How to Get Permanent Marker to Stay on Fabric

Setting, washing, and drying instructions to know

how to preserve an autograph illustration

The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi

If you have permanent marker on fabric—whether it be an autograph or your own creation—it will inevitably end up fading over time through wear and washings. However, there are some tricks you can use to make the marker design last longer.

Here's how to make permanent marker stay on fabric in four simple steps.


When using permanent marker on fabric, opt for a 100% natural fiber fabric, such as cotton or linen. Natural fibers absorb the ink better than synthetic fibers, such as polyester. Also, in addition to permanent markers, fabric markers are a good choice because they're designed to hold up to many washings.

using permanent marker for an autograph

The Spruce / Jesi Lee

How to Get Permanent Marker to Stay on Fabric

Be sure to protect your marker design on the fabric from additional moisture, such as rain and sweat, until you can take steps to preserve it. Aim to preserve it as soon as possible after you create your design. Here's how:

  1. Allow the ink to dry completely on the fabric.
  2. Get out your ironing board, and heat your iron to the highest temperature acceptable for the fabric type.
  3. Place a clean white cotton cloth over the marker design.
  4. Using a dry iron (no steam), iron the spot for at least one minute and up to five. Don't rub the spot, which can smear the ink. Instead, alternate between applying firm pressure and lifting the iron to prevent scorching.

An alternate method to using an iron is to toss the marked fabric into the dryer. Set the cycle to the highest temperature recommended for the fabric, and tumble for at least 15 minutes. This will help to set the ink into the fabric fibers. However, the ironing method does this in a more targeted manner.

Furthermore, don't spray the design with a commercial fabric protector because this can cause the ink to run. It is also best to avoid washing the fabric unless you really need to. For washing, turn the fabric inside-out if possible, so the marked portion is on the inside. Use only cold water and gentle detergent; the fabric can be dried in the dryer or hung to air dry. Note that hats should be spot-cleaned or hand-washed.

applying heat to the autograph

The Spruce / Jesi Lee

Fabric Display and Storage Tips

If you've chosen to frame your fabric design or put it in a display box, be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight. Even lamps and overhead lights can cause fading. The piece also should be displayed or stored in a room that has consistent humidity and temperature.

For storage, use archival tissue paper to wrap the fabric. The tissue must be both acid-free and lignin-free (a chemical compound derived from wood). It is also important to use the right type of storage container to prevent yellowing. One choice is an archival storage box. These boxes are usually made of acid-free paper. However, if you are concerned about the box getting crushed, purchase a plastic storage container. The box should be made of cast polypropylene to be safe for your keepsakes.

properly storing an autographed garment

The Spruce / Jesi Lee

  • How long does permanent marker stay on fabric?

    Permanent marker wasn't originally designed to be permanent on fabric, so it will fade over time. The amount of time it remains depends on how often you wash and use the fabric.

  • Will permanent marker stay on polyester?

    Permanent marker doesn't absorb into polyester as well as it does natural fibers. But it will still remain on the fabric, especially if you take steps to preserve it. It just might start out fainter and fade faster.

  • Does Sharpie wash out of clothes?

    If you're looking to get permanent marker out of clothes, wash them as soon as possible. Try to blot up as much of the ink as you can while it's still wet, and then treat the area with a laundry stain remover before washing in cold water. If the stain isn't gone, wash again before drying.

Article Sources
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  1. Tasneem, Sabir. Chapter 2: Fibers used for high-performance apparel, Fibers Used for High-Performance Apparel, pp. 7-32, 2018, Woodhead Publishing Series in Textiles. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-100904-8.00002-X