How to get Sharpie out of clothes

Sharpie markers are great for creative projects and labelling items, but their permanent ink can be a nightmare if it gets on your clothes. Sharpie stains can be difficult to remove given their strong dye that is designed to stick to surfaces. However, don’t give up hope! There are several methods you can try to get Sharpie out of clothes and salvage your stained garment.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to remove Sharpie from clothes using household items. We’ll cover tips and techniques for getting marker stains out of cotton, polyester, spandex, linen, silk, and other common clothing materials. With some persistence and the right tools, you can bid farewell to that Sharpie stain for good!

get sharpie out of clothes

Assess the Stain

Before you begin working on removing a Sharpie stain, inspect it closely. Is it a fresh stain that just happened, or has it been set in for a while? Older stains will be harder to get out. Also, check the fabric type. Some materials like cotton and linen are more absorbent and the stain may have soaked deeper into the fibers. Synthetics like polyester don’t absorb as well, so the stain sits more on the surface.

Supplies You’ll Need

Having the right supplies on hand will make the stain-removal process faster and more effective. Here are some of the most common items used for getting Sharpie out of clothes:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Hairspray
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Toothpaste
  • Oxyclean or stain remover spray
    • OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover ($8.97 for 3 lbs tub)
    • Zout Laundry Stain Remover ($3.97 for 22oz spray bottle)
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
  • Old toothbrush
  • Washcloth or scrub brush
    • Scotch-Brite Scrub Sponges ($6.97 for 8 sponges)
  • Tweezers
  • Paper towels or cotton balls
  • Laundry detergent

Steps for Removing a Fresh Sharpie Stain

If you catch a Sharpie stain right away, you have a good chance of getting it out while it’s still wet. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Blot the stain: Use a paper towel or cloth to quickly absorb as much of the Sharpie ink as possible. Don’t rub it in!
  2. Flush with cold water: Rinse the backside of the fabric under cold running water. This helps push the ink away from the fibres.
  3. Apply alcohol or hairspray: Use a cotton ball to dab rubbing alcohol or spritz hairspray directly on the stain. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Blot stain and rinse: Blot the stain again with a cloth and rinse under cold water until the alcohol or hairspray is removed.
  5. Repeat as needed: If the stain persists, repeat steps 3-4 using baking soda, vinegar, toothpaste or lemon juice.
  6. Launder as usual: Wash the garment in the washing machine using detergent and cold water. Air dry, don’t put it in the dryer yet.
  7. Check stain: If the stain didn’t come out, don’t dry it yet. Treat it again with stain remover before drying. Heat can set the stain, so only dry if the stain is completely gone.

Removing Dried-In Sharpie Stains

For stains that have set into the fabric, getting Sharpie out requires a bit more work. Here are the steps to remove an older, dried-in stain:

  1. Soak the stain: Mix a solution of 1 part dish soap, 1 part baking soda and 6 parts hydrogen peroxide. Apply it directly to the stain and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to a few hours if the stain is set in.
  2. Loosen with a brush: Use an old toothbrush or scrub brush to gently work the solution into the fibres. This will help loosen the bonded Sharpie dye.
  3. Rinse and blot: Rinse the back of the fabric under running water. Blot the front with a cloth or use tweezers to absorb any ink that comes to the surface.
  4. Apply stain removers: Try using hairspray, rubbing alcohol, toothpaste or lemon juice. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing. The baking soda solution helps these work better on set-in stains.
  5. Wash and dry: Wash the item in warm or cold water, whichever the fabric calls for. If the stain is still visible, treat it again before drying. Heat can set the stain, so only dry if the stain is completely gone.
  6. Bleach (white fabrics only): For white cotton and linen, try soaking the stained area in a dilute bleach solution before washing. This can help lift stubborn Sharpie stains from white fabrics.

