Does Sharpie Wash out of Clothes? [7 Easy Methods to Do]

Sharpies are a super useful item and no one should be without one or two lying around the house. Because they are permanent markers, they can write on most surfaces and won’t smudge.

But what about when you do want it to come off? What about when you drop your Sharpie marker and it marks your shirt? Or even worse, when you sit on your Sharpie marker while the cap is off? If it’s a ‘permanent marker’, that means those clothes are permanently marked, right? Wrong!

The key to removing a sharpie stain from clothing is to break down the ink with a solvent product before you put it in the washing machine. Rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, vinegar, even hair spray can be used to break down the alcohols and oils that Sharpie markers use to trap the color pigments in place.

We’ll cover seven great ways to remove Sharpie ink in detail a little later on in this article, but first we’ll take a look at exactly what a permanent marker is and how it works. The more you understand about Sharpie markers, the better you can deal with stains. 

does sharpie wash out of clothes

What is Sharpie Permanent Marker?

Sharpie markers are permanent markers. When the company first started out, it only made and sold permanent markers, but now Sharpie sells a range of other Sharpie pens and writing utensils as well, including cute colored pens.

Sharpies come in all sorts of colors and shapes, from bullet tips to ultra-fine point. They have gained huge popularity worldwide and are considered to be a very fashionable permanent marker as well as useful. They are even the pen of choice for astronauts on the International Space Station because they still work even in zero gravity. Now that’s a fun fact that shows how much Sharpie pens deliver!

SHARPIE Permanent Markers, Ultra Fine Point, Black, 12 Count

Permanent markers, also known as indelible markers, are characterized as markers that are water-resistant and can adhere to most kinds of surfaces. Unlike normal markers that are made with water, permanent markers are made with solvents (alcohol).

When Sharpie markers are used, the alcohol evaporates much more quickly than water can, which is what allows them to be used as fabric markers: they adhere to surfaces that normal markers cannot. 

Despite the name ‘permanent marker’, standard Sharpie markers are not actually permanent, and they don’t claim to be, at least not the way fabric markers do. The Sharpie company says that Sharpie permanent ink will last anywhere from three or four months to several years.

The ink is fade-resistant, but it works better on certain surfaces and lasts longer in certain conditions. So if you write on a surface where Sharpie is less effective, and leave it out in extreme weather, that Sharpie ink won’t last all that long. 

Do Permanent Marker Stains Wash out of Clothes? 

If you accidentally get Sharpie or permanent marker on your clothes, your first instinct may be that they’re ruined. But this isn’t necessarily the case. Sharpie and other permanent marker inks can actually be washed out of clothing. You’ll need to do a little bit more to remove ink stains and Sharpie marks from your garment than just putting it in the washing machine, but not too much more!

Although a Sharpie stain can withstand regular laundry cycles, it’s a different story if you pretreat the stain first. Since the color pigments of the Sharpie are protected by water-resistant materials, they can’t be reached and washed away until you break through that barrier. If you apply alcohol or another solvent substance, you can remove the alcohol and resin that binds the ink together, and expose the color pigments. Once this is done, you really will be able to remove permanent marker ink stains from your clothes with a regular cycle in the washing machine. That’s why staining your t-shirt with Sharpie markers is really not the end of the world.

However, all of this is assuming the stain is fresh and hasn’t had that much time to dry. If the opposite is true and you noticed the stain on the fabric immediately, you will have a harder time washing the stained clothing, especially if you’ve already washed and dried that garment since it happened. But it still isn’t a lost cause. With some extra-strong solvent and a little extra elbow grease, you should still be able to get rid of a Sharpie pen stain, or at least remove as much ink as possible.

It should be pointed out that both the size and severity of the stain do matter here. If the marker stain is small, it will be quite manageable. But if you’ve yourself got a big dark ink blot worth of Sharpie marks, this will always be harder to remove, and while we are confident that these methods will help make any stain smaller and less visible, we can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to remove it completely.

So, does Sharpie wash out of clothes? Yes, it does, and we’re here to tell you how. Here are the details on all the best ways to remove permanent marker stains from your everyday fabric items.

Easy Ways to Wash Sharpie Stains out of Clothes

We have ten household items here that will help you to remove permanent marker stains, and it’s very likely that you’ll have a least one or two of them in your house already! If not, don’t fret, because you can get them delivered tomorrow for next to no cost.

Aside from your solvent of choice, you’ll need a bucket or container of some kind, and a few clean cloths or rags. You’ll also need a whole bunch of paper towels to remove permanent marker stains on your clothes.

