Interior Cleaning

How To: Remove Permanent Marker

Wait! No need to discard a coffee table stained by permanent marker or despair over a wall covered in doodles just yet. These accidents can be reversed—and here's how.
How To Remove Permanent Marker

How To Remove Permanent Marker Photo:

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You may think that permanent marker is, well, permanent. But we’ll let you in on a special secret: With a little elbow grease and some creative cleaners, you can actually remove these tough black marks from a number of surfaces. So, take a deep breath and count to 10—you may be able to save that coffee table that Johnny drew his latest pirate treasure map on after all.

How to Remove Permanent Marker - Sharpie Stain

The Problem Area: Finished Wood

The Fix: Bon Ami

The all-natural, nonabrasive Bon Ami is a veritable miracle on many levels (view on Amazon). Well known for cleaning out burned pots, this cleanser can just as handily remove permanent marker from your sealed wood surfaces, including your dining table, without harming the finish. Just sprinkle it on the offending marks, and lightly scrub with a damp cloth. Rinse thoroughly, as it can otherwise leave a residue, and then dry. Bon Ami’s been doing its thing for more than 100 years, and at around $1 a can, it’s well worth keeping on hand.

The Problem Area: Upholstery

The Fix: Baking Soda

Really? Just baking soda? Yes. Baking soda and a stiff scrub brush can remove permanent marker from many upholstery fabrics. Sprinkle dry baking soda onto the spot as soon as possible after it was “markered,” then scrub. The process will probably require several applications, but using this pantry staple will significantly lighten the marker, if not completely remove it. You do need to use some force, so this approach is better suited for sturdier fabrics than it is for delicate textiles. Before you go to town on your sofa or sweater, however, test this method on an inconspicuous spot to see if your fabric is prone to pull or fray.

The Problem Area: Countertops and Other Nonporous Surfaces

The Fix: Nail Polish Remover

Think of permanent marker as, essentially, a very stubborn type of paint. Then consider that the base of most nail polish removers is acetone—a paint remover—and you’ve found the perfect match. A basic nail polish remover (minus any fragrance or moisturizing additives) can wipe up any spots of permanent marker on sealed granite, formica, tile, and other nonporous surfaces. Rinse thoroughly afterward.

The Problem Area: Walls

The Fix: Scrubby Sponge

On the Internet you may have seen people clean permanent marker from walls using toothpaste or nail polish remover, but you probably don’t need any cleansers at all—a scrubby sponge is just abrasive enough to do the trick on its own. Make sure it’s good and wet, and use just enough elbow grease to remove the mark without scuffing off too much paint. When you’ve finished, you’ll never have been happier to stare at a blank wall.