How to Remove Permanent Markers: 8 Easy Tips to Try

Permanent marker stains don’t need to be permanent if you know the proper ways to remove them.

We’ve all used permanent markers for one reason or another — art projects, labeling our belongings, decorating Easter eggs, giving ourselves (or others) fake tattoos… And while it usually ends up where we put it, there are those few instances that it ends up somewhere we don’t want it, whether we dropped the Sharpie and it got on our favorite shirt or a toddler takes it upon themselves to decorate the walls with their very own mural.

Whatever the case, no need to panic! You can actually remove permanent markers from almost anything — and it doesn’t take long, either. Here’s how to remove Sharpie from just about everything.


Cleaning wood.

Whether you’ve found a permanent marker stain on your wooden furniture or your wood floors, you can use either rubbing alcohol, toothpaste (without gel in it) or peanut butter (yes, the kind you eat!) to remove it.

  1. Apply one of these items to the markings and let it sit for five minutes or so.
  2. Use a damp cloth to lightly scrub away the treatment and the stain should come off with it!
  3. Repeat this process if necessary to get it all off.


Most places you’ll find laminates are countertops or floors — which are also places that young children enjoy drawing on with permanent marker. Use a magic eraser or toothpaste mixed with baking soda to get the Sharpie off.

For the magic eraser, simply get it wet and scrub the marker off. For the toothpaste and baking soda, mix them together, put the mixture onto the marker and use a damp rag to scrub it into the stain. Rinse the excess toothpaste off with some water and a clean rag.

Plastic, metal, glass, whiteboard and tile

For surfaces made of plastic, metal, glass, whiteboard or tile, you can typically use either a dry erase marker or some rubbing alcohol to remove the permanent marker.

If you’re using a dry erase marker, simply color over the permanent marker with the dry erase marker and wipe it away with a clean, dry paper towel. Repeat as necessary until the entire permanent mark is gone.

For the rubbing alcohol method, grab a cotton ball and dampen it with rubbing alcohol. Then use it to rub off the stain. Clean the area again with water and a rag to soak up anything left over.

Painted surfaces

Little girl drawing on the wall with markers.

From painted walls to kitchen cabinets to furniture, there are plenty of large, painted surfaces in our homes that make a canvas for permanent marker.

To eliminate stains from these surfaces, use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain gel and apply it to the marker. Let it sit for at least five minutes, then use a damp cloth to gently scrub the stain off the painted surface. Wipe away the excess toothpaste with a clean rag and water.

Clothing, fabric, upholstery and carpet

Sharpie can sometimes show up on the fabric items we use daily — clothes, pillows, furniture, etc. Luckily, there are many household items that can take permanent marker off of these items: rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, hairspray, nail polish remover or non-gel toothpaste.

  1. To get Sharpie out of clothing and fabric, start by putting an old rag or some paper towels on the underside of the fabric with the stain, if possible. This will prevent the marker from transferring onto other parts of the piece you’re cleaning.
  2. Soak the stain with your choice of removal product and use a cloth rag to firmly dab away the marker. Only use a dabbing motion and avoid rubbing back and forth or in circles as this can further push the stain into the fabric and make it absolutely permanent.
  3. Once the marker is no longer visible, wash it as you normally would (if possible) and it’s good as new! If you can’t put the object into the washing machine, you can use a clean, damp cloth to get any residue out of the fabric.

This method should work for most fabric types and carpets or rugs, including cotton, microfiber and polyester.


Up close leather chair.

The most important part of removing sharpie from leather is to do it as soon as possible so it doesn’t have time to set and cling to the leather permanently.

Hairspray is an effective way to get it off — spray it onto the affected area and blot it away with a damp rag. Repeat if needed, just remember to blot it gently and not to scrub too hard or it may ruin the finish of the leather.

Books and paper

Sometimes, we end up writing on paper with a permanent marker when we don’t mean to and we jump to the conclusion that it’s irreversible. Nail polish remover can actually erase or at least lighten permanent marker from paper.

Dampen a cotton swab with nail polish remover and lightly dab the stain to extract the ink. Be extra gentle, as paper is delicate and can tear very easily, especially when wet. Again, you may not completely get the marker off, but it will be a noticeably lighter marking than before!

Take note that with colored paper and books, use caution. Any liquid, including nail polish remover, may also remove the color from the paper along with the marker.


Pouring hand sanitizer into a hand to remove permanent markers

You may have been writing with Sharpie and accidentally gotten some on your hands or maybe you were giving yourself a marker tattoo and ended up wanting to get the ink off of your skin. Whatever happened, hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol will solve the problem.

To remove the Sharpie marker from your skin, just put some hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol onto the stain and rub away the marker using a cotton ball.

No need to worry about how to remove permanent markers

In almost any case, you can figure out how to remove permanent markers. Really, it’s just a bit more difficult to remove than other markers that are washable, so there’s no need to feel distraught if you’ve found Sharpie on a surface.

Using the above tips, you’ll be able to take care of it in no time!