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How to Remove Sharpie
From Any Surface

March 17, 2021

Sharpies are perfect for labeling moving boxes, storage containers, and even tags in your kids’ clothes. That’s because permanent marker ink contains dyes or pigments combined with other ingredients like resins and surfactants to create ink that is fade-resistant and extremely adherent.

Unfortunately, that same convenient permanence can become a nightmare when permanent ink gets on something it shouldn’t.

At some point, you’re probably going to need to know how to remove Sharpie. Removing permanent marker and other stains from clothes, furniture, and household surfaces can be a challenge. After all, Sharpies aren’t called permanent markers because their ink is easy to remove—but the permanent part is up for debate! Learning how to remove permanent marker ink is easy when you know what stain remover to use and how to use it.

How to Get Sharpie Out of Clothes

It happens to the best of us: we drop a Sharpie without a cap. That permanent marker can hit your sleeve or fall onto your shorts, leaving a very obvious and scary stain. Remember, when figuring out how to remove Sharpie, cleaning the stain ASAP is key.

Regardless of which proven permanent marker stain remover you choose, always begin by putting a disposable towel or a few paper towels between the stain and the other side of your stained clothing. This safety measure will help prevent the stain from transferring to another area.

When you’re removing a permanent marker stain, dab the area gently with your stain remover and be patient. Don’t rub or scrub; that can force the ink deeper into the fabric’s fibers. Unfortunately, if you get Sharpie on delicate fabrics like satin or silk, it’s best to rely on a professional dry cleaner to get the job done.

Here are six proven stain removers and methods for how to remove permanent marker:

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a terrific household stain remover you can use on everything from leather furniture to granite countertops, and many items with permanent marker stains.

  • Dip a clean sponge in rubbing alcohol and wring it out, so it doesn’t drip.
  • Dab the sponge onto the fabric, working your way from outside the stain inwards to keep the ink from spreading.
  • Frequently change which part of the sponge you’re using, so you don’t just transfer the ink right back into the fabric.
  • Rinse your sponge if it gets too dirty and use fresh rubbing alcohol to continue removing the stain.
  • There’s no need to rinse the fabric; the rubbing alcohol will simply evaporate.

Rubbing alcohol is safe to use on most fabrics, but it’s best to test an inconspicuous area first to be sure.

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Aerosol hairspray made with alcohol can break down permanent marker stains the same way rubbing alcohol does—plus, it comes with its own convenient application tool!

  • Keep the hairspray bottle a few inches from the stain and spray it liberally all over the offending area.
  • You really want to soak the stain, so don’t be shy.
  • Let the hairspray soak into the stain for about five minutes.
  • Use a clean paper towel to dab the stain and absorb the dissolved ink.
  • Repeat the process until you have removed all the permanent marker ink.
  • When you’re done, rinse out the hairspray or throw your clothes in the washer.

Hairspray is a good stain removal option for thicker fabrics found in winter coats, blue jeans, and other heavy clothing.

Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish remover contains acetone, which is a powerful stain remover, and it can quickly break down permanent marker stains on many fabrics.

  • Dip a cotton ball in nail polish remover and squeeze out the excess.
  • Dab the nail polish remover directly onto the stain, switching out clean cotton balls as needed.
  • After you’ve removed the permanent marker stain, rinse the fabric thoroughly to get rid of residue from the acetone.

Because acetone is so strong, it’s best to use this stain removal method on thicker fabrics and skip delicate fabrics like linen and light cotton.

Hand Sanitizer

Find yourself in excess of hand sanitizer amidst the pandemic? Good thing there are many uses for it, one of which, stain remover. In fact, it may be the most readily available stain remover in a Sharpie emergency—and it works great for getting rid of permanent marker in addition to the germs on your hands.

  • Squirt enough hand sanitizer to completely cover the stain.
  • You can gently spread the hand sanitizer over the stain, but no scrubbing.
  • Let your stain cleaner dissolve the permanent marker for about 15 minutes.
  • Dab away the excess sanitizer and dissolved ink.
  • If the stain is still visible, repeat the process until it’s removed.

Even though the alcohol will evaporate, other ingredients in some hand sanitizers can stain clothing. Rinse out the fabric or throw the clothing in the washer to finish up.

Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is a natural cleaner, sanitizer, and stain remover that is safe for most fabrics and surfaces. This eco-friendly solution is perfect for removing permanent ink, especially from synthetic fabrics.

  • Mix one tablespoon of dish soap and one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar with two cups of cold water.
  • Dampen a clean sponge with your stain solution and dab it onto the stain.
  • Let the stain remover sit for a minute and then dab up excess cleaning solution and dissolved ink with a paper towel.
  • Repeat with a clean part of your sponge until it’s completely gone.
  • Press a paper towel onto the stained area to absorb excess cleaner and dissolved ink and rinse thoroughly before washing.

Distilled white vinegar, dish soap, and water are effective for removing permanent ink and many other stains from synthetic fabrics like those found in upholstery and carpets, too.

How to Remove Sharpie From Plastic

The best way to remove permanent marker ink from plastic may be to use a dry erase marker. Mark over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker and then wipe all the marker away with a microfiber cloth. This is an effective stain treatment because the alcohol in the dry erase ink dissolves the permanent ink, and the felt tip acts as a little scrub brush to break it down.

If this method doesn’t work, try some rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth. Rubbing alcohol is an excellent cleaner and stain remover for plastic, but be careful using it on glossy surfaces, as alcohol-based solutions can strip or dull shiny finishes.

How to Get Sharpie Off Wood

There are several ways to get Sharpie off of wood, so always begin with the mildest stain remover. Just be sure to test any solution in an inconspicuous area before using it on wood.

Let’s start with peanut butter. I know, but trust us.

The fat in peanut butter helps dissolve ink, so rub a little onto the stain and let it go to work for five minutes. Dab the area with a damp microfiber cloth to get up the peanut butter and dissolved ink. Repeat as needed. For tougher permanent marker ink stains on wood furniture or hardwood floors, try dabbing the area with rubbing alcohol.

How to Get Sharpie Off Walls

Walls are just begging for one of your kids to use them as a canvas, and when they use a Sharpie to create their latest work, the result can be overwhelming. Because we finish walls with a variety of paints, it’s best to test an out of the way spot first. For most walls, rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or even essential oils can remove permanent marker stains.

Maybe the easiest way to remove Sharpie from walls is to use a Magic Eraser. It seems to work on about everything else, so why not permanent ink? Dampen the eraser and wring it out. Rub the stained area gently and use clean parts of the sponge as needed. You only want to use enough pressure to remove the stain, not your paint! Less elbow grease and more momentum.

How to Get Sharpie Off Glass

Removing Sharpie from glass may be the easiest of all. Because glass isn’t porous and has a durable finish, removing permanent ink from windows, glasses, and dishes is pretty simple. Take your pick from whatever is most handy.

Nail polish remover, dry erase markers, and rubbing alcohol all work well for getting rid of permanent ink on glass. Use the dry erase method outlined for plastic, or use a soaked paper towel with one of the other stain removers to wipe away the ink.

Now that you know how to remove Sharpie from clothes, toys, and walls, why stop there? Check out our professional stain removal guides for carpets, fabrics, and more. Whether it’s by using our popular housekeeping services or following our DIY cleaning advice, The Maids wants you and your family to enjoy a healthier, cleaner home. Find out more about affordable, flexible residential cleaning when you get your free online estimate today.

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