizer into the stain using your finger.

      Step 4: Blot ink as it lifts off the fabric and repeat as needed.

      Step 5: Rinse fabric.

      Step 6: Follow your usual hand-washing process using a gentle detergent.

      After washing, follow the instructions on the tag and either hang clothes or lay them on a flat surface to dry.

      How To Remove Permanent Marker From Clothes

      FAQs About Removing Permanent Marker Stains from Clothing

      Here are some questions people ask about how to get rid of permanent marker stains: 

      Is it safe to use alcohol to remove permanent ink from clothing?
      Yes, in most cases. You should always test on a hidden area of your clothing before using anything to remove a stain.
      Can permanent marker be washed out of clothes?
      Yes, in most cases. Some fabrics may be more difficult to clean than others.
      Will vinegar help remove Sharpie from clothes?
      White vinegar may be an effective substitute for rubbing alcohol because its acidic nature makes it act as a solvent.
      Do I need to treat marker stains right away?
      It’s always best to treat permanent marker stains immediately to improve your chances of completely removing the ink.
      Is it safe to dry clean clothes with permanent marker on them?
      In most cases, yes. Dry cleaning uses chemical solvents to clean clothing. Make sure to point any stains out to your dry cleaner.

      Banish Permanent Marker Stains with Help from the Pros

      After reading our guide, you now know precisely what to do to send permanent marker stains packing and make your clothes look just like new. With the basic cleaning products and simple procedures here, you’ll never sweat permanent marker stains again!