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.
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As a professional in the education industry, you are in contact with tools such as highlighters daily. You also use a highlighter pen for your projects and assignments if you are a student. Similarly, being a parent requires nurturing your children’s young minds. This could be in art projects using highlighter pens and Sharpie highlighters.

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. So how do you go about that? Read through as we take you through various ways that you can try to get the highlighter out of your clothes.

Let’s get started!

What Are Highlighter Stains?

Highlighter stains are one of the toughest stains to remove. Having said this, they are not impossible to get rid of. Understanding what kind of highlighter stain you are dealing with is important, as the highlighter ink could be; water-soluble, alcohol-based, gel-based, permanent, or non-permanent.

For a water-based highlighter stain, you don’t need a pre-treatment wash. However, you need a pre-treatment stain remover for an alcohol-based highlighter stain. Old highlighter stains are much harder to get rid of than fresh stains. Having this information will help you save a lot of clothes from stains.

highlighter stains

Image credit: mumsnet.com

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 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 of placing 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.

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 besides 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 laundry detergent and a wash cycle to remove highlighter stains. Let’s take a look at some easy DIY methods.

A) Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda are two household items that can help remove highlighter stains from clothes. Vinegar is a mild acid that can break down the ink, while baking soda is a gentle abrasive that can help lift the stain from the fabric. Here’s how to use vinegar and baking soda to remove highlighter stains from clothes:

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Image credit: rd.com

Step 1: Mix Vinegar and Baking Soda

Mix equal parts of vinegar and baking soda to form a paste. The paste should have a thick, creamy consistency.

Step 2: Apply the Paste

Apply the paste directly to the stain, covering it entirely.

Step 3: Let the Paste Sit

Let the paste sit on the stain for about 15-20 minutes. The paste will break down the ink and lift the stain from the fabric.

Step 4: Scrub the Stain

Gently scrub the stain in circular motions using a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush. Be careful not to damage the fabric. Scrubbing the stain will help lift the ink from the fabric.

Step 5: Rinse the Fabric

Rinse the fabric under cold water to remove the vinegar, baking soda paste, and any remaining ink.

Step 6: Repeat the Process

If the stain persists, repeat the process until the stain is removed. Once the stain is removed, wash the fabric as usual.

B) Using Hand Sanitizer

Get rid of stains with hand sanitizer

Image credit: today.com

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 onto the ink stain. To ensure the stained area doesn’t spread, 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) Using Dish Soap

Dish soap is another readily available solution to help remove highlighter stains from clothes. It contains surfactants that can break down the ink and make lifting the stain from the fabric easier. Here’s how to use dish soap to remove highlighter stains from clothes:

Dish Soap to remove highlighter ink stains

Image credit: hip2save.com

Step 1: Blot the Stain

Take a clean cloth or paper towel and blot the stain to remove any excess ink. Avoid rubbing the stain as it can spread it further.

Step 2: Apply Dish Soap

Apply a small amount of dish soap to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. The dish soap will work to break down the ink and make it easier to remove.

Step 3: Scrub the Stain

Gently scrub the stain in circular motions using a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush. Be careful not to damage the fabric. Scrubbing the stain will help lift the ink from the fabric.

Step 4: Rinse the Fabric

Rinse the fabric under cold water to remove the dish soap and any remaining ink.

Step 5: Repeat the Process

If the stain persists, repeat the process until the stain is removed. Once the stain is removed, wash the fabric as usual.

D) Using Shaving Cream

shaving cream on highlighter ink stain

Image credit: andreajeancleaning.com

Who said shaving lotion was for hair removal only? Apart from hair removal, it is an excellent method to remove highlighter stains from your clothes. You must use a clean rag and gently dab into the stained area. It typically has to seep in, so you must 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 remove the 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 stain.

E) Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another effective solution for removing highlighter stains from clothes. It works by breaking down the ink and making it easier to remove.

Using Only Rubbing Alcohol

Image credit: youtube.com

Here is how to use rubbing alcohol to get the highlighter out of clothes:

Step 1: Blot the Stain

Take a clean cloth or paper towel and blot the stain to remove any excess ink. Avoid rubbing the stain as it can spread it further.

Step 2: Apply Rubbing Alcohol

Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol directly to the stain. You can use a cotton ball, sponge, or cloth to apply the rubbing alcohol.

Step 3: Let it Sit

Let the rubbing alcohol sit on the stain for a few minutes. This will allow it to penetrate the fabric and break down the ink.

Step 4: Scrub the Stain

Gently scrub the stain in circular motions using a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush. Be careful not to damage the fabric. Scrubbing the stain will help lift the ink from the fabric.

Step 5: Rinse the Fabric

Rinse the fabric under cold water to remove the rubbing alcohol and any remaining ink.

Step 6: Repeat the Process

If the stain persists, repeat the process until the stain is removed. Once the stain is removed, wash the fabric as usual.

F) Using Lemon Juice

lemon juice

Image credit: americantwoshot.com

Lemon juice is one of the most efficient methods of removing stains. It is also an ink remover. Spray all over the stain using 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 2/3 cup water in a spray bottle. Lemon juice is very eco-friendly as well. After letting the lemon juice soak, 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.