Tips for Different Fabrics

Certain tricks work better for removing Sharpies from specific fabric types. Here are some tips:

  • Cotton – Good old-fashioned elbow grease is key for cotton items! Work the stain remover into the weave and scrub vigorously with a toothbrush. Launder in hot water if safe for the garment.
  • Polyester – Go easy on polyester, scrubbing too hard can damage it. Lightly dab stain removers and use cool water for washing.
  • Spandex – Rinse spandex stains under running water to avoid spreading the ink. Use liquid stain removers, not pastes or sticks. Wash gently in cold water.
  • Silk – Avoid abrasive scrubbing on silk. Use gentle dabbing and light stain removers. Wash by hand in cool water. For white silk, diluted bleach can also be effective.
  • Leather – Test removers on an inconspicuous spot first. Watch for discolouration. Clean softly with a barely damp cloth and gentle, oil-free soap.
  • Suede – Suede is very absorbent, making Sharpie stains difficult. Try gently working in baking soda or cornmeal with a soft-bristled brush, then brush it off.
  • Linen – Linen does well with scrubbing. Use a toothbrush and work the stain remover into the weave. Launder in hot water for best results.
  • Wool – Wool stains need gentle care. Lightly dab liquid removers and wash by hand or on the delicate cycle in cold water. Let air dry.
  • Rayon – Go slowly with stain removal on rayon. Dampen the stain and lightly dab removers. Wash gently by hand or machine wash cold.

Stubborn Stain Solutions

For really tough Sharpie stains that resist all removal attempts, you can take a few more steps:

  • Soak in vinegar water – Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts cold water. Soak the stained area for 30 minutes before washing. The acid in vinegar helps break down the Sharpie ink bonds.
  • Use acetone – Found in nail polish remover, acetone is an aggressive solvent that can dissolve inks. Use very sparingly on only polyester, acrylic or nylon fabrics. Do not use natural fabrics.
  • Try bleach gel stick – For white fabrics, rub a bleach gel stick directly on the stained area before washing. The thick gel clings to the stain better than liquid bleach.
    • Clorox Bleach Gel Pen ($8.94 for 3 pack)
  • Repeat treatments – It can take multiple applications of stain removers and wash cycles to fully get out an old Sharpie stain. Be patient and persistent!

DIY Sharpie Stain Remover Recipe

For a powerful homemade stain remover that’s great for tackling Sharpie and other tough stains, mix up this solution:


  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice


  1. Combine the hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, baking soda and lemon juice in a small bowl.
  2. Mix well until it forms a thin, bubble solution.
  3. Apply directly to the Sharpie stain.
  4. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before rinsing and washing the item.

This hydrogen peroxide-based recipe works great on set-in stains! The peroxide lifts the stain, soap cuts the grease, baking soda whitens, and lemon juice bleaches.

Preventing Sharpie Stains

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some tips to avoid Sharpie stains on your clothes in the first place:

  • Cover work surfaces when using Sharpie markers for crafts or projects. A plastic tablecloth can prevent drips and smudges from staining clothes.
  • Store markers upright and capped tightly so they can’t leak ink if knocked over.
    • Mr. Pen Permanent Marker Organizer ($12.99 for 24-marker storage case)
  • Wear an apron or old shirt when doing artistic work with Sharpies.
    • Hedley & Bennett The Wake Up Call Apron ($68 for adjustable chef’s apron)
  • Attach a cap to the marker with a string or ribbon to avoid losing track of it.
    • LehighCapz Sharpie Cap Tether ($6.95 for 3-pack)
  • Buy washable fabric markers instead of regular Sharpies for colouring textiles. Look for dual-tipped markers with permanent ink on one end and washable on the other.
    • CRAYOLA Dual Tip Washable Markers ($6.97 for 15 markers)
  • Test markers first on fabric scraps when decorating clothing or textiles to ensure the ink is removable.

With some quick action and the right stain removal techniques, you can erase those Sharpie slips and save your clothes. Just grab that bottle of rubbing alcohol, toothbrush and hairspray to banish those marks before they become permanent. Stay calm and carry on…stain-free!

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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