I Tried My Mom’s Cleaning Hack to Remove Permanent Marker Stains — and It Really Works

published Oct 9, 2022
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Living room with Eero Aarnio hanging bubble chair and vintage brown armchair
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If you love thrifting, garage sale hopping, or antiquing, you’ll know the pain of trying to remove permanent marker stains. Often, these places will write the price with a marker right on the item, letting everyone know that that frame or vase was a total steal for just $3. But if you don’t want your home to look like an estate sale with random price tags on all your possessions, then you need to know how to wash off those stubborn stains

Rather than getting a workout in by vigorously rubbing the mark with cleaning sprays and microfiber cloths, there’s a much simpler way to wash off those prices. All you need is hand sanitizer to cut through these tough marks.

I first learned of this hack from my mom, who brought out her bottle of hand sanitizer after we finished an afternoon of garage sale hopping. Thinking she wanted to clean her hands, I was surprised to see her adding drops of it on a few items she bought. With the help of a tissue, she erased the price tags within seconds. 

Here’s what you’re going to want to do: 

Step 1: Before rubbing off the price tag, test how the hand sanitizer will react with your item. Using it on glass, plastic, and Formica won’t discolor the piece, but colorful glass might stain (I learned that the hard way.) To test it, add a drop of sanitizer in an inconspicuous spot on the back or bottom of the item. Gently rub in the sanitizer, and see if it discolors the item. If not, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Add a drop or two of hand sanitizer directly to the permanent marker stain. Rub the spot in circles with a paper towel or cloth until it dissolves. Wipe it away immediately to avoid potential staining.

Step 3: If the mark doesn’t disappear immediately, add more hand sanitizer and continue to rub until it dissolves. Wipe the surface between applications to clean what you have removed, ensuring the dissolved marker won’t set into the surface and stain.

Step 4: If you want to play it safe, you can then wipe down the spot with water to remove any lingering hand sanitizer. 

Rather than struggling to buff out permanent markers with Windex or other cleaning agents, simply use hand sanitizer. This will also be handy if you accidentally use a permanent marker on a whiteboard, get some on your table, or if a kid went wild on your walls. Just remember to always spot-test before going all-in.