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How to Remove Permanent Marker from any Surface

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Everything in life is temporary, except permanent marker. We’ve all used permanent markers for something or other; labelling, creative projects, covering up stains on shoes, writing our names on our lunch, decorating, or even creating faux tattoos on ourselves (or others). Permanent markers are wonderful for creating long-lasting memories, but using one can turn into a nightmare if we accidentally drop it onto our desk, handbag, favourite shirt, or the new carpet.

The good news is that there’s no need to throw out your permanent marker stained items. Just because that marker is ‘permanent’ doesn’t mean you have to see that permanent ‘stain’ as a reminder of your mishap.

Permanent marker stains can be removed from practically anything, it just takes a little time and patience. That’s why we’ve gathered some tips for removing permanent marker from a variety of surfaces, including wood, plastics, fabric, and furniture using household substances.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If the first attempt at removal fails, choose a different method, and try again
  • It’s important to test on a discreet surface to see if the solution is effective
  • Do not mix different cleaning products together. Always try one method first and if it doesn’t work, then properly rinse/wash it before moving on to the next
  • The success of the removal will largely depend on the surface and the amount of time the stain has been present. The longer the marking is on a surface, the more it becomes “permanent”
  • Do not use abrasive products to erase the permanent marker as they can damage porous surfaces
  • Apply the solution on the stained part and let it sit for at least five minutes or so
  • Ensure you don’t apply heat such as an iron or dryer, as this may set the stain
  • One alternative option is a water-soluble, low-toxic solution. These are citrus-based and can be as effective at removing ink as their oil-based counterparts

So, let’s get into it……


Rubbing alcohol, hand sanitiser, hairspray, nail polish remover, or non-gel toothpaste can all be used to remove permanent marker from everyday fabric items like clothes, pillows, or bedsheets.

So, before dumping your permanent marker-stained clothes in the bin, try wiping the stain with an alcohol-based hairspray. Dab the hairspray on the stain and allow it to rest for a few minutes before putting it in a cold machine wash. Sprinkling some baking soda on the stain and scrubbing it with a toothbrush can also do the trick. You can also try rubbing alcohol. It is advised to blot the stain rather than rubbing it out, as it might push the stain deeper into the fabric.


The most crucial part of removing permanent marker from leather is to do so as soon as possible, as the stain can become permanently attached to it. Permanent markers can be easily removed from leather surfaces using distilled white vinegar. Let the vinegar sit on the stain for a few minutes to ensure that it penetrates. Then try to wipe off the stain with a damp cloth in circular motions.


You make every effort to keep your lovely carpets clean, but accidents can happen anytime. Rubbing alcohol is the most effective way to remove permanent markers from the carpet. Any rubbing action can push the stain further into the carpet fibres, so act fast and make sure you blot it. Use a clean, wet cloth to absorb the alcohol and extract the stain from the carpet. You can also use an oil-free hairspray, lots of blotting rags, and plenty of patience. White vinegar and dishwashing detergent can also be used, just let it set on the mark and then scrub gently with a toothbrush.

Laminate, Plastic & Metal

Just reach into your pantry to carefully remove permanent markers from laminated surfaces without harming the finish or leaving a cloudy residue. Tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, or pure vegetable cooking oil can all work miracles on stains. Concentrated oil extracts such as lemon or eucalyptus can be powerful against paint and dyes too, so use it with caution. For larger surfaces, let the oil sit over the stain for a few minutes before gently rubbing away. Alternatively, try an oil-based product such as hairspray, hand sanitiser, or nail polish remover.


Have you ever had a permanent marker stain your hands while you were writing? It’s frustrating, but it can be easily removed with makeup remover wipes, by simply rubbing it in a circular motion over the spot. Rubbing alcohol is another option, but it may cause irritation on sensitive skin, so try to do this as gently as possible.

If you wish to avoid these harsh marker-removing solutions, opt for a safer method such as sunscreen, vegetable oil, olive or coconut oil on the marks, and rubbing it off with a dry washcloth.

The Writing on the Wall

Lemon essential oil is excellent for removing permanent markers from painted walls. The oil and the acidic lemon combine to gently coax the stain from the surface without damaging the paint. It also smells fantastic! Pour the oil onto a clean washcloth and firmly rub the marker stains. If the cloth is soaked with ink, discard and grab a fresh one, to avoid smearing the ink. Repeat until the marks are gone.

Other options include a gentle scrub with white toothpaste, bicarb soda, or hand sanitiser. Hand sanitiser, or other products containing alcohol, can sometimes remove paint, so be sure to test on a small area first. These methods will also work on glass and mirrors.


Toothpaste can not only remove stains from your teeth, but it can also remove stains from your wooden furniture or flooring. It’s preferable to add a little baking soda to your toothpaste. Apply a nice amount of toothpaste and baking soda to a dry cotton makeup remover pad and rub gently, going with the grain of the wood.

Alternatively, for stubborn marks, put some oil on a magic-eraser-type sponge, but go easy to avoid scratches. The citric acid in the oil pulls up the ink and leaves no damage or discolouration to the wood finish.

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