The easiest ways to get Sharpie out of clothes.

Last Updated: June 24, 2021

Managed to get Sharpie on your clothes? Follow our straightforward tips for tackling a permanent marker stain, including the best natural techniques and tools, to help you lift the ink stain stress-free.

Stains, stains, stains ... they can be the bane of our existence! Perhaps that’s somewhat dramatic, but a Sharpie stain feels a little dramatic, doesn’t it? When we think Sharpie, we think permanent marker. Ergo, Sharpie also means a permanent stain ... right?

Actually, not quite. There may be hope. Keep reading for our tips on tackling a Sharpie stain successfully. We won’t guarantee you’ll remove it completely, but we will guarantee you’ll get pretty darn close.

Will Sharpie wash out of fabric?

As the name suggests, permanent markers are inclined to leave behind a permanent ink stain. Though it may look like an impossible stain, it’s probably a lot less gnarly than you think. However, removing the marker stain completely does depend on a host of factors, like the type of material of the soiled clothing, the ink color of the Sharpie in question, and how much time has elapsed since the mark was made.

The trick is to target permanent marker stains with products that are designed to break down the oils and alcohols present in Sharpie ink. This will expose the colorants and help you target the discoloration like a heat-seeking missile. Then the discolored fabric can be cleaned by using a simple detergent and the regular wash cycle on your washing machine.

Keep scrolling for a step-by-step guide to get those stains out for good.

What you’ll need to clean Sharpie stains

dish gloves

There are multiple ways to remove Sharpie stains from clothing and other fabrics. Below are a few of our favorite products that may help you, plus a few unexpected but effective solutions.

  • Paper towels
  • Sponge
  • Rubbing alcohol: Rubbing alcohol is a disinfectant, but it can also be used to remove Sharpie stains completely, as it helps to break down oils and other alcohols present in the Sharpie ink.
  • Hairspray: Surprisingly, cheap hair sprays have a high alcohol content. They work best on synthetic fabrics such as polyester and poly-blend clothes, as well as thicker and tougher fabrics.
  • Vinegar/lemon juice: Acids, like vinegar and lemon juice, can be effective against permanent marker stains. Though they are mildly acidic in nature, they can still dissolve mineral deposits, dirt, grease, and grime. White vinegar is also antibacterial and works best on synthetic fibers.
  • Baking soda: Baking soda has been used as a cleaning agent for a very long time. It is mildly alkaline and dissolves dirt and grease.

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Unexpected Sharpie ink removers

Can you remove permanent marker with hairspray?

Surprisingly, cheap hair sprays have a high alcohol content. Who knew? This happens to make them perfect for use on permanent marker stains. It works best on synthetic fabrics such as polyester and poly-blend clothes, as well as thicker and tougher fabrics.

Can you remove permanent marker with nail polish remover?

The main component in nail polish remover is acetone. It is considered a chemical solvent and can be used for all types of cleaning, including heavy degreasing jobs. The acetone easily dissolves oil, paint, and marker stains, plus other organic substances from almost any surface.

Step-by-step instructions to clean Sharpie stains

Sharpie stains are fairly easy to remove if targeted properly, with the right products and techniques.

Step 1: Blot out the ink

If you find the stain right as it happened, or while it is still wet, use a paper towel or blotting paper to blot the stain. Place a paper towel on the other side of the fabric to keep the stain from bleeding through. This can help absorb as much ink as possible and reduce the chances of the ink soaking more deeply into the fibers of the fabric.

Step 2: Test out the solvent

Remember, there are many solvents available for removing Sharpie stains. You want to be careful though not to cause further damage to the fabric. Use your selected solvent on a small piece of material to make sure it doesn’t cause fading or additional stains and discoloration.

Step 3: Apply the solvent to the stain

Depending on the solvent you choose, the next step is to apply it to the stain and let it sit for a while.

For rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover: Try dipping a sponge into the solution and dab it both around the stain and on the stain directly.

For hairspray: Hold the bottle a few inches away from the stain and spray directly onto it until the stained area becomes saturated. Let the liquid sit for several minutes.

For hand sanitizer: Squirt a dime-sized amount on the stain and spread it around the stain in a circular motion until the stain is no longer visible.

For a cleaning solution: Simply make a solution of baking soda or vinegar mixed water and use a sponge or cloth to dab it onto the stain.

Step 4: Rinse with cold water

Once the stain comes out, rinse the fabric with cold or cool water to get your solvent out of the fabric. If you’re sure the stain is completely gone, you can run the clothing through a normal wash cycle and air dry.

Grove Tip

Make haste

The biggest factor — like all stains, really — in successfully removing a Sharpie mark is time. The longer it gets to absorb and infuse within the fibers of the fabric, the more difficult it will be to work it out and remove it.

Sharpie stain removal tips & tricks

Does Sharpie come out of clothes in the wash?

