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How to remove permanent marker: FAQ

What a relief! Permanent marker stains may not be as permanent as you’d think. Check out our top tips sure to help you remove permanent marker stains from different surfaces.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

removing permanent marker from plastic

Key steps

  • 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.

  • To erase permanent marker stains on unfinished wood, it’s best to consult a professional before trying to tackle it. 

  • Nail polish remover is useful to remove permanent marker stains from walls, but you’ll want to test it on a small and discreet area first.

Thankfully, permanent marker isn’t as permanent as you’d think. 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 for how to remove permanent marker from a variety of surfaces, including wood, plastic, leather furniture, and walls. If you want to know more about removing general ink stains from clothes, Cleanipedia shows you how!

When trying out any cleaning product, always test on a small part of the surface first.

How to remove permanent marker from 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 erase permanent marker from. Therse are the most effective solutions for how to remove permanent marker from 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 sanitizer — An alcohol-based hand sanitizer 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 remove permanent marker from clothes?

Rubbing alcohol is a godsend for a variety of ink stains, including clothing and skin. To remove fabric marker from clothing simply lay the stain face down on top of paper towels. Dip a cloth in the rubbing alcohol and dab around the stain and then dab directly on it. You may need to change the paper towel so that it can continue to absorb the stain, so make sure you have your towels at the ready.

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How to take sharpie off skin

It’s quite easy! All you need again is rubbing alcohol. Just dip a cotton ball in the rubbing alcohol and apply it to the skin for a few seconds. You can then wipe until the stain is gone. Avoid rubbing the skin, as this can cause irritation.

How to remove permanent marker from wood

First thing’s first: is the wood finished or unfinished?

  • If it’s finished or “sealed,” you’ll stand a much better chance when it comes to 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 you want to know how to remove permanent marker stains from unfinished wood, it might be best to consult a professional for advice.

How to erase permanent marker from walls

Any of the previously suggested solutions could work on walls, but hand sanitizer is 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 sometimes it can also remove the print from a wallpaper, so avoid using it on any decorated walls.

How to remove 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.

Whether you wish to learn how to remove permanent marker from plastic or figure out how to remove permanent marker from clothes, the key is patience and persistence. Your toddler may still go wild with the art projects, but in case there are any accidents, you no longer have to worry about permanent marker stains staying permanent.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on permanent marker stains

Are all sharpies permanent?

Not all Sharpie branded pens are permanent, you can find a range of oil-based construction and paint markers amongst their selection of pens. The permanent ink ranges include the Fine, Ultra-Fine, Twin Tip, Chisel, Retractable, Mini and Super Sharpies.

Can you get sharpie off a mirror?

If you have Sharpie on a mirror – or even a window for that matter – it can be removed in just a few simple steps. You may not believe it, but a bottle of nail polish remover and a soft cloth is all you need to lift the stain. No nail polish remover to hand? Don’t panic. Rubbing alcohol is another alternative that will result in just as much success.

Does goo-gone remove permanent marker?

Gone Goo is a great way to remove those so-called ‘permanent’ marks left behind. All you have to do is spray it onto a microfibre cloth, and dab it gently over the stain, ensuring you take care not to rub the stain. Leave it to soak for a few minutes and dab it off with a damp kitchen paper towel.

Does marker wash out of clothes too?

You should pre-treat any permanent marker stain prior to washing your clothing or other fabrics. For the best results, we recommend dipping a cotton ball into rubbing alcohol and blotting the stain. Take care to blot, and not rub, as rubbing could push the stain further into the fibres. Continue to blot the stains – replacing your cotton balls as needed – until the stain is fully removed. Now you can wash your clothing as normal.

How do you make sharpie stay on skin longer?

For the most part, the ingredients in Sharpies are generally safe on skin. If you want to wish to make a sharpie tattoo there are four simple steps. First, draw the design you wish to use onto your skin. Next, cover your drawing in baby powder, rubbing it over the marker before brushing off the excess. Finally, spray the area with hairspray, thoroughly coating the permanent marker. Allow the hairspray to dry and use a tissue to wipe away any excess. Please note, you should always take care when using any permanent markers on your skin as some people may have an adverse reaction to the ingredients.

Originally published