How to Get Permanent Marker Stains Off Any Surface

Published
March 6, 2020

If you have children who are particularly fond of drawing, or if you work frequently with whiteboards and picked up the wrong marker during a particularly groggy morning, then chances are you've experienced the horror of a permanent marker stain. Whether it's on the walls, on a whiteboard, or on an item of clothing, marker stains stick out like a sore thumb and are notorious for being difficult to remove. After all, you'd think with the word "permanent" in its name, permanent marker would be impossible to take off, right? Well guess again! 

Any marker stain can be eliminated if a) treated quickly and b) treated with the right solutions. Here's how to remove permanent marker stain off common household items:

How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains Off…

1. Fabric

Fabric is the easiest item to get permanent marker off of, if you catch it quickly. You can use a whole bunch of household solvents, such as:

  • Rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer
  • White vinegar
  • Nail polish remover
  • Aerosol hairspray
  • Toothpaste
  • WD-40

Once you've picked your weapon of choice, put an old towel or a paper towel on the underside cloth, as this will help prevent the stain from spreading all the way through the fabric. Do this before dabbing (not rubbing!) gently at the stain with your chosen solvent. If you're working with upholstery, just get straight to the dabbing. Add more stain remover until the stain disappears.

If you're working with clothes, make sure you don't toss the item into the dryer before removing the stain completely! The heat will only make the stain set into the fabric permanently. Also, if you're working with more delicate fabrics, such as tulle, satin, or silk, it's best to just leave it to a professional. Bring it to a dry cleaners and make sure to point out the stain for removal.

On the other hand, if you're working with microfiber upholstery, use only alcohol and a damp sponge so you don't damage the microfiber. Once the material is dry, use a brush to fluff up the fibers again. If the stain persists, you can use hydrogen peroxide or nail polish remover in small amounts.

2. Wood Furniture & Wood Floors

Before you try any of the solutions we'll mention below, make sure to spot test a small part of the wood furniture or floor to make sure that your solvent of choice doesn't damage the stain, varnish, or seal from the wood. 

  • For removing permanent marker, you can use:
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Toothpaste mixed with baking soda 
  • Peanut Butter

Simply blot the treatment of choice onto the stain until covered. Let it sit on the stain for a few minutes before dabbing off with a wet washcloth. Repeat this process until you remove the stain completely.

3. Carpet

Once again, rubbing alcohol is the top choice for permanent marker removal here. All you have to do is blot the stain with a washcloth soaked in alcohol. Be careful to dab and not rub, as rubbing at the stain will just make the stain set into the carpet fibers. If the alcohol isn't strong enough to get the stain out completely, you can try going at it with nail polish remover instead.

4. Walls

Walls fall victim to permanent marker stains more than any other place in the house, usually because of children. If you don't want your walls looking like it's hosting prehistoric cave wall art, you'll want to act on those stains as soon as possible. You can use:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Aerosol hairspray
  • Toothpaste mixed with baking soda 
  • Magic Eraser

If using rubbing alcohol, wet a damp cloth and dab at the stains until completely removed. Toothpaste can be smeared over the stains and left to sit for a few minutes before being wiped off. For Aerosol hairspray—just spray it onto the stains! Make sure to wipe it off before the hairspray dries on the walls. 

When getting permanent marker off walls, just remember not to rub too vigorously. You could end up removing the paint from the wall, especially if you're using a Magic Eraser or any other abrasive cleaning agent.

5. White Board

The oldest mishap in the book: writing on a whiteboard with a Sharpie instead of a dry erase marker. Possibly no one in the world has lived through life without making this mistake. Luckily, since it's an easy mistake to make, it's also an easy mistake to fix! Just draw over the permanent marker with the dry erase marker, then wipe the whiteboard clean with a damp cloth. 

6. Glass and Screens

Get permanent marker off of windows or glassware items easy-peasy! Just pick one of the following:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Nail polish remover
  • White vinegar
  • WD-40
  • Toothpaste mixed with baking soda 

Wipe the stains off the glass by placing your stain remover of choice onto a paper towel before gently wiping at the stain. If you're using these mixtures on drinking glasses or other dining ware, make sure to wash the dishes thoroughly, otherwise you might poison your food! No one wants to taste nail polish remover in their food during dinner. 

If you're trying to get a permanent marker off a laptop, tablet, or phone screen, then the process is a bit more delicate. Do NOT use liquids such as alcohol or nail polish remover on screens, as the liquids might seep into the device and destroy it. You'll want to use baby wipes first to try to carefully lift the stain off the screen. If that doesn't work, you can try toothpaste. Dab the toothpaste onto the screen and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping off with a clean, dry cloth. Repeat until the stain is completely gone. 

7. Skin

Have you or your kid ever drawn black marker "tattoos” on your skin? While it might look cool for a while, not all parents are thrilled with the thought of permanent marker on their child's body. Luckily, to get permanent marker off skin is relatively easy. Most of the time you don't even need to use anything to remove permanent marker, you just have to wait a couple of showers until it fades away.

However, if you want to remove the marker immediately, rubbing alcohol is again the first choice. A staple in every household, just rub the alcohol onto the skin until the permanent marker fades away. In a pinch, hand sanitizer works too.

If none of those work due to a particularly sturdy marker, you can use polish remover, as it's great for removing non-water-soluble inks. Lotion, shaving cream, and sunscreen are other popular options to remove permanent marker, too.

8. Metal

If you've somehow gotten permanent marker on your stainless steel appliances, such as your microwave or your fridge, then all you need is—you've guessed it—rubbing alcohol. Just soak a paper towel or an old cloth in the alcohol and dab, dab, dab. The permanent marker stains should wipe right off! If the tried-and-tested alcohol method doesn't work, then toothpaste should do the trick on permanent marker in a jiffy. 

9. Tile

Tile can be cleaned with either toothpaste or aerosol hairspray. It should be really easy to remove permanent markers on smooth tiles—the marker should slide right off! However, if you're working with textured tile, then you'll need to put a little more elbow grease into the process to remove it. Use an old toothbrush or a cotton swab to get into the small spaces. Thankfully, tile isn't as delicate as fabric or upholstery, so you can rub all you want when it comes to tile. 

10. Plastic

If you have small children, or small children particularly fond of drawing, chances are they've gotten Sharpie all over their toys and plastic bins in their room. But whether it's on toys, plastic bins, plastic furniture, or the like, you can remove permanent marker from plastic using the following:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White vinegar
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Sunscreen

Simply douse a paper towel, clean cloth, or even an old toothbrush with any of these solvents (except the sunscreen—you can place that directly on the stain) and wipe until the stain is completely removed. 

Sometimes, you don't even need these liquids to get the permanent marker off! If you have a rubber pencil eraser lying around, you can try rubbing the stain off instead. In some cases, the friction from the rubber eraser on the plastic will remove permanent marker.

Conclusion

Be it on your furniture, on your children's toys, or on your clothes, no one wants permanent marker to mar personal items. As with any stain, don't forget to act quickly! Time is of the essence when it comes to removing permanent marker, as the chances of it being removed completely skyrocket the earlier you treat it.

If a stain from a permanent marker has already been set into your clothes or furniture, then you'll most likely need a professional cleaner to help you remove permanent stains. If that's the case, then give us a call at HomeFresh. We have a team of expertly trained professional cleaners on call to help you with any of your housekeeping needs. Book us now!

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