How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Clothes

Permanent marker stains on your clothes can be frustrating, but don’t despair! With some tried and tested techniques, you can often remove permanent marker from fabric surprisingly easily. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the most effective methods for getting permanent marker out of clothes, no matter the fabric or stain severity.

Why Removing Permanent Marker is Tricky

Permanent markers contain soluble dyes that are designed to permanently bind to surfaces like plastic, glass, and porcelain. That’s why they’re so difficult to remove from fabrics. However, the cellulose fibers that make up most clothing materials interact differently with permanent marker ink. With the right solvents and techniques, you can break the dye’s adhesion and lift it from the fabric.

Supplies You’ll Need

Having the right supplies on hand will make permanent marker removal much easier. Here are some must-haves:

  • Liquid laundry detergent – The enzymes and surfactants in laundry detergent help break down inks. Opt for a gentle enzyme-based formula.
  • Rubbing alcohol – The alcohol will dissolve and lift many types of permanent marker dyes. Use a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution.
  • Hairspray – The alcohol in hairspray can also help dissolve permanent marker stains.
  • Baking soda – A mild abrasive that can help lift staining when used in a paste.
  • White vinegar – Helpful for rinse cycles after other treatments. Helps remove dye residue.
  • Clean white cloths – For blotting and rubbing stain-removal solutions into fabric.
  • Toothbrush – For gently scrubbing baking soda pastes or other treatments into the stain.
  • Washing machine – For final rinse and wash cycles after other steps.

How to Remove Permanent Marker from Clothes

With the right supplies gathered, follow these steps to tackle permanent marker stains:

1. Act Quickly

It’s always best to treat permanent marker stains as soon as possible. The longer the ink sits, the more it can penetrate fibers and become stubborn. Immediately blot fresh stains with a clean white cloth to lift excess ink.

2. Flush with Cold Water

Rinse the backside of the stained fabric under cold running water. This helps push the stain away from surface fibers. Avoid hot water, as it can set some permanent marker dyes.

3. Apply Laundry Detergent

Apply a small amount of liquid laundry detergent directly to the stain. Gently rub it into the fabric with a toothbrush or your fingers. Let it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.

4. Use Rubbing Alcohol

If the stain remains, pour some rubbing alcohol onto a white cloth and blot it over the stain. Check the fabric carefully as you blot – permanent marker often transfers easily from one fabric to another.

5. Spray with Hairspray

The alcohol in hairspray can also dissolve permanent marker dyes. Spray liberally over the stain and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Then, blot with a white cloth.

6. Make a Baking Soda Paste

For more stubborn stains, make a paste with baking soda and just a small amount of water. Gently scrub this into the fabric with a toothbrush. Rinse and check if the stain has lifted.

7. Wash in a Machine

Once you’ve treated the stain, wash the garment in the machine per usual, using hot water. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse for extra dye removal. Air dry, as heat can set any remaining ink.

8. Repeat Steps as Needed

If faint staining still remains, simply repeat the process. Permanent marker can take multiple applications to fully remove from fabric. Don’t give up too soon!

Tips for Avoiding Permanent Marker Stains

The best solution is avoiding permanent marker stains in the first place! Here are some handy tips:

  • Store markers securely and capped when not in use. Accidents happen!
  • Use washable markers instead of permanent ones when possible.
  • Put down scrap paper or cardboard inside shirts when decorating or labeling.
  • Wear an apron or smock when using permanent markers for crafts or hobbies.
  • Pretreat or cover permanent marker projects when washing to avoid transfer.

Can You Remove Permanent Marker from All Fabrics?

While it takes patience and multiple applications, permanent marker can often be removed from most types of clothing fabrics. However, take extra care with delicate materials like silk, wool, or specialty textiles. Start with the most gentle options like laundry detergent rather than rubbing alcohol or hairspray. Test an inconspicuous area first. If you notice damage, take the garment to a specialty cleaner.

When to Call in a Professional

If you’ve tried every method with no success, a dry cleaning or laundry pro may be able to help. They have access to stronger chemical stain removal solutions than typical household products. However, there’s no guarantee even professionals can lift severe permanent marker stains, so be prepared that the item may be unsalvageable.


As you can see, removing permanent marker from clothes is very possible with the right techniques. By using household products like laundry detergent, alcohol, baking soda, and vinegar, you can often eliminate these pesky stains. Just remember to act quickly, check care labels for delicates, and repeat treatments as needed. With some persistence, your favorite shirt or pair of jeans can look good as new again.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get permanent marker out of cotton?

For cotton fabrics, start by flushing the stain under cold water, then apply laundry detergent and let it soak in for 5 minutes before rinsing. Rubbing alcohol, hairspray, and baking soda pastes also work well for lifting permanent marker from cotton. Wash in the machine after.

What is the best way to remove permanent marker from polyester?
For polyester, rubbing alcohol is often the go-to for dissolving permanent marker, since the fabric is colorfast. Soak a clean white cloth in alcohol and blot it over the stain. For tough stains, spray hairspray liberally and let it soak in before blotting.

What household products remove permanent marker?
You can use a number of household products likely already under your kitchen sink or in the laundry room. Laundry detergent, rubbing alcohol, hairspray, baking soda, and white vinegar can all be effective at permanent marker removal.

Does toothpaste work to get permanent marker out?
While some people recommend using toothpaste, it is generally too mild to effectively remove permanent marker stains on its own. However, you can try gently working a small amount of toothpaste into the stain using a toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.

Can WD-40 remove permanent marker?
Yes, WD-40 can help dissolve and lift permanent marker stains. Spray it directly onto the fabric, let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then blot with a clean white cloth. Follow up by washing the item. Be very careful not to use WD-40 on delicate fabrics, as it could cause damage.

What removes dried permanent marker?
For dried-in permanent marker stains, break out the big guns. Use rubbing alcohol first, saturating the stain and blotting. Make a baking soda paste with just a bit of water, and scrub it in with an old toothbrush. If the stain remains, blot hairspray over it before washing. Multiple applications are key for dried permanent marker.