How to remove permanent marker from surfaces

Permanent marker stains may sound scary, but they don't have to be permanent! These tips will help you remove permanent marker stains form different surfaces.


child's crayon drawing on a wooden floor, without needing to know how to remove permanent marker

Key steps

  1. For plastic and non-porous surfaces such as metal or vinyl, there are several solutions. Wiping the stain with alcohol applied directly to a cloth is particularly effective.
  2. For a permanent marker stain on unfinished wood, it’s best to consult a professional before trying to tackle it. 
  3. Nail polish remover is useful to remove permanent marker stains from walls, but you’ll want to test a small and discreet area first.

You never know when you or your child can get a little over-zealous and accidentally scribble on the table with a permanent marker. Thankfully, permanent marker isn’t always permanent. Using the correct everyday household substance and a little persistence, you have a very good chance of removing that accidental scribble. Here is a guide to removing permanent marker from a variety of surfaces – wood, plastic, leather furniture, and walls.

If you want to remove permanent marker from clothes, this article shows you how!

Alcohol can help remove permanent marker from surfaces, helping to break down the chemicals. Try using rubbing alcohol or hairspray on plastic surfaces to remove permanent marker stains – remember to always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area first.

How to get permanent marker off plastic and other non-porous surfaces

If the permanent marker is on plastic or another non-porous surface like Formica, metal, or vinyl, you’re in luck. This is the easiest kind of surface to remove permanent marker from. There are several solutions that can be used on plastic or non-porous surfaces:

  • Rubbing alcohol — Ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol (often called ‘rubbing alcohol’) is very effective at breaking down the chemicals in permanent inks. Always read the label before using, and test on a small, inconspicuous area first. Apply the alcohol to a clean towel and wipe away at the stain until it disappears.
  • Hand sanitiser — An alcohol-based hand sanitiser or antibacterial soap works in just the same way as rubbing alcohol. Remember to read the label and test it on a small area first before applying to the stain. Simply squirt some onto the stain, and use a clean cloth to rub away at the stain.
  • Toothpaste and baking soda — In a small cup, mix together one part baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and one part white toothpaste (not the gel variety). Test this solution on a small area first, and then apply it to the stain and work away at it.

How to get permanent marker off wood

Is the wood finished or unfinished? If it’s finished or “sealed,” you’ll stand a much better chance of removing the permanent ink stain. You can even try one of the suggestions for non-porous surfaces – just remember to test it on a small area first, and read the directions on the label.


If the wood is unfinished, you will need to proceed with extra caution. Test the cleaning agent first on an inconspicuous area of the surface to be sure it won’t stain. For a permanent marker stain on unfinished wood, it might be best to consult a professional for advice.

How to get permanent marker off walls

Any of the previously suggested solutions could work on walls, with hand sanitiser an especially popular choice. You may also want to consider nail polish remover. As always, test the nail polish remover out first in a discreet spot on the wall. Dampen a clean cloth with nail polish remover and work away at the stain. Just be aware that it can also remove the print or inks on a wallpaper, so avoid using it on any decorated walls.


How to get permanent marker off leather

Too much moisture will damage leather, so find a can of aerosol hairspray and spray it on the stain. With a clean towel, you should be able to rub away at the permanent marker stain. Finish by cleaning off any hairspray residue and treating the surface with a leather conditioner.

With the above guide, you now know how to get permanent marker off a number of different surfaces in your household. Your toddler may still go wild with the art projects, but in case of any accidents, you no longer have to worry about permanent marker staying permanent.

Originally published