How to Clean Permanent Marker

Permanent marker is designed to be just that, permanent. Fortunately, depending on the surface that has been marked, it may be possible to remove it. Walk through our list of possibilities to find one that is safe for your particular surface.

You Will Need:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
  • Baking soda toothpaste
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hairspray (the cheaper the better)
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel
  • Bleach
  • Goof-Off
  • WD-40
  • Acetone
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Baby wipes
  • Ammonia with water

Steps to Remove the Marker:

  1. First, browse through our list above to find a removal product that is safe to use on your particular item. Hard surfaces are typically safe for most of the items. Clothing is best treated with items that won’t wear down the fibers of the fabric. Upholstery and finished wood items need even more selective choices so no spots or created on the surface. If ever you are in doubt, test a small, hidden area first to ensure there are no unwanted effects to the piece.
  2. Cover the marker stain with the chosen product.
  3. Allow it to set for several minutes.
  4. Wipe the surface clean or wash the area/garment if possible.
  5. Repeat if necessary until the marker is removed.
  6. In some cases, you may need to treat the cleaning product as well. For example, if you use WD-40 to remove the marker, you will then need to remove the grease or it may leave a grease stain in its place. This is easy to remove with a simple stain removal spray.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If the first removal try doesn’t work, choose a different product and try again.
  • Do not mix cleaning products. Always try one and then rinse/wash completely before trying a second item.
  • The removal success will depend largely on the surface and the time the marker has been there. The longer the marker is on a surface, the more “set” it becomes.


  1. Lynn says:

    No one knows why this works, but it does. If you get permanent marker or ink on a hard surface and you need to get it off, spray the ink with hairspray, let the hairspray set for thirty seconds and then wipe it off. Most of the ink will come off with it, and you can clean the rest off with soap and water.

  2. Lynn says:

    It really does work on everything, including marker messes. Rub the mark with the Eraser and it will just disappear. Some surfaces don’t like the Eraser much, though, so check the package before you use it on something important.

  3. Lynn says:

    My sister got some marker stains off her couch by using nail polish remover. Just dab the remover all over the ink, then blot off the ink and remover with a rag – don’t rub, you’ll end up smearing the marker and making a bigger mess. If the smell bothers you, spray the couch with Febreeze.

  4. Lynn says:

    My daughter and her friends just love doodling on each other’s arms and hands with whatever marker they can find, so we’ve had to do this a lot. You can take off the marker skin art with Noxema, even if they used a Sharpie. Rub the Noxema in, then rinse it off with cold water. Keep doing it until the artwork is gone.

  5. Lynn says:

    This is the only product I’ve ever found that will really get permanent marker marks off of anything, including clothing. It’s great stuff, but you have to be careful using it because it has very strong fumes. Follow the instructions on the package exactly and the marker stain will come right off of whatever it happens to be on.

  6. Roslyn says:

    To remove permanent marker from hardwood floors, simply spray bug spray on the area, leave it for 10 seconds, and wipe it off. Just be careful to wipe the area down with water or another floor cleaner after you’ve removed the ink. The bug spray residue will make the area slippery.

  7. Toni says:

    Rubbing alcohol and cotton balls.

    Dab the cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and apply it to the mark lightly. The permanent marker stain is gone almost immediately. Rinse with plain water on a clean dish cloth.

  8. Jane says:

    To remove permanent marker from a dry erase board:

    Color over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker; it will wipe right off.

  9. Allana says:

    Use hairspray. It works great. Just get an old rag and dab the clothes with hairspray. It will take a very long time. But eventually it will come off.

    Hope This Helps!!

  10. Jayanti says:

    Use vinegar; dip soft cloth in vinegar and rub it on the marker stain, repeat the process if the stains are stubborn. It does help.

  11. Naveen says:

    Rubbing alcohol is available in the pharmacy section of most stores (Target, K-mart, Walmart, etc.). It definitely works in getting rid of permanent marker stains on hardwood floors.

  12. Marlene says:

    BLACK Sharpie marker on an oak table; Mr. Clean Magic Eraser wiped it off as though it was never there! The finish was slightly dulled, but after a spray with furniture polish it was as good as new.

