As the dad of a 3 year old and 18-month-old I’ve spent a fair share of my time stain treating and cleaning up crazy messes.
One of the most common issues I’ve had to deal with is how to remove permanent marker from a variety of surfaces. Now, you might wonder why my kids have access to sharpies. Rest assured, they don’t. But somehow, they always get them anyway. If you’re a parent, you understand.
So, whether you’re a parent (like me) trying to remove sharpie from the wall and the dog or an eBay reseller (also like me) trying to remove sharpie from shoes, clothes, and other thrift goods, we’ve got the method and the power!
Now, I know there are a bazillion methods out there for removing permanent marker. However, these are the things that, in my experience, have the greatest chance of removing the stain without damaging the material. After all, there’s no point in removing the stain if the cleaner you used leaves an even bigger stain behind!
If you have any other tips or tricks, send us a message and we’ll add them to our list (we’ll even credit you…what an honor!)
So let’s get to it! The process of removing sharpie from 99% of items in the exact same process:
How to Remove Sharpie from 99% of Items
- Saturate the sharpie stain with rubbing alcohol
- Blot and gently rub the stain with a soft cloth
- Repeat until the stain is gone
- Rinse with water and a clean rag
I have used rubbing alcohol to remove sharpie from dozens of different items. Not only is it extremely effective, but it is also unusual in that it doesn’t affect the written-on-object at all. It doesn’t stain, it doesn’t make it crusty, etc. So, if you’re in a hurry, give rubbing alcohol a try first! (after a spot-test)
Now, while rubbing alcohol is a pretty amazing product, there are some even better cleaners that will remove stains from nearly anything that can be stained. The one in particular that I keep on hand is Ammodex.
Amodex does more than just clean up marker. It cleans marker, ink, crayon, makeup (and more) from furniture, skin, clothing/fabric, leather, etc. If you are in a bind and need something to remove marker NOW! we’ll do our best to offer some alternatives. Just be sure to order a bottle or two of Amodex (and the super convenient wipes) to have in your cupboard for the next time this happens!
So, now that you’ve ordered yourself a miracle in a bottle, let’s get into the meat of the subject and talk about how to remove some marker lines!
How to Get Sharpie Off of Walls
Figuring out how to get sharpie off of walls is a tricky problem without a straight forward solution (sorry to say). I’m also sorry to say that I’ve had a lot of experience with this recently as my 18-month-old hasn’t figured out the differences between paper, books, walls, and doors when it comes to coloring.
While your type of wall covering is going to dictate how we’ll remove the sharpie, there are ways for every type.
So first off, what are we working with? Are your walls covered in paint? Shiplap? Wallpaper? What type of wallpaper? In the interest of brevity, let’s pretend that we’re removing sharpie from a wall covered with wallpaper. Sharpie on wallpaper is the most difficult to remove so it will give you the techniques/materials you need to remove it from other wall surfaces as well.
I do have to say, be sure to spot test before you start! There are many different types of wallpaper but, whatever type you have, a bit greasy stained spot isn’t going to look any better than the sharpie. I have listed items in the order in the order I would try them as to avoid damaging your wall covering. So start with #1 and proceed with caution!
5 Items that Will Removed Sharpie from a Wall:
- Soap and Water. If the “drawing” is fresh, sudsing up with a bucket of hot water and dish soap might be enough to remove it. This won’t work for old dried up writing but it’s typically worth a try before bringing out the big guns.
- Baking Soda Paste. If soap and water failed, the next step is to use something abrasive to rub the marker off/out. The most gentle version of this is a paste you can make out of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Just mix it thoroughly in a container, spread of the stain, and rub gently with a rag or washcloth. Just be sure to rinse the baking soda off the water with a clean rag when you’re done.
- Toothpaste. If your baking soda mixture fails, toothpaste may come to the rescue. Just be sure to choose a non-gel version that isn’t a wall-staining color. Use the same method here as with the baking soda paste.