A Note on Safety

Before we begin, you may be wondering, since there are so many different options to choose from, if you can use more than one solvent solution on the same stain.

You can use more than one solution, but not at the same time! You need to make sure the different kinds of solvent don’t mix because they could react to each other and damage your clothing, or even expose you to harmful fumes.

When dealing with solvents, alcohols, and other strong cleaning solutions, you should make sure to always wear gloves to protect your skin. Remember to take care and move cautiously so you don’t cause the liquid to splash onto other parts of exposed skin, especially the face and eyes.

Lastly, always open the windows and make sure the room is well ventilated to avoid inhaling fumes. Even if your Sharpie markers contain non-toxic ink, the fumes can be caused by the tools you’ll be using to clean your permanent marker-stained clothes.

Method 1 – Rubbing Alcohol

Swan 70% Rubbing Alcohol 32.FL Oz. (1QT) 946 mL by Swan

Rubbing alcohol can be used for many things around the house, and you made already have some on hand. To use rubbing alcohol as a pre-treatment for your Sharpie stain, you’ll need paper towels and a cloth or two. Microfiber is great for this. Don’t forget to prepare a piece of cardboard.

Step 1 – Prepare to clean

The first thing you should do (and this applies to the majority of the methods we’ll introduce today), is put a piece of cardboard and some paper towel underneath the stained segment of fabric to separate it from the rest of the garment. Applying the alcohol can make the color come loose, and it could seep into other parts of the fabric it has contact with.

Step 2 – Add rubbing alcohol

Once you have your cardboard in place, you can grab your clean cloth and add a good amount of rubbing alcohol to a small section of it. Another very important thing to be aware of while removing permanent marker stains with solvents is the direction in which you rub the fabric.

If you start in the middle of the stain and move outwards, you will pick up the color and smear it across clean parts of the fabric. This is obviously not an ideal situation!

Instead, you need to start at the edges and move towards the middle. Because of this, your movements will need to be slow and careful, you can’t just scrub the stain mindlessly while watching TV. It might be more effort, but slow, careful movements will give you the best results, and also help to avoid damaging your clothing during the process.

If you notice the cloth has become completely stained with ink, then wet a new section with the rubbing alcohol and continue. Do this until you can’t see any more ink stains.

Step 3 – Put your everyday fabric items in the wash

To make sure all of the color pigments are completely gone, put your clothing in the washing machine on regular laundry cycles with your normal detergent.

We mentioned earlier that a permanent ink stain will be much more difficult to remove from your t-shirt or another piece of fabric after it has dried. Because of this, you should always make sure to re-check the garment once it comes out of the washing machine and confirm that the stain has completely gone before putting the garment in the dryer.

Method 2 – Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer 33200-01670 Baking Soda Shaker, 12 oz., (Pack of 12)

Another substance that you are very likely to have in your kitchen is baking soda. Baking soda is definitely the mildest option on this list: it doesn’t produce fumes, it isn’t toxic, and it isn’t that strong. But it could still do the job on fresh stains.

Step 1 – Prepare to clean

Add the cardboard and paper towels behind the stained fabric to protect the rest of your garment from ink transfer. This is the same across all of our methods for cleaning permanent marker-stained clothes.

Step 2 – Make your cleaning mixture

Make a baking powder mixture by combining water and baking soda with a 1:2 ratio (1 tablespoon of water for every 2 tablespoons of soda). You can also boost the effectiveness by substituting the water for lemon juice. The acidity in lemon juice helps to break down the oils in the permanent marker. 

Step 3 – Apply the mixture

Apply the soda paste to the stained area of your clothing and gently massage it into the fabric. There’s nothing the baking soda can do to harm you or your garment, so you don’t need to be overly cautious when trying this method. 

Step 4 – Leave it to sit

Once you’ve added a good amount of baking soda paste and worked it into the textile, leave it to sit for around 20 minutes. If the stain from your classic Sharpie marker was made very recently, there’s a chance that this method will fully remove it. Once the 20 minutes have passed, you can rinse the mixture from your garment under the tap with cold water.

If the stain is still there, it is likely that the baking soda solution isn’t potent enough to get the job done, and you may want to try another method. Make sure to fully rinse away the baking soda solution before adding another cleaning agent to the fabric.

Method 3 – Nail Polish Remover

Sally Hansen Nail Polish Remover Moisturizing, 8 Ounce

If you don’t have any rubbing alcohol in the house and you don’t want to go out and buy some, nail polish remover is another kind of alcohol you can use to remove stains from permanent markers.

