How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains from Fabric

I recently bought my wife a $600, king-sized Egyptian cotton and goose down comforter. She is pregnant with our fourth child, and at nine months, she was feeling pretty ragged. She is the type of mother who never buys a thing for herself, so she absolutely fell in love with this as soon as she saw it. We had the comforter on the bed for about two weeks before my youngest daughter came along with a permanent marker she had secretly been drawing with and accidentally put two good-sized spots in the comforter. My wife was heart broken. She called me up while I was at work in a swirl of despair and anger telling me about how the comforter was ruined with permanent marker stains and something about how she can never have anything nice.

Well, I had a secret up my sleeve, as somebody who frequently got permanent marker stains on themselves and their clothing as a kid; I knew all about getting permanent marker stains out. I ran home at lunchtime and went immediately for my secret weapon in the medicine cabinet. Some of you are probably thinking hairspray, vinegar, dry cleaning powder, WD40, or even toothpaste for getting permanent marker stains out but if you are then you’d be wrong. I’ve tried them all and the thing that works the best on permanent marker stains is plain old rubbing alcohol. Hairspray is a fair second choice if you don’t have the rubbing alcohol but it doesn’t work as well. The other item I grabbed on my way to see my wife and the stricken comforter was paper towels. Once fully armed I proceeded to the comforter.

The thing to remember about using rubbing alcohol to remove permanent marker stains in fabric is that rubbing alcohol is a solvent. It will almost instantaneously flow the ink so you have to be prepared. The best way to attack permanent marker stains, especially on clothing is to turn the item upside-down with the stain facing down onto a pile of paper towels. Then flow a small amount of alcohol onto the stain from behind and press down hard with more paper towels for a few seconds. Then change the paper towels both in your hand and under the item and repeat until the stain is gone, usually in 3 or 4 applications depending on the material. The more threads in the material the more applications will be required to get permanent marker stains out. Whatever you do, don’t rub the stain. Apply pressure and dab. Rubbing will spread the stain out and wear the threads in the process. Again, this technique works great for thin items like t-shirts.

However, with a thick comforter, this method would not be possible since the material was too thick to see the stains from behind and the alcohol would be mostly absorbed into the fill. To remove permanent marker stains from a comforter or some other similarly thick item, you have to really be ready with the paper towels and a helper, in this case my wife. Try to pinch the top layer of fabric without getting the fill or bottom layers and stretch it tightly with both hands like you were stretching taffy or something. Remember, just the top layer. Now have your helper run a little alcohol onto the stain and immediately begin dabbing the stain while you continue to hold the top layer of fabric tight. Make sure not to rub the fabric. They will need to dab fairly hard so make sure you hold onto that fabric tightly. Repeat until the stain is gone. Since large amount of pressure cannot be applied using this technique, you may have to do this 6 or 7 times depending on the fabric. Remember to change the paper towels in between applications to prevent adding secondary permanent marker stains back onto the material. The thread count on this comforter was really high so it took me about 10 applications to remove all traces of the permanent marker stains. This took roughly 15 minutes and a $600.00 comforter was saved and my wife was happy again.

Husbands, keep this in the back of your heads. You might be able to use it to get out of the doghouse!

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