- Magic Eraser. If you have a wall covered with anything other than wallpaper, a magic eraser will remover the sharpie every time. Just wet the magic eraser (with water or a soap solution) and rub gently. Magic erasers rely on abrasiveness to lightly “sand” the stain off. Just be sure to use it gently on wallpaper as you can damage it if you’re too vigorous.
- Rubbing Alcohol. As a last resort, using copious amounts of rubbing alcohol to saturate the offending marks and rubbing gently with a rag will remove most stains. The reason I would not recommend this more highly is that is has a high likelihood of staining, fading, or causing the wallpaper to peel.
Things I would not use:
There are several items that people claim will remove sharpie stains from walls that I absolutely would not recommend. Typically these products are recommended by people who have never seem to have even seen a sharpie, let alone a wall. So, unless you want to stain and damage your wall/wallpaper, avoid any oil-based cleaners like the plague. This includes items like goo-gone, wd-40, olive oil, and oil-based stain removers. You will, more than likely, end up with a huge stain. (If you already have a huge oil stain, try rubbing baking power over it, letting it sit, then brushing it off).
Hopefully, that was helpful it removing sharpie from your wall! If that wasn’t your issue, let’s move on!
How to Get Marker Off Skin
When it comes to removing permanent marker from skin, alcohol is the name of the game. In fact, the top 3 items I recommend are effective because they all contain alcohol and you can use them all in the same way!
So if you (or your teenager/toddler…same thing really….) have some sharpie to remove from you skin, start with:
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Finger Nail Polish Remover
- Hand Sanitizer
With each of the items, the method is the same. Get a little of it on a cotton ball, and gently rub the mark. It is better to rinse off and reapply if it’s not coming off very fast instead of scrubbing as you might irritate your skin.
While there are probably other options for removing marker from skin, I have used all three of those items with great success and no negative side-effects. Unless you have alien skin, they’ll work for you too.
How to Remove Permanent Marker from a Whiteboard
Unfortunately, there is a student in every middle school class that thinks it’s funny to draw some parts of the male anatomy of the classroom whiteboard in permanent marker. While this might be funny to the developing brains of 13-year-old boys, it can be a nightmare for a teacher who needs to remove it, and quick!
Or maybe you’re simply in the boat of grabbing the wrong marker to use on your fridge or personal whiteboard. Whatever the case, rest easy. It is actually incredibly simple to remove permanent marker from a whiteboard and you only need one item.
When I accidentally used a Sharpie on my whiteboard I tried everything from goo-gone to oven cleaner to get it off. Don’t bother. All you need is a Magic Eraser. Get it a bit wet with either water or Windex and rub the offending marker right off!
If you don’t have a Magic Eraser handy, there is always the old standby trick of coloring over the marker. Just grab a dry erase marker and trace/scribble over the line you want to remove and then erase it before the ink dries. Easy as pie!
How to Get Sharpie Out of Carpet
At the expense of sounding like a broken record, the solution here will be the same as the above! The best way to get sharpie out of carpet is to use either rubbing alcohol, or an alcohol-based cleaner or aerosol (such as hair-spray).
Removing Sharpie from Carpet (3 Quick Steps)
- Saturate the marker stain with rubbing alcohol (or a similar cleaner)
- Blot or gently rub the spot until the stain is gone
- Use a rag and fresh water to clean up the alcohol/cleaner
Removing sharpie from carpet isn’t nearly as hard as you’d think because carpet it super hardy. It is mean to get dirty and be vigorously cleaned. Just be sure to avoid anything (like bleach) that could cause color loss or anything oily (like goo-gone) that could stain the carpet and penetrate through to the layers underneath.
How to Remove Sharpie from Rubber (Including the Soles of Shoes)
We sell a lot of used shoes on eBay and one of our major annoyances is when a thrift store writes the price in sharpie on the bottom of the shoe.
Nothing dampens the sale of your $200 shoes quite like a $4.00 price scrawled on the bottom. It’s simply bad form to leave the price there for your buyer to see so let’s talk about how to remove the sharpie from a shoe sole!
Luckily for resellers everywhere, sharpie on rubber soles is incredibly easy to remove.
