How to Remove Permanent Marker From Any Surface

Permanent markers are amazing tools to use for labeling, crafting, home projects, covering up scuffs on a pair of shoes, or drawing mustaches on friends when they fell asleep first at the sleepover. However, like most things, permanent markers are useful until they aren’t. If that permanent ink stains something it’s not meant to, you’ll be wishing you’d bought washable markers instead!

We have all experienced a sharpie incident sometime in our life and the consequences were not fun. To make it even more interesting, how you remove permanent ink stains changes depending on which surface or fabric you’ve stainedDifferent fabrics, materials, and surfaces call for different remedies—and we’re going to walk through all the options so you know how to remove permanent marker from any and every piece of furniture that your child accidentally ran into while holding an uncapped Sharpie. 

How to Remove Permanent Marker from Skin

Maybe you have little kids who got into the permanent markers, or someone marked an “X” on your hand for entry to an event, you drew a number on the back of your leg from trying out for a sporting team, or just simply marked yourself during a project. Regardless of the reason, there’s permanent marker staining your skin and you want it gone.

Sometimes we just don’t have the luxury to wait for the marker to fade on our skin in its own time, but removing permanent ink from the skin is actually quite easy!

Makeup remover pads

If you have access to makeup remover pads, the solution will easily take off the marker from the skin. Make sure to rub in a small circular motion to allow the friction to work with the solution.

Rubbing Alcohol and Hand Sanitizer

Rubbing alcohol can be a faster way to remove permanent markers from the skin, however, it can also affect sensitive skin. If you opt for this method, be sure not to scrub too hard at the skin. Keep your motions gentle and be sure to wash the area thoroughly with soap and water afterward.

Hand sanitizer will also work to remove permanent markers from the skin and is typically an accessible, inexpensive option.

Chemical Free Solutions for Removing Permanent Ink from Skin

If you don’t want to use any chemicals on your skin or don’t have immediate access to them, there are items found in your kitchen that will do the trick.

Sunscreen or Oil

For a gentler option, you can use sunscreen or any cooking oil such as vegetable, coconut, or olive oil to remove the permanent marker. Apply a small amount of the oil of your choice directly onto a dry washcloth or clean cotton ball, then rub it onto your skin in concise, circular motions until the ink is removed.

Child with permanent marker on her hands
[Photo by Liliana Drew via Pexels]

How to Remove Permanent Ink from Fabric

When you get permanent marker on fabric it can feel like the end of the world and it seems to always happen to that nice pair of pants or new couch you just purchased but you don’t need to panic! Removing permanent marker from fabric is easier and (probably) more cost-effective than you thought.

Search through your cupboards and look for any of these items:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hairspray
  • Nail polish remover
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice

If possible, lay the clothing item or piece of fabric on a table or flat surface.

Pro tip: Use your ironing board because you can easily pull the cover off and toss it in the wash when you’re finished. 

When trying to remove a stain from a piece of clothing, remember to place a scrap towel or rag between the clothing layers to ensure that when the liquid and pressure are added it doesn’t spread to different areas of the fabric. Also, make sure the rag or scrap towel is clean! We don’t need to be creating more stains.

The next step on how to remove permanent marker is to put a small amount of marker remover of your choice and dab it on top of the ink stain using a washcloth or cotton ball for best results. You must dab the remover instead of rubbing or smearing because it could cause the marker stain to spread and be worse.

Keep applying the stain remover until the permanent marker is gone! Though you may not be washing the piece of clothing or fabric immediately after, make sure you rinse off the area where you applied the remover as well.

This method will work with almost any fabric, however if you are dealing with silk or satin you may want to look into taking it to a dry cleaner. If you are nervous about the severity of the permanent marker stain, or want peace of mind knowing it will be removed perfectly, a dry cleaner is always a good option.

What to Do For Ink Stains on Microfiber Upholstery

To remove a permanent marker stain on microfiber upholstery you can either use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and if that doesn’t work, nail polish remover.

Apply a small amount onto a clean damp rag or sponge and dab the stained area. Once the upholstery is dry you can use either a brush or a piece of tape to fluff up the fibers.

permanent marker on couch upholstery
Permanent Marker on Fabric [Photo Source: Fluid Painting]

Removing Ink Stains from Leather

When a permanent marker stain occurs on leather it can be a frustrating moment, but removing permanent ink stains from leather isn’t as hard as you may think!

The key is timing.  The sooner you can get to the stain the better chances you have at fully removing it.

Distilled Vinegar

Search your home to see if you have an old toothbrush lying around, or grab one from the dollar store. Make sure before you use it that it’s clean from any previous toothpaste or cleaning solution. Then you’ll need approximately one cup of distilled white vinegar or a can of aerosol hairspray.

Dip the toothbrush into the distilled white vinegar and apply it to the permanent marker stain. If you don’t have access to a toothbrush you can also use a clean rag.

Let it sit for a few minutes.

Remember leather has many layers and pores so the permanent marker stain can be deep. The distilled white vinegar needs time to soak into the layers and work its magic.

After a few minutes wipe the marker away. If there is a little bit of marker left in the leather, use the toothbrush to help work it up out of the leather using an upside-down “C” motion. Then wipe.


An alternative to distilled vinegar is hairspray. Hold the can a few inches away from the stain and spray directly onto the area, enough that it looks wet.

Allow it to set for a few minutes, then wipe it away with the same movements as you would with vinegar.

leather couch with permanent marker stain
Permanent Marker on Leather [Photo by Thrifty Fun]

Removing Ink from Carpet

Carpet comes in many variations: low pile, medium, and thick. You also must consider the fabric. of the carpet, but in general when it comes down to knowing how to remove permanent marker from a carpet, the solution is surprisingly simple.

