How To Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes

How To Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes For Stain-Free Fabric

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Get Smarter On Architecture and Design

Get the 3-minute weekly newsletter keeping 5K+ designers in the loop.

Enter your Email to Sign up


As a professional working in the education industry you are in contact with tools such as highlighters on a daily basis. If you are a student, you find yourself using a highlighter pen as well for your projects and assignments. Similarly, being a parent requires you to nurture your children's young minds. This could be in the form of art projects using highlighter pens and sharpie highlighter. Every so often, accidents occur and you find yourself with the dreaded highlighter stain. By the way, this just so happens to be your favorite shirt.

What Are Highlighter Stains?

Highlighter stains are one of the toughest stains to remove. Having said this, they are not impossible to get rid off. The first thing you want to do when you get a highlighter stain is to stay calm and not panic. Then you want to absorb as much of the highlighter ink using a paper towel before it dries. This will greatly help. Next you want to test the fabric with a stain remover to assess how it reacts with your fabric. This is to ensure that it the stain remover does not damage your cloth.

An essential point to note is not to rub the stain treatment into the fabric. Rather, blot it and take the extra precaution to place paper towels on both sides so that the highlighter ink does not spread. Your choice of pre-treatment liquid should not be too harsh. Rubbing alcohol is one of the most popular solutions to remove highlighter stains. The alcohol method can however be substituted with acetone or nail polish remover.

It is also super important to understand what kind of highlighter stain you are dealing with. Highlighter ink could be; water soluble ink, alcohol-based, gel-based, permanent and non-permanent. For a water-based highlighter stain, you don't need a pre-treatment wash. However, for an alcohol-based highlighter stain you need a pre-treatment stain remover. Old highlighter stains are much harder to get rid off than fresh stains. Having this information will help you save a lot of clothes from stains.

Products To Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes.

1) Goo Gone Pro-Power

Goo Gone Pro-Power - 32 Ounce & Sticker Lifter -...
  • Remove Tape Residue - professional strength formula formulated to...
  • Grease Remover - Pro-Power works great on removing grease or tar
  • Removes - silicone caulk, adhesive, sealants, tree sap, wet...
  • Cleans Carpet Stains - safe, fast-working formula that works...
  • Safe For Use On - finished wood, painted surfaces,...

This product is a great choice to remove highlighter stains. It is specifically made to remove ink stains from your clothes. Its safe, fast-working formula guarantees quick removal of those neon-colored stains. It can restore most fabrics to their original condition. All you need to do is spray a bit of this product on your fabric and gently rub it on the highlighter stains and let it sit for 15 minutes. Wipe it off and the stain should be gone. Finally, wash the garment with your regular laundry detergent.


  • Versatile
  • Easy to useSafe
  • Fast-working
  • Reliable


  • Strong smell

2) Earth Breeze Laundry Detergent Sheets

Earth Breeze Laundry Detergent Sheets - Fragrance Free...
  • THE SAME POWERFUL CLEAN - Earth Breeze will clean just as great...
  • FORMULATED FOR SENSITIVE SKIN - Our Eco Sheets were made for your...
  • SAVE SO MUCH SPACE - Those big plastic jugs are bulky! You can...
  • DON’T WASTE - Laundry jugs come in giant plastic containers...
  • REDUCE CARBON FOOTPRINT - Earth Breeze package is so lightweight...

These liquidless eco sheets are eco-friendly and greatly reduce your carbon-footprint from the earth. They are a perfect stain remover for ink stains. These sheets use water from your washing machine and dissolve to work efficiently to remove tough highlighter out of clothes. Additionally, they are hypoallergenic and scent-free which is definitely an added advantage. These laundry detergent sheets can dissolve in both hot water and cool water.


  • Fragrance-free
  • Dissolves easily
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Amazing stain remover


  • Low quality

3) Carbona Stain Devils №3 Ink & Crayon

This is an amazing stain removal product for dry clean only fabrics as well as washable fabrics. To achieve great results, it is imperative that you remove as much of the stain as you can using rubbing alcohol. Place a paper towel beneath the fabric and gently blot the stain. Once most of the stain is off, you can now apply the carbona solution directly onto the stain. The ink from the highlighter should run off it easily. Afterwards, rinse the cloth with warm water.


  • Good QualityFast-workingGreat stain eliminatorSimple to useAffordable


  • Requires rubbing alcohol on the stain first

4) Woolite Dry Care Cleaner

Woolite Dry Care Cleaner, At Home Dry Clean in 20...
  • Convenient at home dry cleaner (fragrance free) offers 3X Care:...
  • One box saves over $100 on dry cleaning. Fast and easy. Clothes...
  • Bag-free technology enables a better clean. Dirt and lint collect...
  • Safer to use on more fabrics than any other At-Home Dry Cleaner,...
  • Always Gentle: No shrinking, No stretching, No fading. Advanced...

Specifically designed for removing highlighter stains from your clothes, this dry cleaning solvent will work miracles on your clothes. It uses advanced cleaning technology without using harsh chemicals that could ultimately ruin your clothes. It is hence very safe for your dry clean only fabric. These include cashmere, acetate, wool, silk and rayon. Moreover, it does not cause shrinking and fading. You can therefore take it easy knowing that your clothes are safe.