  13. Danielle says:

    My two-year-old got ahold of a thick black permanent marker and covered EVERYTHING in the living room. Toothpaste was amazing. It got it off of the hardwood floors, entertainment center, plastic toys, coffee table, rocking chair… every non-fabric surface.

  14. Tom says:

    Finger nail polish remover – takes seconds to remove from metal. Quick and perfect removal.

  15. Steve says:

    All you need is alcohol on hard wood surfaces. Pour it on, let it sit there maybe two minutes, then use cotton ball or rag – problem is gone.

  16. Leland says:

    I just got done using hairspray to take it off a white board! It took me less than 5 min. I would recommend this method to anyone, over and over again!

  17. Paula says:

    After finding black sharpie on a leather chair, skin, clothing and a table, I used alcohol to remove ALL the stains. It didn’t dull the leather or the finish on the table.

  18. Twihard says:

    Okay, so I got a pink shirt. Next day, TOTALLY ruined it with permanent marker. Used my Oxy-Clean detergent, didn’t work. Tried vinegar and water mixed together, now you can barely see the stain!! Can only see if you look super close. I will and forever recommend this to anyone who asks!!

  19. Hank says:

    Dipped white cotton piece of cloth (wash cloth) in rubbing alcohol. Wet the stained area with alcohol. Kept blotting the ink area with clean cloth areas. Stain completely lifted.

  20. Melissa says:

    My two-year-old grandson wrote on the big screen… I tried using alcohol, but it left marks. Is there anything else I can use?

  21. Elsie says:

    The jacket belongs to a 16-year-old boy, it is his football letter jacket it has two marks on the sleeve; he is so upset. Any help would be great.

  22. Melissa says:

    I had the magic marker problem even on my white leather couch. I tried alcohol, vinegar and everything else that was said on these comments. I found that what works the fastest and best was bug spray. The second fastest was sun block. This worked on leather, hardwood floors, my white entertainment center, TV… everything. Hope this helps.

  23. Aneesah says:

    Well, my two young nieces and nephews were jumping on my leather couch with permanent markers in their hands. My niece accidentally dropped hers while jumping and it left a little dot, but then my nephew thought it was fun so what he did was made it bigger with another permanent marker (black). I got some baby oil, put it on a cloth, then I rubbed gently on the sofa and it came out.

    PS. If it doesn’t work, then I’m sorry, but it works on different things. Plus, I used Johnson’s baby oil (pink lid) from boots. The chemist at any shop will sell them, even beauty shops.

  24. Sarah says:

    While at our church decorating for my daughters 5th birthday, my two-year-old took permanent marker to the piano keys. The hairspray took it off!

  25. Robert says:

    Thanks for those of you who mentioned using alcohol and hairspray to remove permanent marker stain. It really worked. I really appreciate the help.

  26. Sab says:

    Baby oil helped to clean him really good without any pain and fuss…

  27. Brycey says:

    I was coloring with a permanent marker on my floor and it just went right through the paper, so I tried this and some of it came off, but not all of it.

  28. Flexnit says:

    On carpet – SPOT SHOT! Amazing. I have tried Sharpie marker and chocolate.

  29. April says:

    My son just used a permanent marker on our tile floor. My six-year-old (the cleaner) said, “let’s use this (baking soda).” It came off, but left a faint mark. We used rubbing alcohol to finish the job. It’s as good as new!

  30. Chris says:

    The little boy I babysit for found a black magic marker to color with. Unfortunately, he got some on his brand new shirt. After trying so many different things, what a miracle – bug spray on the area for five minutes, then use a baby wipe, rubbing hard and before you know it, it was out completely.

  31. Emily says:

    If you get permanent marker on wood, (I would think it would work elsewhere too) use Dawn dish soap. Just cover the area with soap, let sit for as long as you can stand it, and it will come right off. That works with any marker.

  32. Susanna says:

    I got a giant blue permanent marker stain on my light pink hoodie the other day. I managed to get it all off by washing it ASAP by hand under warm water. Scrub repeatedly with soap. I also tried rubbing rice, Tide to go, laundry detergent, lemon, and rubbing alcohol on it. Only made the stain lighter. Then, I took a cotton swab and put NAIL POLISH REMOVER on it, laid it on my hoodie and rubbed. Within seconds, the stain was gone.