Yes and no. First you have to spot treat it using the steps we’ve outlined here. Then once you can visibly see the Sharpie stain looks gone, you can run the clothes through the washing machine.

Is Sharpie permanent on clothing?

Well, Sharpies are intended to be permanent markers, but the reality is the marks do fade somewhat with frequent washing. If spot-treated using our methods we’ve outlined, Sharpie marks really don’t stand a chance!

Does hydrogen peroxide remove Sharpie?

It can in fact remove Sharpie stains from clothing. Even better, it’s a safe, gentle cleaning solution.

Learn more about the most common form of hydrogen peroxide (or non-chlorine bleach and its color-safe bleaching abilities.)

How do you remove permanent marker from clothes after they've been washed?

Have your clothes been washed without you noticing a permanent marker stain beforehand? Although it can be a pain, there is still a way to salvage your clothing item from a Sharpie’s touch.

First things first — you’re going to need to use 91-percent (or higher) rubbing alcohol to get this ink out of your clothes. Get a pot or bucket and fill it with the rubbing alcohol. You’ll need to submerge your stained item into the rubbing alcohol. Then, take your stained clothing out of the pot or bucket enough to cover the entire stain with a mountain of salt.

Add some milk to the rubbing alcohol, and then lightly pour some of the milk-and-alcohol solution onto the salted stain. Rub your fingers over the stain with the solution, and scrub hard. Keep adding solution and scrubbing until you see the stain has been removed. If you need to, repeat the salt step in between your scrubbing — remember, the more salt, the quicker the stain will come out.

How do you get dried marker out of clothes?

When it comes to getting dried permanent marker ink, like a Sharpie stain, out of clothes, you’ll want to have rubbing alcohol and a few paper towels on hand. These couple of items are sure to do magic on your clothing item before you can say, “Abracadabra!” Here’s all you need to do:

  1. First, place your stained side down on top of the paper towels
  2. Dip a cloth or a sponge, whichever you prefer, into rubbing alcohol
  3. Slowly dab the cloth or sponge around the stain and then dab your alcohol-soaked cloth or sponge directly on the stain. (Take note, if your stain is a large one, you may need to swap out your paper towels because they’ll be absorbing the permanent marker ink.) You’ll know you’re done when your stain has been completely removed.

How do you remove permanent marker from a sofa?

It’s a truly cringe-worthy experience when you first notice permanent marker has made its way onto your sofa. Whether it’s a slip from your kids or even yourself, don’t worry, you can get it out by following these how-to directions below.

  1. Start by mixing up one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with one tablespoon of vinegar and two cups of cold water.
  2. Secondly, take a clean sponge and dip it into the cleaning solution you’ve just made, and dab the soiled spots of your sofa with the wet sponge. Keep an eye on what you’re doing and make sure to only dampen the spot and do not soak the stained area.
  3. Let your cleaning concoction sit on your sofa for 30 minutes, but don’t walk away too quickly — you’ll need to find a dry (and clean) white cloth to dab the stain every five minutes. This will help absorb some of the ink.
  4. After your 30-minute wait time is up, you’ll need another dry (and clean) white cloth. Dampen your new cloth with cold water and dab it on your couch. This will help get the dishwashing liquid and vinegar from your sofa.
  5. Next, dampen a paper towel with rubbing alcohol.
  6. Take the paper towel and start at the edges of the stain working inward and dab the stain. (Again, dab — do not rub as this will spread the stain.
  7. Continue dabbing the stained area with your paper towel, rotating to new clean spots of the towel when ink has gotten onto the other areas.
  8. Once you’re done, grab a magic eraser and very gently rub the remaining marked spots.
  9. Do another quick rinse to make sure all your solution has gotten out.
  10. Use a new dry cloth (or even more paper towels) to lay down over the wet area. Place a book or other heavy object on top of your cloth or towels until the area has dried itself out.
  11. If your couch dries and you still notice a bit of Sharpie permanent maker hanging on for dear life, try the steps one more time to get it up for good.

For more help getting other aggravating stains out of couches, try these 3 tips.

How do you remove permanent marker from skin?

It's much easier than you may think to remove Sharpie permanent marker from your skin. You can use rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer, which most of us have handy these days.

If you’re looking for a more natural solution to this problem, you can also use coconut oil or a natural sunscreen. Just dab a bit of your preferred pick onto your skin where the marker is, and then wipe it away with a paper towel or bath tissue. If it doesn’t come out the first time, keep going until the marker fades enough that it disappears.

Getting a Sharpie stain on your clothing, furniture, skin, or floor isn’t the end of the world, we promise. Though they do seem indestructible at times, permanent marker stains are never really permanent as long as you know what you’re doing.

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Spills happen, but Grove Collaborative has you covered with Stain Busters. Each week, we’ll tell you how to tackle a different tough stain around the home or on your clothes. Red wine, grass stains, ink ... no stubborn stain is a match for our grime-busting guides.