G) Using Makeup Remover Wipe

Makeup removers are also the best stain removers. If you get makeup on your pillowcase, a makeup wipe will remove the stains. 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, carpets, fabric couches, and mattresses are the most common targets. You can’t throw large items into the washer. Here are some tips on how to get highlighter out of clothes.

Stain on furniture

Image credit: northcarolinacharm.com

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 is typically bad news because it widens the stain. Dabbing and blotting get the stain out faster.

ii) Mark The Stains

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

iii) Dry

After applying treatment, try drying the area so your mattress, couch, or comforter doesn’t stink. You can use blotting paper or lay down paper towels. 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, cold water, hot water, and baking soda paste might need drying.

iv) Don’t Use Bar Soap

Contrary to popular belief, bar soap will set the stain deeper. Getting a stain out immediately after you use bar soap will be practically next to impossible. When a stain sets, 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. A professional cleaner might help if the stain doesn’t come out.

Bar of Soap

Image credit: dreamstime.com

Lastly, if you cannot get a stain out on time, ensure you can 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.

Tips for Preventing Highlighter Stains

There are a few tips and tricks you can use to prevent highlighter stains on clothes that, include the following:

1. Choose the Right Type of Highlighter

Some highlighters are likelier to bleed through paper and onto your clothes than others. For example, fluorescent highlighters are often more prone to bleeding than non-fluorescent highlighters. If you’re concerned about staining your clothes, consider using non-fluorescent highlighters or highlighters with water-based ink. These highlighters are less likely to bleed through paper and onto your clothes.

Different Types of Highlighters

Image credit: qualitylogoproducts.com

2. Use a Protective Barrier

When you’re highlighting a document, place a piece of paper or a sticky note behind the page you’re highlighting. This will create a barrier between the highlighter and your clothes, reducing the likelihood of staining. You can also use a protective barrier on your clothes themselves.

3. Be Careful When Highlighting

When highlighting, be careful not to touch the highlighter tip on your clothes. If the tip of the highlighter comes into contact with your clothes, it can leave a stain. Hold the highlighter at an angle and use light, gentle strokes to prevent this from happening. Avoid pressing too hard on the paper, which can cause the highlighter to bleed through and onto your clothes.

4. Remove Stains Immediately

If you accidentally get highlighter on your clothes, it’s important to act quickly to remove the stain. The longer the stain sits, the harder it will be to remove. Begin by blotting the stain with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. This will help to absorb any excess ink and prevent the stain from spreading. Then, rinse the stain with cold water. Do not use warm or hot water, as this can set the stain and make it more difficult to remove.

5. Use Stain Remover

How to Get Highlighter Out of Clothes

Image credit: wikihow.com

If rinsing the stain with water doesn’t completely remove it, you can use a stain remover to remove the remaining ink. Many different types of stain removers are available, including pre-treatment sprays and laundry detergents. When using a stain remover, follow the instructions on the label carefully. Apply the product to the stain and let it sit for the recommended time before washing the garment.

6. Avoid Heat

One mistake many people make when removing highlighter stains is using heat. It’s important to avoid using heat to dry the garment or remove the stain, as this can set the stain and make it even harder to remove. Instead, let the garment air dry naturally. If the stain is still visible after the garment has dried, you can repeat the stain removal process until the stain is gone.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Get Highlighter Out of Clothes

a) Is Highlighter Permanent on Clothes?

Highlighter ink stains are not designed to be permanent on clothes. They are water-based and not formulated to withstand the washing and drying process.

blotting highlighter stain

Image credit: sewinsider.com

If you accidentally get highlighter on your clothes, acting quickly is important. You can try to remove the stain by blotting it with a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess ink. Then, rinse the stained area with cold water and apply a stain remover or laundry detergent directly to the stain. Let it sit briefly before washing the garment in cold water.

b) What Erases Highlighter?

Highlighter ink is usually made with a water-based formula that is not as permanent as other inks. This makes it easier to erase or remove the highlighter marks using an eraser, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or bleach. Before trying any of these methods, it is always recommended to test it on a small and inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t damage or discolor the surface.

c) How Do You Get Highlighter Out of a Carpet?

highlighter stain on the carpet

Image credit: reddit.com

To remove highlighter stains from a carpet, you can try the following steps:

  1. Blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove excess liquid. Be careful not to spread the stain further.
  2. Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the solution onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes.
  4. Blot the area with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove the solution and the stain.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the stain is completely removed.
  6. Rinse the area with water and blot with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any remaining solution.
  7. Allow the carpet to air dry completely.

If the stain persists, try using a carpet stain remover or contacting a professional carpet cleaning service for assistance.

d) Does Highlighter Fade Away?

Yes, highlighters can fade over time depending on various factors, such as the type of highlighter, as some types are designed to be more long-lasting than others. The paper’s quality can also affect how quickly the highlighter fades.

Environmental conditions such as exposure to sunlight, heat, or moisture can also cause highlighter to fade more quickly. In addition, if the highlighter is stored in a humid environment or is exposed to air for long periods, it may also fade.

Finally, the time since the highlighter was applied can also affect its fading. Over time, even the most long-lasting highlighter may begin to fade, especially if the paper it was applied to is exposed to any of the above factors.

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.
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