Step 1 – Prepare the garment

Ready your garment with the protective cardboard and paper towel backing layer. Without this, you may find that your stain hasn’t really ‘disappeared’, but has actually just relocated to the other side of your t-shirt! 

Step 2 – Dab the stain

Like the rubbing alcohol method, you’ll need something to dab at the stain with, so find a clean cloth or rag. You could also use a paper towel, but you’d have to keep swapping out the dirtied sheets for clean paper towels and may end up using quite a lot. It’s a good idea to stock up on these beforehand.

Wet your dabbing material of choice with a decent amount of nail polish remover. When you begin to work on the stain, remember to start from the edges and move inwards. If your stain is a thin line drawn by the Sharpie, start at the tip of the line and move towards the middle. This will help to keep any mess and smudges contained in the smallest area possible. 

Step 3 – Wash the garment

Reapply more nail polish remover to a new area of the cloth when needed, and continue to dab/rub the stain until all the color has been lifted off.

Once you are happy with the results, give your garment a wash on a regular washing machine cycle. Make sure to double-check the results before drying. 

Method 4 – White Vinegar

Mrs. Wages Pickling and Canning Vinegar, 128 Fl Oz

This is another non-toxic option to try if you don’t want to use alcohol and solvents. If you’d rather not use those options, it’s totally understandable. Alcohol and solvents can pose dangers and you shouldn’t use them if you don’t feel comfortable.

White vinegar, like baking soda, is a popular cleaning agent for household chores and is used in a lot of natural homemade cleaning solutions. While the main benefit of natural cleaning agents, like baking soda and vinegar, are their non-toxicity and milder odors, they do have drawbacks too.

Primarily, natural solutions will always be weaker than their heavy-duty chemical counterparts. So although you will use the same wetting and dabbing technique with the white vinegar as you did with the rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover, an extra step does need to be added to give the vinegar time to do its work.

Step 1 – Set up your garment

Set your garment up with a layer of cardboard and a paper towel to protect your t-shirt or other clothing from runaway color pigments and Sharpie bleed.

Step 2 – Add white vinegar

Wet a clean cloth, rag, or paper towel with a liberal amount of distilled white vinegar and apply it to your stain. Always make sure you’re moving your cloth from the outside of the stain towards the middle to avoid smudges, although it’s likely that you won’t see a lot of color lifting from the stain on your t-shirt at this point. 

Step 3 – Leave it to rest

Once a good amount of vinegar has been applied and worked into the fabric, let the vinegar sit for around half an hour. This will give the vinegar some time to break down the oils and alcohols that are binding the color pigments to the fibers of your garment.

Step 4 – Wet the stained area

Once the time is up, wet a clean area of the cloth with more vinegar and gently rub the stain again (from the outside, towards the middle). You should find that the color is coming off this time. 

Keep rubbing until all of the color has been removed, but if you’re having a hard time you can add another layer of vinegar and leave it to sit again to try and tackle the last bits of the stain. 

Step 5 – Run it in the wash

When you’re all finished up and there’s no more stain to be seen. Give your garment a wash in your washing machine.

Always remember to double-check the results before drying your clothing, because if you missed anything the first time, it will be harder to fix once the stain has been dried on. 

Method 5 – Hairspray

L'Oreal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Lock It Bold Control Hairspray 8.25 Ounce

This one might seem a little silly, but some hairsprays actually have very high alcohol content! If you don’t have any of the other forms of alcohol we’ve covered so far in your house, you can check to see if your hairspray contains alcohol. If it doesn’t, move right along on to the next method, because without alcohol, your hairspray is useless to you right now. Alternatively, get a bottle delivered to your home.

If you do have hairspray that you can use, follow the steps below.

Step 1 – Prepare the cardboard

Protect your garment from ink spreading by putting a layer of cardboard and a clean paper towel behind the stained area.

Step 2 – Spray the item

Spray the stain with your hairspray. You’ll want the stain to be fully saturated with hairspray, so hold the can close to the fabric to concentrate the spray in one place. 

Step 3 – Let it rest

Once it’s nice and soaked, leave the hair spray to sit on the permanent marker stain for around fifteen minutes. The alcohol in the hairspray will use this time to break down the pesky substances that are preventing the color pigments from being washed away. 

Step 4 – Rinse and repeat

When you’ve waited the full fifteen minutes, rinse the stained fabric under some cold water and water to see how much color comes up. If your Sharpie stain can still be seen even when the item has been fully rinsed with cold water, you may want to repeat the process. 

Once you are happy with the results, you can wash the clothing in the laundry.

