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How to Remove Marker Stains

Advice from our experts

Why do markers stain?

The ink in permanent markers is designed to penetrate cellulose (the main part of the cell walls of plants), effectively dying cotton fabrics or paper. The added color can be permanent—and it’s supposed to be. But, if something breaks up the ink, the right bleach product can remove the stain.

Isopropyl alcohol is very effective at breaking up ink, especially when it’s formulated into a hand sanitizer gel. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer penetrates the weave or knit of a textile and helps break up the ink stain.

Tips for removing permanent marker stains

If something breaks up a permanent marker stain, such as isopropyl alcohol, it’s easier for the right bleach product to remove the stain.

Keep reading to learn more about removing difficult marker stains.

Steps for removing permanent marker from white bleach-safe fabrics

  • Step 1 Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  • Step 2 Apply Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel to the remaining stain and gently rub it in.
  • Step 3 Immediately wash the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.
  • Step 4 Air dry and check to make sure stain removal was a success. Want to know about Sharpie stains? Read this article on how to remove them.

Steps for removing permanent marker from items with color or white items with spandex

  • Step 1 Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  • Step 2 Apply Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster Liquid directly to the stain and wait 10 minutes.
  • Step 3 Wash the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and more Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster Liquid.
  • Step 4 Air dry and check to make sure stain removal was a success.

    Also, it’s important to avoid bleaching clothing that contains spandex—and any items with wool, silk, mohair or leather.

    Watch this video for a demonstration on how to remove tough marker stains.

Steps for removing black felt tip pen ink from colored fabric

For felt tip pen stains on colored fabric, pretreat with a little Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster Liquid.

  • Step 1 Apply the liquid directly to the stain, rub it in and wait five minutes.
  • Step 2 Wash the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and more Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster Liquid.
  • Step 3 Air dry and check to make sure stain removal was a success.

Steps for removing black felt tip pen ink from white items that don't contain spandex

For white items that don’t contain spandex, use Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel to pretreat the stain.

  • Step 1 Apply the gel directly to the stain and rub it in.
  • Step 2 Wash the item immediately in hot water, detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.

    It’s important to note that ink from felt tip pens is very concentrated and commonly bleeds onto fabric. So, it may require you to repeat the treatment multiple times to get the stain out.

    What about printer ink stains? Read this article about how to remove them.

Steps for removing ballpoint pen ink from colored or white fabrics with spandex

The good news is that most ink stains from ballpoint pens (as opposed to permanent marker) can be removed from most washable fabrics. Just follow this three-step process. But, before you start, confirm you can safely bleach the item by checking the care label.

  • Step 1 Apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  • Step 2 Wash the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.
  • Step 3 Air dry and check to make sure stain removal was a success.

    Check out this article to learn how to remove gel pen ink stains.

Do’s and Don’ts for removing marker stains

DO use alcohol-based products to break up ink before applying a bleach product.

DO keep items out of a hot dryer until you know the stain is completely gone.

DO repeat the pretreatment step if necessary.

DON'T forget to pretreat a second time with the appropriate bleach product.

Want to learn more about getting out bleachable and non-bleachable marker stains? Watch this video.

Marker stain FAQs

Q. How do you get marker stains out of upholstery?
A. Permanent marker stains are very difficult to remove from soft surfaces like fabric, carpet and upholstery because of the nature of the ink—it’s supposed to be permanent.
But, if you can machine wash an item (sorry carpet and upholstery), and pretreat the stains with hand sanitizer before pretreating with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel or Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster Liquid, the chance of removing the stains improves.
However, these products aren’t appropriate for use on carpet or upholstery because they require too much water for a thorough rinsing.
Q. How do you remove marker stains from other surfaces, like a kitchen counter?
A. Clorox® Clean-Up® Cleaner + Bleach can remove marker stains from hard, bleach-safe, nonporous surfaces.
Q. How do you remove dried marker stains?
A. Markers are designed to dry quickly. So, stains, in general, are dry because of the nature of the staining material. The steps for removing permanent marker stains apply to both fresh and older stains.
Q. Can milk remove ink stains?
A. If you use milk to rinse a fresh ink stain, it may reduce the amount of stain you have to treat. But, the lactic acid in milk is not enough to break up the ink for complete removal.