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How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Fabric? (6 Easy Ways w/Video)

Written by Robert S. Brown / Fact checked by Helen B. Harris

how to get permanent marker out of fabric

Kids are not the only ones who get ink on their clothes while working on an art project. Even as an adult, I have had ink seeping through markers and onto my shirt and furniture. You probably have those days, too.

Before you send the items to a dry cleaning service, let me show you how to get permanent markers out of fabric at home. With alcohol-based products, vinegar solution, or milk, that ink stain will be gone in no time!

What You Need


First order of business: let’s prepare everything you need to get permanent markers out of clothes or other textiles. Below, I have included the cleaning supplies for the task and some alternatives.

1. Alcohol-based products

Rubbing alcohol is the top choice as I’m sure many of you already have one in your house, workplace, or in your purse. Besides disinfecting, this product doubles as a stain remover.

Hand sanitizers, hairsprays, or nail polish removers can also do the job but they have alcohol content in varying amounts. Hence, each product is suitable for specific types of fabrics.

For instance, rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer works well with most fabrics. However, their formula can damage delicate textiles like silk, rayon, and linen. If you must spot-clean fabrics that need careful handling, do a patch test in a hidden area like the seams or hems.

Hairspray works on thicker fabrics like leather and upholstery. That said, cheap hairsprays tend to have alcohol in them. Before you buy, check the ingredients just to make sure.

One caveat in using alcohol-based products is that they only work with fresh stains.

Here are the supplies to prepare:

  • A clean sponge. Pro tip: Please ensure this sponge is not the same one you m use for your art projects or dishwashing. Otherwise, it will contaminate your clothes with residues.
  • Paper towels or clean towels

2. Vinegar, salt, and toothpaste

Whether it’s a stain from food, blood, or art materials, there is nothing that vinegar cannot fix. But unlike alcohol-based products, it needs to be mixed with other ingredients to get Sharpie out of fabric. Because it takes more prep work, I still prefer rubbing alcohol.

If the alcohol products did not work, you can try this method. Be sure you have these supplies:

  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Toothpaste
  • Old toothbrush
  • A bowl of warm water

3. Dishwashing soap and Milk

Milk may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of ways to remove markers from fabric. After all, it also stains! When combined with dishwashing soap, however, the mixture can effectively lift the ink from a fabric item. That said, this method is suitable for upholstery.

Here is a complete list of the items you need for this method:

  • ⅔ cup of milk
  • ⅓ cup of dishwashing soap
  • ½ cup of fabric softener
  • ½ cup of water
  • Two bowls or containers for the mixtures
  • Water
  • One old toothbrush
  • One clean cloth

Step-by-step Guide on Removing Permanent Marker Ink From Fabric


What to do before you remove the ink using alcohol-based products

Insert a few sheets of paper towels or a clean towel inside the shirt, specifically right underneath the affected area. Besides absorbing the ink and alcohol, they will ensure the ink does not transfer to the other side of the clothing in the process of removing the stain.

Note: If you are using paper towels, you need to replace the paper towels as they can get soaked by the ink.

Strategy #1: Using rubbing alcohol

Step 1: With the paper towels under the stain, you can start applying alcohol directly onto the ink stain. Another way is to pour it onto a sponge, paper towel, or clean towel.

For those who are using a sponge, remember to soak the entire sponge with alcohol but make sure it is not dripping.

Step 2: Start dabbing ink with the sponge, paper towel, or towel. The proper technique involves pressing on the stain hard and lifting. Then, find a clean surface from your towel and dab again. Repeat until you no longer see any stain.

Avoid rubbing as it will spread the ink all over the clothing. The goal is to get as much ink out as possible. If you need a visual guide on how to get permanent markers off fabric, you can watch this video by Cleaning How To.

Strategy #2: Using hairspray

Step 1: Upon placing a paper towel or clean towel under the stain, get your hairspray and hold it a few inches away from the affected area. Spray a liberal amount of the product.

