Stain Removal

How to Get Rid of Permanent Marker Stains

Sometimes, a slide presentation is not enough to get your point across. You want your business presentation or class lecture to be more dynamic and interactive so you use a white board to draw some diagrams and write text that can emphasize some of your points. In your enthusiasm, you accidentally use a permanent marker, not a white board marker. Great, now you have a white board full of lines, drawings, arrows and text that are difficult to erase.

Permanent marker stains are not easy to remove, although you don’t have to wear yourself out trying to get rid of them. Here are some ways to help you remove permanent marker stains from just about anywhere.

What are Permanent Markers Made Of?

Most permanent markers are made of a water-resistant pigment containing xylene and toluene. Xylene and toluene are volatile, toxic chemicals derived from petroleum processing. Some manufacturers now shift to alcohol or water based pigments.

Just because a marker is “permanent” doesn’t mean that stains caused by it cannot be removed. All stains wash off with something. Permanent markers eventually wear out over time. The pigments in a permanent marker do not act like a dye, but bond to the surface of materials. The key to getting rid of permanent marker stains is to dissolve the chemical bonds between the pigment molecules and the stained material. All you need to do is to use the right stain removal techniques for the right stain on the right surface.

Removing Marker Stains on White Boards

Sometimes you may accidentally use a permanent marker on a white board. To remove the stains on the fly, you can simply go over the stains with a rag or cotton ball dampened with acetone or nail polish remover. In case you don’t have nail polish remover, you can write over the permanent marker lines with a white board marker. It will take a while before you can completely clean out the lines, though.

If you made a lot of permanent marks on a white board, you will need to clean the surface thoroughly. You need the following tools and materials to clean out the white board:

  • Acetone
  • Water
  • Eraser
  • A mild window cleanser
  • Clean cotton rags

To clean the white board, follow these steps:

  1. Wipe away dust and other rough debris with an eraser.
  2. Dampen a corner of a clean rag with a small amount of acetone. Don’t waste the chemical by drenching the rag with it.
  3. Gently wipe the permanent marker marks with the rag. Use small, circular motions to remove the permanent marker stains.
  4. Allow the acetone to dry out.
  5. You may notice some “ghost” marks left by the permanent marker. To remove these stains, spray some window cleanser onto another clean rag (not directly on the white board). Wipe the white board surface down with the rag.

Removing Marker Stains on Clothes

If you’re an office worker, chances are you have already stained one of your good dress shirts before because you refilled a permanent marker pen. Refilling marker pens is easier said than done, and marker ink stains on clothes can be very difficult to remove. Here are some tips that you can use to remove permanent marker stains on clothes:

  • Bleach it out. If you stain a white shirt, you can remove the stains with bleach. Make sure that you’re using bleach only on white articles of clothing.
  • Use super-strength cleansers. Some high-strength cleansers and detergents can dissolve the bonds between cloth fibers and the marker ink molecules. Read and follow the instructions very carefully, because some delicate cloths may get discolored or ruined because of the strong chemicals in the detergent.
  • Spot-clean. If the cloth is not sensitive to conventional chemicals like acetone or nail-polish remover, then you can spot-clean the stain. Apply a small amount of acetone or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or a cleaning pad, and rub away the stain. It will take a while, but with a little work you can remove the stain.
  • Try the power of citrus. Some fruits, especially citruses like oranges, lemons, and lime, are effective at removing tough stains. Delicate, naturally-dyed fabrics like satin and silk may fade from pure citrus extracts and juice, but you can dilute the juice with water to lower its strength. It will take a while before you can completely remove the stain, but it’s far cheaper than professional cleaning services. While it’s best to spot-clean a stained article of clothing, you can add a cup of citrus juice to the first rinse cycle, or add citrus peel to the first drying cycle. The stains will come off in time, and your clothes will have a very fresh-smelling fruity scent.

Removing Marker Stains on Walls

Many delinquents and vandals use permanent markers to “tag” walls. While tags look artistic to other people, graffiti can lower property values. They also don’t look good; neighborhood associations and city councils often have to spend a lot of money repainting, restoring, and repairing defaced and vandalized walls.

Marker stains on walls fade away in time, because the marker does not permeate into the wall material. The pigment molecules of the marker only bond with the surface, which makes it easier to remove than dye and other coloring material.

You can let nature wear away the marker stain, or you can simply paint over the wall. Yet this is not a practical remedy for stucco walls, natural-colored brick, or other surfaces that cannot be painted. Here are some ways to get rid of marker stains on walls and other hard surfaces:

  • Pressure washer. A high-pressure washer can force the pigment out of the surface. Unless you’re working with sensitive surfaces like marble, terracotta or soapstone, it’s best to use hot water and detergent with the pressure washer.
  • Acetone. Acetone is an all-in-one cleaning chemical that gets rid of permanent marker stains. It will take a while before you can completely remove the stain. Do not dissolve the acetone in water; instead, you should use the acetone full-strength.
  • Paint thinner. If the marker stain is on an unpainted surface that is not sensitive to acidic cleaning chemicals, then you can use paint thinners like turpentine or mineral spirits. Permanent marker ink works in very much the same way as paint; the molecules should be dissolved so that the stain can be removed. Use the thinner full-strength, and be careful to not inhale the vapors.

All stains come off with something, even if it’s something as tough as a permanent marker stain. With the right cleaning technique and a bit of effort, even a permanent marker stain can come off without hassle. If you enjoyed reading this article, you might as well read how to get rid of pen ink stains.

About the author

Nicole Harding

3 Comments

  • I got blue sharpie all over my phone case. Is there anyway to get it off? I tried rubbing alcohol, soap and water, and I don’t think acetone will work because it might make the colors fade. PLEASE HELP!!!

  • May, 28 2010::To remove permanent marker stain from clothing, use Carbona Stain Devils. I found this at Ingles Supermarket. It’s in a small yellow bottle and it’s #3 for ink and crayon. I used this when a marker had busted all over my cotton sirt and pants. I had tried everything- alcohol, nail polish remover, baking soda, Goo Gone, Oxy-Clean stain remover….everything and nothing worked but this. Lay a towel underneath, apply, apply some on rag, and keep rubbing and applying. May take a few minutes. Now my clothes are as good as new!!!!!!

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