How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Clothes

Black permanent marker line being cleaned with cotton swab on tank top

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Permanent marker—even the words scream "This stain is never going to go away." Unfortunately, that is sometimes the case. But, there are exceptions and ways to remove that permanent marker stain from your clothing, especially if you catch the problem early.

Fresh ink stains are easier to remove, while older stains may require repeated treatments. If the garment is essential or a favorite piece, it is worth the effort to try to get permanent marker stains out. Removal takes only a few products, but lots of patience.

 Stain type  Permanent marker ink
 Detergent type  Heavy-duty detergent with enzymes
 Water temperature  Cool
 Cycle type  Normal cycle depending on fabric type
 Drying cycle  Normal cycle depending on fabric type
 Special treatments  Use oxygen bleach

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer or large tub
  • Dryer, drying rack, or clothesline


  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Cotton swabs
  • Paper towels


Materials and tools to remove permanent marker from clothes

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

How to Remove Permanent Marker From Washable Clothes

  1. Prepare for Stain Removal

    Place a thick layer of paper towels on a waterproof counter or surface. Then, place the garment on top of the towels. Use a cotton swab to dab a bit of rubbing alcohol on a hidden seam of the garment. Wait for the alcohol to dry and check for any color change.

    If the fabric dye has not bled, you can proceed. If the fabric has changed color or there is dye bleeding, you should not attempt to remove the ink at home. Consult a dry cleaner, instead—sometimes it's best to call in a professional.

    Cotton swab applying rubbing alcohol on folded tank top on paper towels

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Treat the Stain

    Place the stained area of the garment on a layer of paper towels. The towels are there to catch any ink that bleeds through the fabric.

    Wet a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol, then gently dab the stain as not to spread it further. Work from the outside of the stain to the inside to prevent spreading the ink. Or, work from one end of a line of ink to the other.

    You will see then the ink transfer to the swab. As the swab becomes ink-saturated, get a new alcohol-soaked swab to prevent re-staining the garment. Keep blotting gently until all of the ink is gone.


    If you don't have any isopropyl alcohol, you can substitute a clear liquor like vodka or gin.

    Cotton swab applying rubbing alcohol to permanent marker stain on gray tank top

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Use an Oxygen Bleach Soak

    If some traces of color remain, create a solution of oxygen bleach powder and lukewarm water in a sink or large tub. Follow the instructions on the product label to add the correct amount of bleach per gallon of water.

    Submerge the garment and allow it to soak for at least four hours, overnight is better. Check the stained area. If any of the marker color still remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat the soaking process.


    Oxygen bleach is safe to use on any white or colored washable fabric except wool, silk, or anything with leather trim.

    Permanent marker stained shirt soaking in tub with oxygen bleach solution

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  4. Wash and Dry the Garment

    After soaking, wash the garment as usual and check in on the stained area. If it still shows traces of the ink, repeat all of the steps. If the ink is gone, dry in an automatic dryer, on a clothesline, or on a drying rack.


    Do not dry a garment in an automatic dryer if there are still traces of the permanent marker. The high heat of the dryer will make removing the ink impossible.

    Gray tank top hanging on drying rack to air dry

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Removing Permanent Marker From Dry Clean Only Fabrics

The safest method for removing permanent marker from clothes that require dry cleaning is to consult a professional cleaner as quickly as possible. However, if you want to attempt to remove the ink at home, follow the same steps with rubbing alcohol as those for washable clothes.

If the clothes can be hand-washed, you can do the oxygen-bleach soak on all fabric except silk, wool, and anything leather-trimmed. For structured garments like suit coats or embellished garments, consult a professional.

Cotton swab adding rubbing alcohol to dry clean only clothing

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Tips for Hiding a Permanent Marker Stain

  • Dye the garment a darker color. This is particularly effective for blue jeans with permanent marker stains.
  • Cover the stain with an embellishment like a patch, ribbon trim, or buttons.
  • For kid's clothes, allow them to use more permanent markers to create an overall design.