How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains From Hard Plastics

person rubbing marker off of a plastic surface

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to 10

You've probably seen this in your favorite comedy movie: someone grabs a writing utensil to mark something on plastic, then realize they've accidentally used a permanent marker. Oh no! But don't worry—this isn't as big of a blunder as you might think.

Luckily, you can easily remove permanent marker stains from plastic using items in your pantry. Everything from Expo markers to rubbing alcohol to kitchen vinegar can help you eliminate a stubborn marker stain.

Read on to learn more tips on how to remove permanent marker from plastic, whether it's a container, bin or box, a decorative item, or a piece of furniture.

What to Consider Before Cleaning Permanent Marker Off of Plastic

While many of the methods described in this article don't use harsh chemicals, keep in mind that all of these substances are strong stain removers. While they remove the permanent marker, they may also remove the color and pigment from the plastic.

This isn't a concern if your plastic is white or clear, but for other colors, be mindful before you start scrubbing. Also, avoid getting any of these stain solutions on your clothes, and if you do, rinse them or throw them in the wash right away to prevent damage.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Cleaning Tools

  • 2 cotton rounds
  • 1 microfiber towel

Materials

Stain Removal Supplies

  • 1 dry erase marker
  • 1 bottle rubbing alcohol
  • 1 bottle hydrogen peroxide

Instructions

How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains from Plastic

  1. Color Over the Stain with a Dry-Erase Marker

    Dry erase markers contain rubbing alcohol, which eats through permanent marker stains. The tip of the marker acts like a finely concentrated scrubber brush, lifting and removing the marks. Gently color over the stain with your dry erase marker. You shouldn't need to press hard.

    writing over existing marker with a dry erase market
    The Spruce / Michele Lee
  2. Wipe Off the Marker with a Microfiber Towel

    Let the marker sit for a minute, then gently wipe it off with a microfiber towel (or, if you're in a pinch, any type of rag will do). Microfiber material is great at picking up small particles like specks of dry erase marker.

    The marker should come up easily. If any is left over, repeat this process until the marker is erased.

  3. Remove Any Stuck Spots with Rubbing Alcohol

    Still a few stuck spots after using the marker method? Grab a cotton pad (or the corner of your microfiber) and quickly soak it with rubbing alcohol. Gently rub the sticky spots until they lift off the plastic.

    using rubbing alcohol to remove marker
    The Spruce / Michele Lee
  4. Still No Luck? Try Hydrogen Peroxide

    If the extra rubbing alcohol isn't yielding the desired results, try hydrogen peroxide. Sold at any drug store, hydrogen peroxide has a myriad of uses, from killing mold to whitening teeth and, notably, removing stains.

    Grab another cotton pad or corner of your microfiber cloth and soak it in hydrogen peroxide before gently rubbing the stain. Be very careful not to get any on your clothes or carpet—hydrogen peroxide is quite powerful and can strip the color out of fabric in the right circumstances.

    hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and baking soda
    The Spruce

Tips for Removing Permanent Marker from Hard Plastics

  • As with laundry, the sooner you attack a stain, the better. Things like time, temperature, and exposure to weather can all impact how long permanent marker may or may not stay on plastic. As soon as you see a mark, get to work on cleaning it or stain treatment for the best possible results.
  • If you'd like to opt for more gentle options, vinegar and baking soda make great stain removers and all-around household cleaners. You can use them for everything from removing odors from carpet to cleaning your dishwasher.
  • If you're trying to become a better stain fighter, there are plenty of ways to use several items you likely have at home. They'll help you get stubborn stains out of all sorts of things, without a call to the pros, and without cumbersome trial and error. You can remove crayon with vinegar or make your own bleach alternative. You can also easily make homemade carpet cleaner with white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and plain old water.
FAQ
  • Does rubbing alcohol remove permanent marker from plastic?

    The marks and writing from a permanent marker will disappear from plastic with the use of rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball, paper towel, or a rag.

  • Is permanent marker really permanent?

    Permanent markers are not actually permanent and their marks can be removed with a little bit of help from such products as dry-erase markers, rubbing alcohol, hairspray, and more.

  • How long does permanent marker stay on plastic?

    Time, exposure to weather, and fingers running over the writing all contribute to the length of time that permanent marker will stay on plastic. The marker will eventually fade but should last for months and possibly longer.

Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler
Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home. She's covered money-saving advice and tricks for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, among others. She is the owner of "My Frugal Home," a money-saving, frugal living how-to guide.
Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process