  33. Lisa says:

    Rubbing alcohol gets out permanent marker stain on wood.

    I kept reading about rubbing alcohol getting permanent marker off wood, but I didn’t believe it. WOW!! It really works. I purchased a used kitchen table off ‘line for $75. The table was in excellent shape – except for the previous owners child had drawn (in red marker) on the table. I just figured I would cover it with a cloth and keep going. Once I read this site and saw the different things I could use, I decided; what the heck – why not give it a try. Initially, I used hairspray. It worked, but took longer. Then, I tried alcohol and that worked quicker and a whole lot better. Just dab a little on a cotton ball first, then run it over the spot. Yeah, you have to use a little elbow grease, but not much. The alcohol does the work. Now I have a new table again.
    WARNING: Alcohol will take off the shine. So, I have to find something to make my table shine again. But mostly, I am glad the red marks are gone and it only cost me 50 cents.

  34. Amy says:

    Bad idea to use alcohol on leather boots. It took some of the design off. Thanks.

  35. Jasmine says:

    I’m doing a science fair project on, “how permanent are permanent markers?” Like which surfaces, solvents (solutions), cloths (materials, e.g., towels, washcloths, napkins, etc.). You guys have helped so much. If you have any more please let me know. You don’t have to research it first or experiment it first. Even if you do test it and it doesn’t work, tell me and just say it doesn’t work; I can use it in my hypothesis. I would enjoy your replies. Thanks.

  36. David E says:

    My son got Sharpie marker on his brand new red baseball cap. How do I remove it with out fading the color??

  37. Melanie says:

    This is the article you need: How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains
    Fading will depend on the type of material that your hat is made from and the type of stain remover that you use. Look at the tag on the cap for washing instructions or fabric materials and research the best ink stain remover for that fabric. Since your hat is new, it likely has a plastic brim, can be machine washed and has been treated with dye fixative. A stain-removing laundry detergent could be a good option. Finding a hidden area to test a stain remover on a baseball hat can be tough; you may want to just go for it and hope for the best. Rubbing alcohol is a commonly recommended method for removing ink stains from fabrics.
    Alternatively, you could take your son to a game and have a professional athlete sign the hat with a Sharpie to incorporate or cover the current stain. :)

    Source: Article Dashboard – How to Wash A Baseball Hat
    Source: – 10 Laundry Disasters and How to Help Clothes Recover
    Source: wikiHow – How to Wash a Baseball Cap

  38. Cameron says:

    It worked on a wood floor. Soap and water worked too!!

  39. Marie says:

    I tried nail polish remover, sunscreen, and baby oil on fabric, but warm water and vinegar pretty much did the trick. There is only a slight smear now. Thanks for your advice!

  40. Shonty says:

    I tried everything and it didnt work. So then I tried vinegar and water, and it worked. :]

  41. Celina says:

    I used everything, but it did not work. So then we used dishwashing liquid and it was the best product I’ve ever used in my life. :]

  42. John says:

    Didn’t work.

  43. Ashton says:

    Used the sun block on my leather football. Worked like a charm; took the Sharpie right off it like it was never there. Thanks. :)

  44. Hilary says:

    Hi. My son got permanent marker on his football top. Help!!!

  45. Mitchell says:

    Had a Dry Erase with cork pin board. Granddaughter was artsy and used a light blue and black lpin on both surfaces.
    Took a bottle of Pantene hair spray to the bathroom, soaked the white board and wiped it off as slick as a whistle as grandpa used to say. Used paper towels to clean it off.

    Then, took regular rubbing alcohol to the cork board. It soaked into the cork and the blue and black ink disappeared. A half-hour later, not a trace. Magic almost!
    This board has been in my garage for over 6 months and I have no idea how old the art work signed was. Ha.

  46. Sade says:

    What about walls? Painted walls of course.

  47. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Clean Painted Walls. There is a section for removing marker.

  48. Anonymous says:

    We have a school bus and we started writing on the seats with permanent markers, but the thing is we can’t get it off. I think it’s leather. Can someone help please?

  49. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Magic Marker from Leather.

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