Method 6 – Hydrogen Peroxide

Essentialoxygen Hydrogen Peroxide 3%4

Hydrogen peroxide is a type of chemical that has bleaching abilities. It can be used to ‘remove’ Sharpie stains by bleaching them and rendering them invisible! It’s weaker than other bleaching products like chlorine bleach, but if you’re trying to remove permanent marker ink from a colored garment, it may be best to use a different method rather than taking the risk of damaging the dye on your fabric.

Step 1 – Add the padding

Don’t forget to protect your clothing with some padding, be it cardboard or paper towels. (For this cleaning agent in particular you may want to make your padding extra thick.)

Step 2 – Apply the substance

Apply some hydrogen peroxide to a cloth or rag and apply it to the stain, always starting from the outside and moving inwards. You should see some color coming away. 

Step 3 – Leave it to sit

Once the stain is saturated, leave the hydrogen peroxide to sit for fifteen to twenty minutes. When you rinse the clothing with cold water, the remainder of the stain should lift off.

Wash your garment on a regular cycle in the laundry.

Method 7 – 90% Rubbing Alcohol

Amazon Brand - Solimo 99% Isopropyl Alcohol For Technical Use,16 Fl Oz

This last method is the last resort: a heavy-duty trump card in your stain-removing arsenal. If you’re trying to get rid of a permanent marker stain that has already been through a cycle in the washing machine and the dryer, you should ignore methods 1 through 6 and just come straight to this one. 

Normal rubbing alcohol is usually around 70% alcohol, but to get rid of a dried Sharpie stain, it just isn’t strong enough. What you need is rubbing alcohol with an alcohol content of 90%, such as Hydrox. You’ll also need a bucket, some salt, and some milk.

Step 1 – Submerge your clothing

Fill a bucket or some kind of container with the 90% rubbing alcohol, and submerge the stained segment of your clothing. The fumes from the rubbing alcohol will be quite strong, so you should make sure you’re in a well-ventilated room, next to an open window, or even outside.

Step 2 – Leave it to soak

Let the clothing soak for about fifteen minutes, and then remove it from the alcohol and use your hand to apply some salt to the affected area and gently rub it into the fabric.

Step 3 – Add a mixture to the stain

Make a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and milk, pour it over the stain, and use a cloth to scrub the salt and milk mixture over the stain. Dried permanent marker stains are really tough, so you’ll have to use a little elbow grease here.

Continue this process until the stain is completely gone, and then wash the clothing normally.

Does Sharpie Bleed in the Wash?

If you have Sharpie marker on your clothing, it will not bleed in the wash unless it has been pre-treated with alcohol beforehand. So if you want to write your name on the labels of your clothing, for instance, you can do so and be free to wash the clothing without having to worry about the ink bleeding.

If you do want the ink to be removed, you’ll need to pre-treat the Sharpie ink with a cleaning agent like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, nail polish remover, or hairspray beforehand. 

Will Sharpie Stay on Fabric After Washing? 

Yes. In fact, the washing and drying process will actually help the ink fully seep into the fabric’s fibers and adhere to them. This means that you can feel free to wash a garment that you’ve purposely marked with Sharpie, but it also means you should try to avoid washing clothing that has become accidentally stained with Sharpie.

The ink stain will become a lot harder to remove once it has been washed and dried. If you’re about to wash something you know you wore while using permanent markers, it wouldn’t hurt to check it for stains first! 

Is Sharpie Permanent on Clothes?

Technically, ‘Sharpie markers are permanent’ is a bit of a misconception. A permanent marker isn’t actually categorized based on how long its ink will stay on a surface, but instead on the ingredients of its ink and the fact that it is water-resistant.

This means that Sharpie is not permanent on fabric and can be removed from surfaces including clothing, but water won’t be able to do the job. Instead, you will have to use an alcohol or cleaning agent to break down the different ingredients in the ink. On the other hand, if you want your clothing to stay marked as long as possible, you just need to keep it away from alcohol solvents and cleaning agents instead. 


The ultimate answer to the question ‘does Sharpie wash out of clothes?’ is a big yes. While a Sharpie stain on your favorite shirt may send you into a panic, it’s very likely not as bad as you think!

Permanent inks can be broken down and removed in the majority of cases, you just have to know what the ink is made up of and how it is clinging to your clothing. Once you understand how a Sharpie uses alcohol and resin to bind color pigments to fabric fibers and protect them from outside forces, you’ll know exactly how to foil its master plan and remove permanent marker stains effectively. 

There are various methods to remove permanent marker stains and various things to keep in mind depending on the type of fabric you’ve stained, when it happened, and whether it’s been washed and dried since then, but we hope the article has covered some tips that will help you out! 

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