Key Takeaways: 

  • Home Remedies: Home remedies like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and milk can effectively treat Sharpie stains. These items help break down the ink, making it easier to lift from the fabric.
  • Commercial Removers: Commercial stain removers are a reliable choice for tough or set-in stains. These products are designed to penetrate deep and dissolve ink, ensuring effective removal.
  • Fabric Consideration: Consider the fabric type when choosing a stain removal method to avoid damage. Delicate fabrics need gentler treatments, while durable fabrics can handle stronger solutions. Always test on a small area first.


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Sharpie stains on clothes can be frustrating and stubborn, often seeming impossible to remove. Whether it's a child's accidental artwork on their favorite shirt or an unexpected mark on your work attire, these permanent markers can leave a lasting impression. However, with the right approach and a few handy techniques, you can effectively remove Sharpies from clothes and restore your garments to their original state.

In this article, we will discuss various methods for removing Sharpie stains from clothes, from home remedies to commercial stain removers, and special considerations for different fabrics. Additionally, we'll provide tips on preventing future Sharpie stains to keep your garments looking their best.


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Understanding Sharpie Stains

Sharpie markers are known for their vibrant, permanent ink, which can be both a blessing and a curse. The ink is designed to be resistant to fading and water, making it a popular choice for labeling and artistic projects. However, this same permanence makes Sharpie stains particularly challenging to remove from fabric. Sharpie ink is composed of dyes and pigments suspended in a solvent, which allows it to adhere strongly to various surfaces, including textiles. When dealing with Sharpie stains on clothes, it’s crucial to act quickly and choose the right method for effective removal.

Immediate Steps To Take

When you first notice a Sharpie stain on your clothes, quick action can make a significant difference in the stain removal process. Here are the immediate steps you should take:

  • Blot, Don't Rub: Use a clean cloth or paper towel to blot the stain gently. Avoid rubbing, as this can spread the ink and push it deeper into the fabric fibers. Blotting helps to lift the ink from the surface without embedding it further, making subsequent stain removal efforts more effective.
  • Place a Barrier: Position a piece of cardboard or a thick cloth behind the stained area to prevent the ink from transferring to other parts of the garment or to other surfaces. This barrier ensures that the stain does not seep through to the back side of the fabric or onto other layers, which could complicate the cleaning process.
  • Test a Small Area: Before applying any cleaning solution, test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage or discoloration. Different fabrics react differently to various chemicals, so this step helps avoid any unintended damage to your garment.
  • Avoid Heat: Do not expose the stained area to heat, such as from an iron or a dryer, as heat can set the stain, making it more difficult to remove. Heat causes the ink to bond more firmly with the fabric fibers, making it much harder to lift out the stain later on.

Following these initial steps can help prevent the stain from becoming more embedded and increase the chances of successful removal.

Home Remedies For Removing Sharpie

Several household items can effectively remove Sharpie stains from clothes. Here are some common remedies:

Rubbing Alcohol:

  • Application: Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a clean cloth or cotton ball. Rubbing alcohol is a strong solvent that can break down Sharpie ink.
  • Blot the Stain: Gently blot the Sharpie stain with the alcohol-soaked cloth, working from the edges towards the center to prevent spreading. This method helps lift the ink without pushing it further into the fabric.
  • Rinse and Repeat: Rinse the fabric with cold water and repeat the process until the stain fades. Launder the garment as usual once the stain is gone to remove any residual alcohol and ink.

Hand Sanitizer:

  • Apply Hand Sanitizer: Squeeze a small amount of hand sanitizer directly onto the stain. The alcohol content in hand sanitizer can dissolve Sharpie ink effectively.
  • Blot and Rinse: Use a clean cloth to blot the stain and then rinse the fabric with cold water. Repeat if necessary and wash the garment normally to ensure all the ink and sanitizer are removed.


  • Spray on the Stain: Spray a generous amount of hairspray onto the stained area. Hairspray contains alcohol that can help break down the ink.
  • Blot and Rinse: Blot the stain with a clean cloth, then rinse with cold water. Continue this process until the stain is removed, then launder the clothing to remove any remaining hairspray and ink.


