How to Remove Permanent Marker From Paper

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You can remove permanent marker from paper.
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Removing permanent marker from paper is tricky, but not impossible. Paper is porous, so it absorbs the ink, making it difficult to completely remove. But with a few surprising household ingredients such as nail polish remover, hairspray and toothpaste, you can eradicate most permanent marker stains from paper.


The success of the method you choose for paper stain removal depends largely on the thickness of the paper. Thick paper products, like card stock, cardboard, poster board or construction paper can stand up to harsher substances. Thinner papers are more likely to tear or stain during the process of removing the ink, so ​proceed with caution​.

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Some solvents that can be used to remove permanent marker from other surfaces, such as fabric or plastic, may be too harsh for paper and cause it to tear. Begin with tiny amounts of the solvent on a small area before applying to large sections of the paper.

Nail Polish Remover

Use polish remover before any of the other suggested solvents. It is the least likely to damage or stain the paper.

Things You'll Need

  • Nail polish remover with acetone

  • Cotton swab

  • Clean paper towel or rag

Moisten a Cotton Swab

Soak a cotton swab with nail polish remover.


Swab the Stain

Dab a few drops of the nail polish remover on the ink spot to be removed, but do not saturate the paper.

Wait for the Action

Allow the nail polish remover to dissipate the ink.


Blot Up the Mess

Soak the nail polish remover up from the paper with a clean, dry paper towel or rag.

Stain Removal Complete

Repeat until all of the ink has been removed.


Inexpensive Hairspray

Hairspray works as a stain remover because of the alcohol it contains. High-end hairsprays that are formulated not to dry out your hair likely do not contain enough alcohol to be an effective stain remover. For permanent ink stain removal, use the cheapest hairspray you can find, and verify it contains alcohol.


Things You'll Need

  • Hairspray

  • Dry rag or paper towel

  • Damp cloth

Protect Your Work Area

Lay a dry rag or paper towel underneath your piece of paper to absorb any ink that soaks through.

Soak the Stain

Spray the ink stain thoroughly with the hairspray. Allow the hairspray to sit for several minutes.



Pat It Up

Dab the surface of the paper with a damp cloth to remove the ink.

Do It Again if Needed

Repeat until all of the ink has been removed.


White Toothpaste

Toothpaste works well for paper ink stain removal because of the bleaching agents it contains. But because toothpaste is also abrasive, use it with caution to avoid damaging the paper as you attempt to remove the permanent ink stain. This method would work best on thicker paper types -- cardboard -- that can resist tearing during the stain removal process.

Things You'll Need

  • White, non-gel toothpaste

  • Damp rags

  • Soft toothbrush

Smear On Some Toothpaste

Apply a small amount of toothpaste to a damp cloth.

Massage the Stain

Rub the toothpaste on the stain with the rag until it starts to pick up the ink.

Wipe Off the Toothpaste

Remove the toothpaste with a clean damp rag.

Scrub the Stain

Apply the toothpaste to a damp soft toothbrush if the rag method doesn't work. Gently scrub the ink stain with the toothbrush.

Wipe and Dry

Wipe the area clean with a clean rag and allow the paper to dry.

Other Solvent Options

If none of these methods work, use white distilled vinegar, rubbing alcohol or other alcohol-based products such as hand sanitizer.


Things You'll Need

  • White distilled vinegar, rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer

  • Cotton swabs

  • Dry paper towel or rag

  • Damp paper towel or rag

Cover Your Space

Lay a dry paper towel or rag underneath the paper to absorb any liquid and ink that may soak through.

Dab Solvent On the Stain

Apply a small amount of the cleaning solvent to the cotton swab. Dab it onto the ink stain on the paper.

Let It Soak In

Allow the solvent to soak into the paper.

Sop It Up

Dab with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel to soak up the solvent and the ink.

Keep Going If You Must

Repeat until the paper ink stain removal is complete.


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