To remove the permanent marker you will need either rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or distilled white vinegar. Similar to leather, this is time-sensitive. You don’t want the permanent marker to set into the carpet fibers.

Apply a small amount of product directly to the stain, then use a damp cloth to blot the stain. Make sure to blot the stain and not rub or smear it.

Have a good selection of clean rags to use when blotting and absorbing. Wet the rag and place it over the stain to absorb it.

Be patient and meticulous and the stain will eventually lift.

If you’ve tried everything and the stain still isn’t lifting, if it’s a high pile rug you can take scissors and cut the stain out.

How to Remove Permanent Marker from Your Walls

Walls weren’t made just to make rooms in a house or support the structure of the roof. They are also an unspoken canvas for children. If you find yourself in a situation where your child has taken their creativity out on your walls with permanent markers have no fear.

You can either use rubbing alcohol, hairspray, lemon essential oil, or a magic eraser to remove the permanent marker from your walls. Grab a clean rag and apply a generous amount of the solution of choice. As the rag gets dirty replace it with a new clean one so you don’t smear the marker on the wall.

Be sure not to rub too hard because you can end up removing the paint in the area you scrubbing!

little girl drawing on wall with bright colored marker
Photo Credit: Elements / Envato

Tackling Ink Stains on Plastic, Laminate, or Metal

To remove permanent marker from any kind of plastic, laminate, or metal the best route is to use concentrated essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, or pure vegetable cooking oil. By using concentrated oils you are getting the most powerful, undiluted mixture to tackle any stain.

But use it with caution. Since it isn’t diluted the oil is very powerful and can remove paint, and dyes or irritate the skin. If using oils I suggest wearing plastic gloves for extra protection.

To get the best results, let the oil sit on the stain for a few minutes then rub away using a clean rag.

If you don’t already have vegetable oil or any of the essential oils listed above, hairspray, hand sanitizer, or nail polish remover can be great solutions as well to remove permanent marker stains.

You can also try a simple pencil eraser or dry erase marker. Depending on the plastic, metal, or laminate surface you may get lucky and just have to erase it away or trace the permanent marker with a dry erase marker and wipe it away.

How to Remove Permanent Marker from Wood

How do you remove permanent markers from wood? It’s a question most people would dread having to type into Google, however, the solution to this predicament is manageable.

Everyone brushes their teeth so you likely already have the solution to your stain removal sitting in your bathroom.

Toothpaste mixed with baking soda can remove permanent marker stains from wood flooring and furniture. Make sure that the toothpaste you use is not gel toothpaste because gel toothpaste is known to have dyes inside that can cause it to leave a stain in place of the one you’re trying to remove.

Apply a generous amount of the toothpaste, and baking soda mixture to a dry and clean rag or makeup remover pad. Rub the stain gently and be sure you’re going with the grain of the wood. By rubbing with the grain of the wood you are ensuring no permanent marker is getting trapped in the wood channels. You can pull all the stains in the channels onto your cloth.

Sometimes the stains are just too stubborn for a little elbow grease and toothpaste. If this is the case you can put a small amount of essential oils on a magic eraser or sponge. Rub gently, again going with the grain of the wood. The oil has acids in it that will pull up the permanent marker leaving no damage or stains to the wood finish.

Butcher Block—It’s A Different Strategy Than Plain Old Wood!

If you end up getting permanent marker on your butcher block counters or cutting boards, start by covering the stain with salt. Use half a raw lemon to scrub the salt in and around the stain.

The key is to let it sit for more than 8 hours so it is recommended to do this in the evening and wash the block clean in the morning with warm water.

Butcher Block with Salt and Lemon scrub
Permanent Marker Removal From Butcher Block Using Salt and Lemon [Photo by Amelia Lawrence]

Removing Permanent Ink from Granite and Tile

If and when you accidentally get a permanent marker stain on a piece of granite or tile, use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

Don’t let the cleaner sit on top of the surface for too long because it can leave rings or eat away at the granite.

Also, avoid using white vinegar. The acid in the vinegar will wear away at the counter protective sealant that prevents spills from absorbing into the stone and causing permanent stains.

rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer on countertop
Cleaning Solutions [Photo by Amelia Lawrence]

Removing Permanent Marker from Screens

When removing a permanent marker stain from a computer or tv screen, try using a wet wipe or baby wipe to remove the stain off the screen.

If a wet wipe doesn’t work, break out the toothpaste tube and dab some onto the stain. Let that sit for a few minutes and wipe it off with a clean cloth. You may have to do this a few times until the stain is gone.

You can also use a dry erase marker to trace over the top of the permanent marker stain. Let it sit for a few moments to soak in, then take a clean facial tissue or cloth and gently wipe the stain away along with the dry erase ink.

This works because when you write over it with a dry erase marker, you’re adding pigment and solvent to the surface you are cleaning. The solvent eats away at the permanent marker stain and allows each part–dry-erase pigment, permanent marker ink, and the solvent–to be wiped away.

Permanent marker on computer screen
Permanent Marker Stain on Computer Screen [Photo by Capital Cashflow]

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If your original method of removing a permanent marker stain doesn’t work don’t worry. Just choose a different method, and try again.
  • Do not mix different stain removers. If the first method doesn’t work, rinse the area thoroughly before trying the next.
  • Remember the longer the marking is on a surface, the more it becomes “permanent” so try to remove it as soon as you can.
  • When tackling a stain, make sure to never apply heat. That’ll make the stain set faster.