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How to remove permanent marker from any surface

Learn how to remove permanent marker from any surface like a pro with our top tips and tricks.

Updated

Knowing how to remove permanent marker can come in incredibly handy – especially if you have small children in the house. Most parents have been there – a marker has fallen into the hands of a child and disaster ensues. But just because that marker is ‘permanent’ doesn’t mean you have to have a permanent reminder of the incident.

We’ve pulled together a whole host of ideas for removing permanent marker from any surface, from wood and plastics to fabrics and furniture.

What removes permanent marker?

The name ‘permanent marker’ immediately makes you think there’s not going to be anything that’ll remove it. But don’t be fooled, there are actually lots of different ways to get rid of those ‘permanent’ marks, from using toothpaste to applying WD-40.

What you use to get rid of permanent marker entirely depends on the surface that’s come to grief. So read on to find out what you can use to treat a whole variety of different surfaces.

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How to remove permanent marker from wood

How do you know that the surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom have been disinfected?

If your wooden furniture or floors have had a permanent marker mishap, the first thing you need to check is whether the wood is finished or unfinished (in other words, does it have paint, stain or varnish on it to seal the wood).

Close up of hand cleaning permanent marker from a wooden surface

If the wood is unfinished – with no seal on it – then you’ll need to be extra careful. In fact, it might be best to consult a professional for advice. If you do try one of the methods below, make sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first.

For finished wood, one of these methods should have you saying goodbye to that marker pen for good:

1. Rubbing alcohol

Ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol (often called ‘rubbing alcohol’) is very effective at breaking down the chemicals in permanent inks. You could even use a bottle of drinking spirit if it contains more than 40 per cent alcohol. Simply blot the alcohol onto the stain using a clean cloth and let it sit for a few minutes. Then dab with a damp cloth to remove the alcohol and the stain. Continue this process until the stain is gone.

2. Toothpaste mixed with bicarbonate of soda

In a small cup, mix together one part bicarbonate of soda and one part white toothpaste (not the gel variety). Test this solution on a small area first, and then apply it directly to the marker stain and let it sit for a moment or two. Grab a clean, slightly dampened cloth and use this to rub the mixture into the stain using circular motions. It might take a bit of work, but the stain should come off.

3. Peanut butter

This might seem a little unusual, but peanut butter is surprisingly good at removing marker and ink stains. Simply apply peanut butter to the stain, and use a soft-bristled brush to scrub at the spot until the stain lifts away. Wipe away the peanut butter, and rinse the area with water using a clean cloth.

How to get permanent marker off plastic: 8 handy hacks

Cleaning permanent marker from a bin using a cloth

From bins to children’s toys, we all have plenty of plastic that could fall foul of a rogue marker pen. And of course, sometimes you might want to mark up tupperware or other plastic containers with their contents.

But what should you do when you want to get rid of those marks? You’ve got a few options:

  1. Rubbing alcohol, toothpaste or peanut butter Handily enough, all the methods outlined above for ridding wood of permanent marker stains can also be used on plastic.

  2. Hand sanitiser An alcohol-based hand sanitiser works in just the same way as rubbing alcohol. Remember to read the label and test it on a small area first before applying it to the stain. Simply squirt some onto the affected area and use a clean cloth to rub away at the stain.

  3. Magic eraser A magic eraser is a special cleaning pad designed to remove stains from a wide variety of surfaces. Check the packet, as it’ll likely tell you which surfaces are safe to use it on. All you need to do is wet the magic eraser slightly, then use it to scrub the permanent marker stain from the surface.

  4. WD-40 This couldn’t be simpler. Just spray some WD-40 onto the stain and then scrub it with a clean cloth.

  5. Dry-erase marker It may feel somewhat counterintuitive to apply more marker pen to a pen stain, but bear with us. A dry-erase marker can be used to remove stains from many surfaces (unsurprisingly, it works particularly well on whiteboards). This is because dry erase markers contain a non-polar solvent. Simply draw over the previous marker stain with the dry erase marker, then wipe off with a damp cloth.

  6. Pencil eraser On certain plastics, you can remove a marker stain by simply rubbing it with a pencil eraser. Definitely worth a try.

  7. Suncream Suncream is another effective tool for removing stains from non-porous surfaces like plastic. Simply spray or squirt a little suncream on and use a clean cloth to work it into the stain. Then wipe it away.

  8. Nail polish remover Nail polish remover that contains acetone is also an effective way to remove permanent marker stains. Just dampen a clean cloth with a little of the nail polish remover and use it to scrub the permanent marker stain clean.