  • Soak in Milk: Submerge the stained part of the fabric in a bowl of milk and let it soak for several hours or overnight. The enzymes in milk can help lift the ink from the fabric.
  • Rinse and Wash: After soaking, rinse the fabric with cold water and wash it as usual. This method is gentle and can be particularly useful for delicate fabrics.

These home remedies can be quite effective, especially when the stain is fresh. Always remember to test a small, hidden area of the fabric first to ensure it won't be damaged by the treatment.

Using Commercial Stain Removers

If home remedies don’t fully remove the Sharpie stain, or if you prefer a ready-made solution, commercial stain removers are an effective alternative. Here’s how to use them:

Choose The Right Product

Select a stain remover that is designed for ink stains. Some popular options include OxiClean, Shout, and Zout. These products are specifically formulated to break down and lift ink from fabric, offering a more targeted approach compared to general-purpose cleaners.

Read The Instructions

Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Different products may have specific application methods and recommended waiting times. Adhering to these guidelines ensures you get the best results and avoid any potential damage to your fabric.

Apply The Stain Remover

Apply the product directly to the stain. Use a clean cloth or a soft-bristled brush to gently work the stain remover into the fabric. This helps the solution penetrate the fibers and break down the ink more effectively.

Let It Sit

Allow the stain remover to sit on the fabric for the amount of time specified in the instructions. This usually ranges from a few minutes to an hour. Giving the product time to work increases its effectiveness in breaking down and lifting the stain.

Rinse And Launder

Rinse the treated area with cold water and then launder the garment as usual. Check the stain before drying; if any ink remains, repeat the process before putting the clothing in the dryer. Heat can set any remaining stain, making it much harder to remove later.

Special Considerations For Different Fabrics

Different fabrics react differently to stain removal techniques. Here’s how to handle Sharpie stains on various types of materials:

Cotton and Polyester:

  • Durability: Both cotton and polyester are relatively durable and can withstand most stain removal methods. They are common fabrics in clothing, making them easier to treat without worry of severe damage.
  • Treatment: Use rubbing alcohol, commercial stain removers, or other home remedies without worry of damaging the fabric. These fabrics respond well to various cleaning agents and can handle the agitation needed to lift the stain.


  • Sensitivity: Silk is delicate and can be easily damaged by harsh chemicals. It requires a gentle approach to avoid discoloration or weakening of the fibers.
  • Treatment: Use a gentle approach with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer, applied sparingly. Test on an inconspicuous area first, and avoid vigorous rubbing. Gentle blotting and immediate rinsing can help prevent the ink from setting.


  • Delicacy: Wool can be sensitive to both chemicals and agitation. It's important to treat wool carefully to maintain its texture and appearance.
  • Treatment: Opt for mild stain removers or diluted rubbing alcohol. Gently blot rather than rub, and rinse with cold water. Avoid using hot water, as it can cause wool to shrink and distort.


  • Sturdiness: Denim is tough and can handle stronger treatments. Its thicker fabric can absorb more ink, requiring robust cleaning methods.
  • Treatment: Rubbing alcohol, commercial stain removers, and hairspray are all effective. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and launder after treatment. Denim can withstand repeated applications and scrubbing if necessary.

Synthetic Fabrics (Nylon, Acrylic):

  • Resilience: These fabrics are generally resistant to damage from stain removers. Their synthetic nature makes them less likely to suffer from chemical treatments.
  • Treatment: Use rubbing alcohol or commercial products. Follow with a cold water rinse and regular laundering. These fabrics can often handle more aggressive cleaning techniques without damage.

Special Tips:

  • Avoid Heat: For all fabrics, avoid applying heat until the stain is completely gone to prevent setting the ink. Heat can cause the ink to bond permanently with the fibers.
  • Spot Testing: Always spot test any treatment on an inconspicuous area to check for colorfastness and fabric reaction. This ensures that the treatment won't cause further damage or discoloration.