  • Perfect stain eliminator
  • Ideal for dry fabricSafe
  • Advanced cleaning technology
  • Effective


  • Not suitable for embellished clothes

5) Swan 70% Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is one of the most ideal products to remove highlighter stains that come from highlighter pens. The first step in removing highlighter out of clothes is to place clean paper towels beneath the stained area. This helps to avoid the fresh stain to not stain completely. Then blot rubbing alcohol which is 70% isopropyl alcohol onto the ink stain using a cotton ball. By now there should be ink transfer on the damp paper towel. Rubbing alcohol stain clothes if not used properly, therefore take precautions.


  • Great value
  • Works fastVersatile
  • Easy to use
  • Safe on fabrics


  • Expensive

Home Methods For How To Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes

You might not always have a professional stain eliminator on hand. Of course there are many other options apart from rubbing alcohol or laundry detergent. The best stain removal technique is the one that removes an entire stain immediately. You can now easily remove stains without needing laundry detergent and a wash cycle to remove highlighter stains. Lets take a look at some easy DIY methods.

a) Shaving Cream

Who said shaving lotion was for hair removal only? Apart from hair removal, it is an excellent method to get highlighter stains out of your clothes. All you actually have to do is use a clean rag and dab gently into the stained area. It typically has to seep in so you have to leave it be for at least half an hour to an hour. Letting stains stay makes stains impossible to remove in the future. A dab of shaving lotion will loosen the highlighter stains.

After an hour, you can then remove highlighter stain by wiping the stain away, or doing a stain soak to remove the highlighter stain. Additionally, shaving lotion is a great stain remover for any type of stain.

b) Hand Sanitizer

Can hand sanitizer remove stains? One of the most unexpected ink removers is hand sanitizer. Using a super clean cotton swab or cotton ball, you should dab a liberal amount of sanitizer on to the ink stain. To ensure the stained area doesn't spread, ensure to lay a paper towel underneath the stained area. You can then rub the area with a brush or clean cloth. Sanitizer makes a good ink remover because of its alcohol content. You will notice the stain starting to fade.

After it has faded, ensure to hand wash with cool water. You can also run the cloth item through the washer if you don't prefer hand washing. Hand sanitizer is suitable for almost all fabrics including a fabric couch your kids like to draw on.

c) Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is one of the most efficient methods of removing stains. It is also an ink remover. Using 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 2/3 cup of water in a spray bottle, spray liberally all over the stain. Lemon juice is very eco-friendly as well. After letting the lemon juice soak for a while, wash the laundry as usual. Furthermore, lemon juice doesn't always work on some tough stains. Therefore if it doesn't work, you might want to try another mixture.

d) Baking Soda

Baking soda is a good way to get highlighter ink off your clothes. Mixing baking soda and warm water into a thick paste, smear the paste onto the highlighter stain. Make sure to gently rub it into the stain then wait for a few minutes for it to dry. After it dries you can wash as normal. After the drying cycle, your clothing should be completely stain-free. However, baking soda doesn't work on all fabrics therefore it is important to test the paste first before using it.

e) Makeup Remover Wipe

Makeup removers are also the best stain removers. If you get makeup on your pillowcase, using a makeup wipe will get the stains off. The same applies to when you get highlighter stains. All you have to do is use a sheet of remover wipe and slowly blot out the stain. Repeat until you don't see the stain anymore. You can place a damp towel beneath the stained area. Additionally, you can wash with warm water, and air dry for the best outcome.

How Do I Get Highlighter Out Of Furniture?

Highlighter might go everywhere. Especially if you have sharpies and kids around. Furthermore, most common targets are carpets, fabric couches, and mattresses. You can't throw large items into the washer. Here are some tips on how to get highlighter out of clothes.

i) Dab Don’t Pour

Does highlighter wash out of furniture? Be it rubbing alcohol, undiluted laundry detergent, or sanitizer, ensure you dab it on a piece of cloth first. A fabric couch or a mattress can be hard to clean. Therefore, it is wiser to dab at the highlighter stain. Pouring a dry cleaning solvent typically is bad news because it widens the stain. Dabbing and blotting gets the stain out faster.

ii) Mark The Stains

Before pouring ink remover directly on to your furniture, which would be a mistake, you should mark around the stain. Using safety pins mark around the stain to ensure it actually fades after you apply treatment. Do this for all stains to make sure the stain doesn't spread, and if it does you know how far along.

iii) Dry

After applying treatment, so that your mattress, couch or comforter doesn't stink, try drying the area out. You can use blotting paper, or lay down paper towels. Additionally, you can also use a towel to ensure the area doesn't get too wet. Using methods such as sanitizer or rubbing alcohol won't need drying. However, instances such as a cold water or hot water and baking soda paste might need drying.

iv) Don’t Use Bar Soap

Contrary to popular belief, bar soap will actually set the stain deeper. It will be practically next to impossible to get a stain out once you use bar soap immediately. When a stain sets and especially on light-colored furniture, it can be very hard to remove. Depending on the type of fabric, it can be super hard to remove from furniture. Using the services of a professional cleaner might be of help if the stain doesn't come out.

Lastly, if you cannot get a stain out on time, then just ensure you are in a position to rinse any inked surfaces off with cold water. Since the stain also sets with time, the earlier you can get it off, the better for your clothes or furniture. Once a stain sets it can be very difficult to get it out. While trying to get it out, you can damage your fabric.

In Summary

Stains are very common in every household. Stains can be so bad that they look permanent. However, early action will go a long way in preventing the stain from setting permanently. In some cases, the only way to remove highlighter out of clothes is using bleach or fabric dye. However, generally speaking, highlighter ink stains are not hard to get rid of. Removing the stain as quickly as possible should be the first plan of action.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.