Learn how to remove permanent marker stains

Never live with unwanted "artwork" again thanks to these handy tips

We’ll assume that if you are looking up how to remove permanent marker, there’s been an incident that possibly involves a misplaced sharpie lid or some avant-garde art from your toddler?

Luckily for all of us, permanent marker is not as permanent as the name may suggest! No matter where the unwanted marker has appeared, be it carpet, walls, or furniture, you’ll find some of the best methods for how to remove permanent marker around your home in this handy guide.

Read on for a list of ways to remove that unfortunate marker stain from almost anything. Rest assured, no matter what sort of material you need to clean, there is a way to rescue it!

How to remove permanent marker from fabric

We’ll begin with the most common victim of an unwarranted marker attack, fabric. There are many different options to save your clothing or upholstery, including the following:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Regular toothpaste (not gel)
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Aerosol hairspray
  • Nail polish remover
  • WD-40

To clean, use an old washcloth and dab your stain remover of choice from the list above onto the marker stain. The key here is dabbing, not rubbing, as that action can force the stain deeper into the fibres. Use as much stain remover as necessary, and dabbing until the marker disappears.

This, of course, applies to how to remove permanent markers from clothes, but, if you are dealing with a more delicate fabric like satin, opt for a dry cleaner and specify where the stain is when you give the item to the cleaner.

How to remove permanent marker from wood

If a little permanent marker has wound up on your wood furniture or floorboards, your best options are rubbing alcohol, regular toothpaste, or strangely peanut butter! Blot your treatment of choice directly onto the stain then allow sit for a few minutes.

After this, dab it with a damp washcloth, and repeat until the stain is gone. We recommend testing your cleaning method or choice in an inconspicuous spot first just to ensure you don’t cause damage to the stain, varnish, or seal of your wood.


A selection of cleaning products
Source: Kelly Sikkema

How to remove permanent marker from walls

Another regular area for the accidental marker treatment is the walls. To be fair, they do look like a lovely blank canvas on which children everywhere look to begin their budding art careers.

Rubbing alcohol, aerosol hairspray, and regular toothpaste (not gel) are great ways to clean the marker from your walls, but you can also buy a magic eraser or lemon essential oil as an effective solution.

When rubbing your walls, you need to ensure you do not rub too hard to avoid removing the paint, especially if using the magic eraser or anything abrasive.

How to remove permanent marker from plastic

If the unwanted marker has found its way around the bin, furniture, or most likely, your child’s toys and more, you can use a pencil eraser, sunscreen, a dry erase marker, or rubbing alcohol to make it disappear.

Luckily, this is one of the easier surfaces to clean with minimal risk of damage! Don’t be deterred if the process isn’t effective straight away. In most cases, you may have to repeat the cleaning steps to whittle away the stain, but push through as it will be gone eventually.

How to remove a permanent marker from a whiteboard

Possibly more of an issue in the office, but we’ve all seen (or experienced first-hand) the old permanent marker instead of the dry erase marker on the whiteboard trick. It’s an easy mistake to make, and just as easy to fix!

Trace over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker and then wipe with a wet cloth, and hey presto, company secrets are safe once again!

How to remove permanent marker from skin

At some point as kids, we all gave ourselves our first “tattoos.” Unlike real tattoos, the permanent marker versions can be removed from the skin relatively easily. Simply use nail polish remover, sunscreen, rubbing alcohol lotion, shaving cream, or hand sanitiser.

Attempt to do this as gently as possible to avoid scratching the skin, if you see blood you may have removed too much…

How to remove permanent marker from leather

If you happen to get permanent markers on a leather item, the key is to treat it as soon as possible. The best options for this are aerosol hairspray, white vinegar, or sunscreen.

Dab or spray your choice onto the stain, then blot with a damp cloth until it no longer exists!

Removing stains from the carpet

The most efficient option for how to remove permanent marker from the carpet is rubbing alcohol. Ensure you blot the stain as any kind of rubbing motion will push it further into the carpet fibres.

Use a clean, damp rag that will absorb and lift the alcohol and stain out of the carpet.