Removing permanent marker from upholstery

How you remove marker stains from upholstery will depend on the type of fabric you’re dealing with. Here are some suggestions for the two most common ones:

Fabric upholstery

If your upholstery is silk, velvet or another delicate fabric, it’s advisable to call in the experts. But for other fabric upholstery on sofas, cushions, bedsteads, and so on, nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol are your best bets.

Apply a little of the alcohol or polish remover to a clean, dry cloth and use it to dab at the stain. Whatever you do, don’t rub, as this could spread the stain or drive it further into the fabric.

You may need to apply the cleaning agent to a new section of the cloth and keep dabbing before the stain comes away. But don't let the fabric become soaked in the cleaning agent, as this could stain. Once the stain has been removed, pat up any excess moisture in the fabric using a clean, dry towel.

Leather upholstery

Too much moisture will damage leather, so find a can of aerosol hairspray. Spray it onto a clean cloth and use this to scrub the marker stain. You may need to use more hairspray or switch to a cleaner section of the cloth before the stain is fully removed.

Once the stain has disappeared, clean off any hairspray residue with a clean, damp cloth and work a little leather conditioner into the furniture.

Take a look at our comprehensive guide to removing any type of ink stain from leather for more hints and tips.

How to remove permanent marker from carpets

Rubbing alcohol or hairspray are the best choices for removing marker stains from carpet.

  • To use rubbing alcohol, simply pour a little onto a clean cloth, then dab the cloth onto the carpet stain. Remember to only dab and never rub the stain or you'll spread it further into the carpet fibres. Keep dabbing until the stain lifts off.

  • To use hairspray, just spray a little onto the stain and use a clean towel to dab away. You may need to repeat this process a few times.

Once the stain has been removed (using either of these methods) dampen the carpet with a little water then use a clean cloth or paper towels to blot dry. For more ideas, take a look at our article on getting any type of ink out of carpets.

How to get permanent marker off clothes

Clothes often fall victim to permanent marker mishaps. For the best advice on how to treat the stains, take a look at the permanent marker section in our article on getting ink stains out of clothes.

Getting rid of permanent marker from walls and other solid surfaces

Hand cleaning permanent marker from a wall with a cloth

Every surface in your house can be a potential canvas for a child. So it’s worth knowing these quick tips and tricks to cover all the other surfaces in your home.

Walls

Many of the techniques already described above will work well for your walls. Rubbing alcohol, hand sanitiser, aerosol hairspray, white toothpaste (not gel), or a magic eraser can remove the marker stains from your walls.

Be very careful when rubbing walls, though. If you rub too hard you can end up removing the paint, especially with abrasive cleaners like magic erasers.

Glass

A whole host of different stain removers that we’ve looked at for wood and plastic will also work great on glass:

  • Regular toothpaste mixed with baking soda

  • WD-40

  • Nail polish remover

  • Dry erase marker

  • Rubbing alcohol

Just pop your stain remover of choice on a clean cloth or paper towel and use it to wipe the stains off the glass.

Metal

For metal surfaces like stainless steel kitchen appliances, use rubbing alcohol, dry-erase marker or regular toothpaste as we’ve already described. Applying any of these should then make it easy to wipe the stains away.

Tiles

Permanent marker should come off most tiles with the help of regular toothpaste, aerosol hairspray, or a magic eraser. You might need a bit more elbow grease to clean textured tiles and an old toothbrush can come in handy for getting into all the little nooks and crannies.

Granite

Rubbing alcohol is the best choice to remove permanent marker from granite. Avoid letting it sit on the granite surface for too long though. And make sure to wipe it away thoroughly with water once the stain is gone.

Laminate

Removing marker stains from laminate is surprisingly easy using some regular vegetable oil. Just dab some cooking oil onto a paper towel and then lay it over the stain and wait a few minutes.

Remove the towel and rub away the stain in circular motions (with some force) using another paper towel dipped in oil. When the stain is gone, wipe the area clean with soap and water.

How to get permanent marker off your skin

It’s very easy to end up with a bit of permanent marker on your skin. And there’s only so many times you can scrub your hands with soap.

Luckily, it’s easy to get the stains off your skin with some of the tried and tested solutions we’ve already discussed. Namely: nail polish remover, suncream, rubbing alcohol, or hand sanitiser.

More stain removal hacks

If you’ve found these tips and tricks on how to remove permanent marker useful, you’ll love our other stain removal hacks.

Originally published