For awhile we used Goo Gone (it does work) which required lots of scrubbing and left us with an oily mess. Quite by accident, we discovered a cheap and easy solution….nail polish remover (alcohol again) and a dryer sheet! Dryer sheets are a commonly used article for people removing fingernail polish but, as far as we know, we are the only ones who use it for sharpie removal! The ways of doing this are many but the gist of it is, get some fingernail polish remover on the sharpie and then rub it with the dryer sheet. We usually use a cotton ball to dab some over the sharpie and then use a dryer sheet that has been wet with polish remover to simply wipe the sharpie away.
Using GooGone to Remove Sharpie and Clean Soles
The one exception to our “don’t use goo-gone” rule is if you’re trying to remove much more than marker from the sole of a shoe. If you have a rubber or plastic-type sole that’s filthy, it might be worth the mess that goo-gone makes to restore the sole.
In fact, we just wrote an entire article on the process that we use to do just that!
How to Remove Sharpie from Leather
As with wall coverings, they types of leather you can remove sharpie from are extremely diverse. This obviously effects how we approach the problem and what we’re going to use to remove the mark!
Now, when it comes to removing sharpie from leather, you typically have treated leathers (the kind most purses and made from) and suede leathers (the soft fuzzy kind).
If you have a smooth leather, rubbing the marker gently with rubbing alcohol can be extremely effective. Should that fail, a magic eraser can typically be used as long as you are gentle.
Process for Removing Sharpie from Leather
- Wet a small area of a rag with rubbing alcohol – just enough to dampen it, we don’t want it soaking
- Use the damp rag to gently wipe the marker mark
- Reapply rubbing alcohol as needed and move to clean areas of the rag often
- Continue until you have removed all of the marker
- Once you have the bag cleaned to your liking, be sure to condition the leather (with leather conditioner) to restore the moisture that was pulled out by your cleaning.
Removing sharpie from suede, however, is a different story. Because it is so porous, the marker often penetrates deep into the fibers. The solution? Lots and lots of rubbing alcohol. Fully saturating the sharpie-ed area will allow the rubbing alcohol to penetrate deep enough to remove most of the stain. Now, it’s important here to have the guts to see this through. When you first stain, the stain will typically spread out a bit and look worse. Keep saturating and keep blotting and it will eventually come out!
As resellers, we sometimes face the obstacle of removing sharpie from leather soles. And I will say this, I don’t usually try anymore to remove it. Leather soles come in two varieties: soft (impossible to remove marker from) and crusty (also impossible to remove marker from).
If you don’t mind a little discoloring, most household products will remove or at least reduce the appearance of a sharpie mark on the leather. If you don’t want to go that route then here are the two alternate routes we take.
To remove sharpie from leather soles you can buff it off with fine-grit sandpaper. This is especially effective for worn soles where a little sanding won’t be very noticeable. Your other option (which I prefer) is to doctor the price. This does limit your selling price but this is an option that we use all the time both for shoes and for clothing items with markdown prices on the tags. Sold for $24.99? Well, make that $124.99! Sold for $14.95? Now it’s $44.95! Just make it believable.
How to Remove Sharpie From Fabric and Clothing
Whether you’re trying to get sharpie out of a shirt or out of a couch, the methods are very similar. Sharpie stains on fabric can be very difficult to remove but, if you’ve got the patience, we’ve got the method!
Because fabric is porous, it is similar to suede and presents a much more difficult challenge than rubber or hard leather. Sharpie tends to penetrate the fibers and it is very resistant to any surface efforts to remove it.
So here’s the method we’re going to use to penetrate the fibers and remove sharpie from fabric:
- Add a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to a towel and gently blot rub the stain for several minutes.
- Apply some rubbing alcohol to a second clean towel repeat the process. The stain should now be almost entirely gone. If it isn’t, continue with rubbing alcohol until you’re satisfied that they sharpie has been removed from your fabric.
- Using a clean, damp towel, soak up the extra moisture and clean the alcohol from the material you treated.
- Remove any excess moisture by pressing firmly with a clean, dry towel.