How to remove permanent marker from metal

If the marker has ended up on any metal items, inclusive of your stainless steel appliances, rubbing alcohol, dry erase marker, or regular toothpaste are the best options.

If you are dealing with a black marker stain, it should wipe off straight away after the application of the above options.

Saving paper and books

Believe it or not, you can actually remove permanent marker from paper, meaning you don’t have to return books to the library that your children have added some content to.

A little bit of nail polish remover placed carefully onto the stain will do the trick, just make sure you don’t saturate the paper. Soak the nail polish remover with a clean cloth and repeat until the marks are gone.

Cleaning marker off the glass

If the permanent marker has ended up on glass items like windows, cups, or dishes, there are several methods that should prove useful in its removal, including:

  • Regular toothpaste mixed with baking soda
  • Dry erase marker
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • WD-40
  • Nail polish remover

Soak the stain remover into a paper towel, then easily wipe the stains off the glass.

A woman cleaning glass
Source: CDC

Removing Sharpie stains from television or computer screens

This particular mishap is a stressful one, indeed. We all know the drop in the stomach that occurs when a permanent marker ends up on the delicate screen of some expensive tech, but it’s not time to get that credit card extension just yet!

marker can be removed from a screen; it is, however, a delicate process and immensely vital that you use the correct cleaning solution. First, try using a baby wipe and very carefully wipe the screen. If that doesn’t work, regular toothpaste should be your next option. Dab toothpaste onto the stain, allow it to sit for a few minutes, then use a clean cloth to wipe. If you repeat this several times, the stain should disappear.

Ensuring your tiles are stain-free

If the permanent marker has made its way onto your tiled flooring or walls in the kitchen or bathroom, you can clean it off with regular toothpaste, aerosol hairspray, or a magic eraser.

If you are dealing with smooth tiles, you should be in for a relatively easy task, textured tile, on the other hand, may require a little more work. In this situation, we recommend using an old toothbrush or a cotton swab to get in amongst the nooks and crannies to really get rid of that stain for good.

Need a little extra help with the cleaning?

If the task is a little bigger than a simple clean, or far more involved than you first may have thought, enlist the help of a stain removal expert! You can also find Taskers for a range of general cleaning duties that will save you the time and hassle of having to handle it yourself.

Frequently asked questions

Yes! However, it is not always the best option for all surfaces. A magic eraser is a great way to remove permanent markers from walls, plastic, metal, and whiteboards. Just remember to be careful as too much pressure may damage the surface you are cleaning due to the abrasive nature of the eraser.
Absolutely, vinegar is an efficacious method of stain removal that is also natural, meaning it is less harmful than some chemical solutions. As a stain remover, vinegar works on both fabric and hard surfaces and will quickly remove permanent marker stains. The reason being the acidic nature of vinegar, which makes it an effective way to break up stains. You can even add it to the washing machine to remove stains from clothing. Make a small mixture with water or your cleaning detergent for a robust stain remover.
Yes, this falls under the category of organic solvents. Acetone is a very effective way to remove a permanent marker stain from just about any surface. Primarily found in nail polish remover, a small amount of a solution that features a percentage of acetone should provide a powerful method of stain removal.
Yes! However, it is not always the best option for all surfaces. A magic eraser is a great way to remove permanent markers from walls, plastic, metal, and whiteboards. Just remember to be careful as too much pressure may damage the surface you are cleaning due to the abrasive nature of the eraser.
Yes, this falls under the category of organic solvents. Acetone is a very effective way to remove a permanent marker stain from just about any surface. Primarily found in nail polish remover, a small amount of a solution that features a percentage of acetone should provide a powerful method of stain removal.
Absolutely, vinegar is an efficacious method of stain removal that is also natural, meaning it is less harmful than some chemical solutions. As a stain remover, vinegar works on both fabric and hard surfaces and will quickly remove permanent marker stains. The reason being the acidic nature of vinegar, which makes it an effective way to break up stains. You can even add it to the washing machine to remove stains from clothing. Make a small mixture with water or your cleaning detergent for a robust stain remover.