For small stains somewhere at the edge of the clothing, you don’t have to place a paper towel underneath. Simply make sure the other parts of the shirt are not placed behind the stain just like in this Lifehackster video.

Step 2: Let the alcohol-based hairspray sit for three to five minutes. In this way, it can break down the marker ink’s chemicals for easier clean-up. Next, start dabbing the area using a paper towel. You can continue until there is no trace of the ink left on the fabric.

Strategy #3: Using Nail Polish Remover

Step 1: After putting paper towels between the stained area and the other side of your shirt, pour some nail polish remover onto a sponge or paper towel. For smaller stains, you can use a cotton ball. Make sure your sponge, paper towel, or cotton ball is soaked but not dripping.

Step 2: Lift the ink by dabbing your acetone-soaked paper towel, sponge, or cotton ball. You can check out this video by Shawanda Hanley to get a clearer idea of how it is done. Continue to dab until you completely remove the stain from the fabric. You can add more acetone if needed.

Strategy #4: Using Hand Sanitizer

Step 1: Ensure that you have paper towels under the stain. Then, squirt some hand sanitizer onto the affected area as shown in this video by News & Books. Depending on how big the marker ink is, you may need about a dime or quarter-sized amount. The key is to have enough product to spread over the stain.

Step 2: Using a sponge or paper towel, smear the hand sanitizer across the permanent marker ink and gently massage it in a circular motion. Let it sit for about fifteen minutes. If you still see some ink on the fabric, you can add more hand sanitizer and scrub until the stain disappears.

Tips: After washing the ink stain with alcohol-based products

Once the stain is completely gone, remove the residue of the alcohol-based product by rinsing it with cold water. For machine-washable fabrics, you can include them in your laundry and use regular detergent.

Strategy #5: Using Vinegar, Salt, Toothpaste, and Warm Water

Step 1: Gather all the supplies I listed in the “What you need” section for this tutorial. As shown in this video by House Keeper, you can start by soaking the ink on the fabric with vinegar and adding a small mound of salt enough to cover the whole stain. Then, squeeze out a dime-sized amount of toothpaste.

Step 2: Using an old toothbrush, mix the vinegar, salt, and toothpaste but also make sure you keep the ingredients within the affected area. You can do this by scrubbing the area in a circular motion. Through this process, you also get Sharpie out of fabric. Keep brushing until you see that the has stain faded.

Step 3: Get a bowl or a basin that can fit the clothing you are trying to wash. Fill it with warm water, soak the fabric item in it, and leave it for fifteen minutes. After that, wipe away the vinegar, salt, and toothpaste residue from the affected area with your fingers.

By now, you should see the stain lifted from the fabric. If not, you can continue to dip and rub the area with your hands until the ink is gone.

Strategy #6: Dishwashing soap and Milk

Step 1: Pour one-third cup dishwashing soap and two-thirds of milk in a bowl or a container. Mix them well and smear the mixture on the stain. As instructed in this video by SimpleCrafts – 5 Minute Crafts For All, you can use a toothbrush to spread it across the affected area and start scrubbing.

Step 2: Brush the affected area. In a few minutes, you should see the ink fade but keep in mind that bigger stains may take more time. Feel free to add more dishwashing soap and milk mixture and continue to scrub. Proceed to the next step only when you have successfully erased the ink from the fabric.

Step 3: Now, it’s time to clean up. Mix ½ cup of fabric softener and ½ cup of water in a container. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture and use it to wipe on the affected area. Then, get another clean cloth and dampen it with water to remove the soap residue.


In this article, I included the methods above because they only require products that most of you already have. After all, the best time to clean a stain is when it is fresh. If you have to spend hours or days looking for a missing ingredient, then the ink will set in the fabric, making it harder to clean.

So, did you learn something new from this tutorial on how to get permanent marker out of fabric? You can talk more about your experience in the comment section. Lastly, don’t forget to share the link with your friends!

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