How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains


Valerie asked: I need to remove black permanent marker from the brim of a baseball cap. My daughter made a small circle and blacked it out on the brim of my fiancé’s favorite baseball cap. I need to remove this stain immediately.

Permanent marker stains are difficult to tackle because there is no one single way to remove them. There are many factors that affect the chances of a successful removal. These include the type of fabric, the type of marker, the length of time the stain has been in place and any previous removal methods attempted. Washing the stain without treating it may set the stain, so it is always best to take some action first. Here are a variety of methods that have been used to successfully remove marker stains. Try one or try them all until your stain is removed.

You Will Need: 

  • Rubbing alcohol or Nail polish remover
  • Soft cloths
  • Cotton balls
  • Towel
  • Soft brush/old toothbrush

Steps to Remove the Marker:

  1. If the marker is on a piece of clothing, place the clothing face down onto a towel. This will allow you to push the stain out from the surface of the fabric to the towel, rather than having to push the stain all the way through the fabric to remove it. If that’s not possible, use a blotting technique to work on the surface of the stain and pull it out.
  2. Moisten a soft cloth or cotton ball with a small amount of rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover.
  3. Blot it on the stain (or pour a small amount through the fabric if it is lying face down on a towel).
  4. Allow the rubbing alcohol/nail polish remover to set for a minute, then blot with a clean cloth. As you see the marker transferring to the cloth, switch to a clean area of the cloth to avoid reapplying the stain.
  5. Continue blotting until no more marker transfers.
  6. Repeat applications and blotting until the marker is removed.
  7. Once the stain is gone, launder the piece as usual.
  8. If the piece cannot be laundered, rinse by blotting the area with clean water.
  9. Blot with a dry cloth and allow it to dry completely.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • There are a variety of other stain treatments that people have had success with. These include Spot Shot, Dawn Power Dissolver, Mr. Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner, Tide and Spray ‘n Wash. Again, it may take several applications/soakings and washings to finally remove all of the ink.
  • If using nail polish remover, choose a brand that does not have any added coloring. This will avoid adding dye to the fabric and causing another stain.
  • Some permanent marker stains can be removed with no treatments. Simply add one cup of salt to the washing machine (do not add detergent) and run through a normal wash cycle.
  • WD-40 can be used for a variety of stain removal including permanent marker. Apply some WD-40 to the marker stain, let it set, then blot with a clean cloth.



  1. Last evening, I bought a pretty patterned polyester tunic top on clearance and due to a black permanent marker stain, I was given a further discount. Fortunately, the store was flexible in allowing return of the item should removal be unsuccessful.
    These suggestions proved beneficial and completely salvaged the garment, which I’m now keeping.
    Although the nail polish remover initially didn’t seem to work on this particular polyester fabric, gently dabbing the spot repeatedly with a white cotton facecloth dipped in Cold Water Tide did the trick.
    Thanks again.

  2. Nail polish worked a treat on the marker stain my daughter put on her dress. I tried all kinds of stain removers before using nail polish remover and nothing worked at all. Thanks heaps for the tip!

  3. I found, after trying most things, that a product called Citro Clean, which I had bought for a different purpose, took the stain out and did not harm anything else. It is a natural cleaner available from hardware stores. I was so relieved as my grandson had tried a Ken Done type drawing on my new white vinyl… Bless him.

  4. While working my way through the assortment of solutions I had on hand to remove the bold black magic marker labels on some plastic barrels, I found automotive brake fluid better than WD-40 or the nail polish remover I had. What really made the marker run, literally, was Gumout Carburetor Cleaner spray. Be sure to follow the labeled precautions. Better living through chemistry!

  5. I used Goof Off and took a permanent marker stain off a shower curtain. It came off right away. Even the curtain was wet.

  6. Most of these ‘advice’ blogs are INACCURATE, especially when suggesting baking soda, WD-40, alcohol, etc. to clean ANYTHING!

    I just tried WD-40 for a pen marker, and it did NOTHING WHATSOEVER!

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