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What to Use to Remove Permanent Marker Ink

Kate Carpenter
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Permanent markers, the most common being a "Sharpie", are wonderful until the permanent ink appears where you do not wish it. Whether it happened because a cap was left off, a small child decided to be creative or the pen was left in a pocket, a permanent marker stain does not need to be permanent!


Before attempting any method of removing a permanent marker stain, test the chosen solvent at an inconspicuous spot on the object to be cleaned, be it a floor, wall, furniture or clothes. Although most of the techniques will not harm the underlying material, there have been cases where dyes were lightened or finishes removed. And, never use hot water on a permanent marker stain, as hot water will set the ink...permanently!

Floors-wood or vinyl

Permanent marker ink on a wood floor can usually be easily removed by applying a small amount of non-acetone nail polish remover on a cotton ball and lightly rubbing the spot in a circular motion. It may take more than one application. Some people recommend using a clean pencil pink eraser to remove the marker stain on a wood floor. The wax or shine on the floor may also be removed with this method, but a bit of re-waxing will shine it up. On vinyl floors, rubbing alcohol on cotton balls will remove a permanent marker stain. Using a little hair spray on the spot, rubbing with a cotton ball in a circular motion ought to do th trick, too.


The ink in a permanent marker is alcohol based, therefore, any solvent that is also alcohol based should be able to lift the stain from clothing. Remember to test the reaction of the solvent on your clothing in a hidden spot before attempting to remove the stain. There are ocassions where the solvent has also removed the dye color of the cloth. Place a towel or several layers of paper towel directly under the stain to be treated. Spray hair spray on the stain to 'wet' it. Blot or dab up the ink with a paper towel, cotton balls or cotton swaps. Repeat as necessary. Rubbing alcohol, or acetone nail polish remover can be used in place of the hair spray.


Using a hand sanitizer on a permanent marker stain on skin is effective, though may take a few applications, but is gentler than rubbing alcohol, which also can be used effectively. Some people have had great success using baking soda based toothpaste. Rub some on the spot, let it set for a few minutes, then wash it off with cool water.


Permanent marker stains on painted walls can be removed by applying hair spray, rubbing alcohol or acetone nail polish to the ink with a paper towel. Remember to blot the ink off the wall, never rub, as rubbing will smear and spread the stain. I have read that using baking soda toothpaste on painted walls and woodwork to remove marker stains works well, too. Never simply paint over the ink stain because the ink will bleed through to appear again. Ink stains on wallpaper can carefully be removed by spraying hair spray on the spot, then using cotton swaps to gently dab the ink up. Care need to be taken as some of the design in the wallpaper may fade or be removed, too. Test this procedure on a hidden area first.

Smooth, Slick Surfaces

Surfaces like ipods, cellphones and other hard non-porous materials with permanent marker ink on them can be cleaned using, again, hair spray, rubbing alcohol or acetone nail polish and a clean rag or paper towel without harming the surface.