- Let the material dry in a warm well-ventilated area (if possible)
If the fabric you’re trying to remove sharpie from is clothing, here are two commandments for you: don’t use bleach, and don’t dry the clothing until you’re confident the stain is removed.
Here’s a secret, bleach is a terrible stain remover and can ruin most items of clothing. Avoid it!
Also, if you are trying to remove sharpie from an item of clothing that has been through the drier, you have my condolences. The heat from a dryer sets stains of all types and makes them extremely difficult to remove. However, if you’re hopeful (or haven’t yet dried the clothing) you can typically remove sharpie from a shirt or pants using rubbing alcohol and simply blotting the stain.
Once you’re happy (or close to happy) with the level of the stain, the rest can typically be removed by soaking the item in a stain removing solution (I like Oxy Clean) overnight and then washing/drying as you normally would.
How to Remove Sharpie From Shoes
So you got a sharpie mark on your Jordan’s? Or maybe your crazy ex-GF scribbled will permanent marker all over your basketball shoes? Well, however the sharpie got onto your shoes, we’ll help you get it off. (Just be sure to spot-test first to avoid color loss)
How to remove sharpie from shoes in 5 steps:
- Get some acetone nail polish remover. If your girlfriend doesn’t have some, pick some put the dollar store. Just be sure it has acetone in it.
- Using a rag, cotton ball, or q-tip (depending on the size of the sharpie mark) gently wet the entire stain with the nail polish remover.
- After the mark is wet, use a dry or slightly damp cloth to soak up the nail polish remover from the stain. As you soak it up, the acetone will bring the sharpie ink with it.
- Repeat until the stain is gone.
- Rise the treated area with water to remove the rest of the nail polish remover.
If you’re impatient and don’t have the right finger nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol can also be used to remove sharpie marks from shoes (with the same method above).
Removing Sharpie from Metal, Plastic, Enamel, etc. (hard surfaces)
For items such as toys, plastic, enamels, etc. there are a plethora of ways to remove sharpie. We’ve listed them here in the order that we’d suggest, taking into account ease of removing the stain, mess created, etc.
Methods that work (just be sure to spot test and find the proper one for your application)
- Magic Eraser. Dampen the magic eraser with water and scrub over the stained area until the stain has been removed. This is the easiest (and least messy) option and works 9 times out of 10.
- Toothpaste and baking soda. Mix 1 part toothpaste with 1 part baking soda and apply a small amount to the stain. Using a clean cloth, rub in a circular motion. This may take a little bit of work but it should come off.
- Pencil Eraser. Rub the eraser over the permanent marker to erase it.
- Dry Erase Marker. Color over the stain with a dry erase marker then wiping it off with a cloth. This process also works great on dry erase boards.
- Rubbing Alcohol. Yes, rubbing alcohol and acetone fingernail polish work here too. Just rub it on and buff off the mark.
- WD-40. Spray some WD-40 on the affected area and scrub with a clean cloth. Just be aware that WD-40 is oil bases and can penetrate into porous materials
Other Things That Remove Permanent Marker:
Since there are literally an infinite number of things that a 3-year-old can draw on, I’m sure that many of you reading this article will have specific items I didn’t cover. However, if you read through all of the methods I’m sure you got an excellent feel for what works to remove sharpie marks in general.
So, in case you missed it, the most effective things for removing sharpie from items are rubbing alcohol and/or a magic eraser.
However, there are lots of other things that people have had luck with and may recommend. So, if you have a stubborn stain, you may want to try some of the following:
Products that people have had luck with:
- Bug Spray
- Hand Sanitizer
- Lighter Fluid
- Baby Wipes
- Lemon Pledge
- Clorox Wipes
- Hair Spray
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- …and dozens more
I can’t imagine needing to remove a permanent marker stain that didn’t respond to one of the materials or methods above.
I hope this article was helpful in saving some of your items that ended up on the business end of a sharpie or permanent marker. I’ll come back and expand this article and my 18-month-old gets older and more devious but, for now, best of luck and happy cleaning!