Removing Permanent Marker Stains from
Clothing and Other Fabric

Table of Contents
1 | What you'll need
2 | How it's done
3 | Expert tips
4 | That was easy!

Whether it's your kid's fault or you forgot to put the lid on when you finished a project, learning how to remove permanent marker stains can seem like an intimidating - maybe even impossible - task. A marker is considered permanent if it either sticks to most surfaces, uses dyes, or is water-resistant and contains approximately three ingredients - a carrier, a resin, and a color. Though their name does hint that you'll never be able to get that stain out, there are ways to do it. Removing permanent marker stains does take a little patience.

1 | What you'll need

  • Citrus fruit (an orange or lemon will work best)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Towel, washcloth, or cotton balls
  • Paper towels
  • White vinegar (optional, mainly for satin)
  • Borax (optional, mainly for satin)
  • Liquid hand washing dish detergent (optional)
  • Rack for air drying clothes (optional)

2 | How it's done

So, how to remove permanent marker? There are actually two ways you can remove permanent marker stains from fabric without enlisting the help of bleach or harsh chemical concoctions. We'll throw in a bonus one for more delicate fabrics, too, but it's really similar to one of the basic methods.

A. The citrus method
(dilute if you use it on delicate fabrics):

1. Place paper towels or a dark towel (or one you don't mind getting ink on) under the stain.

2. Cut an orange or lemon in half.

3. Dab the cut end over the stain until the stain disappears.

4. Wash the area or, if clothing, toss into the washer.

5. Air dry.

If using the fruit itself feels awkward on your clothes, you can squeeze the juice onto a washcloth and dab it onto the stain. Be careful not to rub it and push the stain further in.

B. Alternative citrus method for silk:

DIY Home Sweet Home has a special method that involves citrus (lemon, specifically), and it's a better bet for satin.


1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp milk

1 tsp borax

1 tsp lemon juice

Apply the mixture to the fabric, leave it for 10 minutes, and then use cold water to sponge away the stain. Wash the garment right away.

C. The rubbing alcohol method:

1. Put the stain face-down on a small stack of paper towels.

2. Dampen the towel with rubbing alcohol and press it into the back of the stain.

3. Repeat until the stain is gone.

4. Wash the garment if possible, then air dry.

3 | Expert tips

Always try the stain removal method on a hidden area of the fabric in case colors run or lighten.

If you’re trying to get a permanent marker stain out of clothing, always air dry until you can be sure the stain is completely gone. Tossing it into the dryer can make the stain set, and you’ll never get it out.

If your stain isn’t on clothing or something you can easily toss in the wash after using citrus fruits or alcohol on it (for example, on upholstery or carpet), consider Good Housekeeping’s tip for mixing vinegar and your favorite liquid hand washing detergent and water.


4 | That was easy

What's your permanent marker stain story? Did your kids get into them and write on everything? Did you forget to put the lid on, or at least fail to put it on tightly? Were you able to get the stains out? If so, how did you do it?

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