By considering the specific needs of each fabric type, you can more effectively and safely remove Sharpie stains without causing additional damage. Tailoring your approach based on the fabric ensures better results and prolongs the life of your garments.

Preventing Sharpie Stains In The Future

Preventing Sharpie stains from occurring in the first place can save you time and effort. Here are some tips to help you avoid these stains:

Use Protective Barriers

When using Sharpie markers, especially on fabrics, place a protective barrier such as cardboard or plastic underneath the material to prevent ink from bleeding through. This is particularly useful when working on projects where ink might soak through the fabric, providing an extra layer of protection to safeguard your clothes and surfaces.

Designate Sharpie-Free Zones

Keep Sharpie markers away from areas where clothes or fabrics are likely to be exposed, such as your workspace or children's play areas. Establishing specific zones where Sharpies are not allowed can significantly reduce the risk of accidental stains, keeping your environment safer and cleaner.

Store Sharpies Properly

Store Sharpie markers in a secure place out of reach of children and away from fabrics. Use pen holders or storage boxes to keep them contained. Proper storage ensures that markers are less likely to be used inappropriately or accidentally come into contact with clothing.

Be Mindful When Labeling

When labeling clothing or fabric items with a Sharpie, do so in an inconspicuous area or on a label rather than directly on the fabric. This approach minimizes the risk of visible stains and makes it easier to replace or cover up any marks that do occur.

Opt For Fabric-Safe Markers

If you need to write on fabric, consider using markers specifically designed for fabrics, which are often easier to remove or wash out. Fabric-safe markers are formulated to provide the same level of detail and permanence as Sharpies but are less likely to cause permanent stains and are typically washable.


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Final Thoughts 

Removing Sharpie stains from clothes can be a daunting task, but with the right techniques and a bit of patience, it is possible to restore your garments. By acting quickly, utilizing effective home remedies or commercial stain removers, and considering the specific needs of different fabrics, you can successfully tackle even the toughest Sharpie stains. Additionally, taking preventive measures can help you avoid future stains, keeping your clothes looking their best. Remember, the key is to be proactive and persistent, ensuring that your favorite pieces remain in great condition.

Read also: 

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Sharpie Out Of Clothes

Can you remove Sharpie from clothes after it has dried?

Yes, dried Sharpie stains can still be removed, though it may require more effort and multiple treatments with rubbing alcohol, commercial stain removers, or other methods.

Does rubbing alcohol remove Sharpie from fabric?

Yes, rubbing alcohol is effective at breaking down Sharpie ink, making it easier to blot away from the fabric.

Is hand sanitizer effective for removing Sharpie stains?

Yes, hand sanitizer contains alcohol, which can help dissolve Sharpie ink and lift it from fabric.

Can hairspray remove Sharpie from clothes?

Yes, hairspray can help break down Sharpie ink due to its alcohol content, though it may not be as effective as rubbing alcohol or commercial stain removers.

What should I avoid when trying to remove Sharpie stains?

Avoid using heat (like ironing or drying) on the stained area until the stain is completely gone, as heat can set the stain. Also, avoid rubbing the stain vigorously, as this can spread the ink.

How do commercial stain removers compare to home remedies for Sharpie stains?

Commercial stain removers are often formulated to tackle tough stains and may work faster or more effectively than home remedies, but both can be effective depending on the stain and fabric type.

Can milk really help remove Sharpie stains?

Yes, soaking the stained fabric in milk can help break down Sharpie ink and lift it from the material, though it may require several hours of soaking.

Will bleach remove Sharpie from clothes?

Bleach can remove Sharpie stains, but it should be used with caution as it can also damage or discolor the fabric. Test it on an inconspicuous area first.

What if the Sharpie stain doesn’t come out completely after one treatment?

If the stain doesn’t come out after one treatment, repeat the process or try a different method. Persistence is key to fully removing tough stains.

Are there any fabrics that shouldn’t be treated with certain stain removers?

Yes, delicate fabrics like silk and wool may be damaged by harsh chemicals or vigorous treatment. Always test on a small, hidden area first and use gentle methods for these materials.

Chad McElligott