How To Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes (Do This!)

Heather Robbins
by Heather Robbins

While it’s normal to put effort towards keeping clothes clean, when you have a busy schedule, it can be quite challenging. It is highly likely that you’re going to spend a fair amount of time trying to remove various unidentifiable stains from your family’s clothing, such as highlighter ink. Tackling stains isn’t always easy, but how do you get highlighter out of clothes?

To remove highlighter from clothing, use rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or ink removers on a fresh stain. Rubbing dry-cleaning solution or laundry detergent into the stain can also help. Other ways to get highlighter out of clothes are baking soda and vinegar, lemon juice, or saltwater. Make sure you don’t put your clothes in the dryer until you remove the stain completely.

Regardless of how that highlighter stain got onto your clothing, we will give you a couple of methods to try. Removing the stain will help keep it from becoming permanent while also preventing it from getting onto your skin.

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Tips For Getting Highlighter Out Of Clothes

Oh, the absolute pain of trying to get pesky stains out of clothes when the washing machine just won’t cut it. Unfortunately, a highlighter is one of those challenging stains. Your washing machine will fade the highlighter ink, but it won’t remove it altogether.

Luckily, most highlighters feature water-soluble ink, unless you’re using a more permanent type, like a Sharpie highlighter. Therefore, if you’re fortunate to notice the stain right away, rinsing it with water as much as possible and quickly can help eliminate most of the stain.

No matter what, do NOT put the item in the dryer until the highlighter stain is completely gone. The heat from the dryer can make it extremely hard to impossible to remove the stain. In fact, this is a good rule of thumb for any type of stain.

But, regardless, using a stain treatment to get highlighter out of clothes is a necessity, and luckily there are several to choose from. Since different types of fabric react differently to various solutions, it’s good to have some options.

Precautions When Getting Highlighter Out Of Clothes

No matter what solution you try to get rid of the stain, practice these tips:

  • Remove most of the stain as soon as possible. If you can get most of the ink stains off the garment before it gets set in, it will significantly help. If you have immediate access to paper kitchen towels, use them to absorb as much of the ink as you can before it dries.
  • Test the fabric before applying the stain-removing solution. The critical thing to remember is that, before applying liberally, you should always test the effect of the product on a small, hidden part of the garment. This is essential to ensure that it doesn’t fade the color or damage the clothing’s texture. An excellent spot to carry out the test is on a seam or the interior of the item. By ensuring that rubbing alcohol can safely be used on the article to remove the highlighter, you can be confident that you’ll be able to use it on the stain.
  • Wash your laundry as usual. The final step after applying the stain removal technique of choice is to wash the item that was previously stained. After double-checking that all the stain has been removed, simply follow the instructions on the garment care label and wash as usual.
  • Don’t dry until you’re sure. Again, until you are absolutely certain the whole stain is gone, don’t put the garment in the dryer.

Something else to consider is to pre-soak the stained item in saltwater for a couple of hours before washing. This is useful in removing any other debris as well as helping to loosen the stain.

Items That Can Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes

1. Rubbing Alcohol

You might not be comfortable with the idea of using rubbing alcohol to get rid of a highlighter stain. You may have some concerns regarding the stain spreading even further or the alcohol damaging the fabric’s color under the stain.

It has to be acknowledged that there is always the possibility this can happen. However, as long as you take care and understand what you’re trying to do, the risk can be managed.

Before applying any rubbing alcohol, you need to mark the area of the stain (you can use a safety pin). This may seem unnecessary, given that the pigment is so bright. However, after even one wash cycle, it might not be so easy to see, and you’ll think it has gone.

However, when it has dried, you can once again see that your garment is still stained with highlighter ink. Note: Do not use rubbing alcohol to get highlighter out of silk, wool, acetate, modacrylic, or rayon fabrics.

Getting Highlighter Out Of Clothes With Rubbing Alcohol

Using isopropyl alcohol with a 70% alcohol content tends to work best, but it’s important to work in a well-ventilated area. Plus, wear gloves or make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the alcohol.

After absorbing as much of the stain as possible with paper towels, you can apply the rubbing alcohol. Leave fresh paper towels below the stain as you apply the alcohol. The result you’re looking for is that the rubbing alcohol causes the dye to dissolve onto the paper towels before a permanent stain has had the opportunity to develop.

For a small stain, dab gently at the stain with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. If it’s a large stain, you can hold the clothing hover a tub or sink and pour the alcohol onto it. However, don’t scrub at the stain as this can make it worse or cause it to spread.

Once you’ve applied the rubbing alcohol, run your clothing through the laundry as usual. Bear in mind that if the stain fades but stubbornly persists, you can repeat the process. After a couple of treatments and a couple of washes, the highlighter ink should have gone, and your item will have been restored to its original pristine condition.

2. Hand Sanitizer

If you don’t have rubbing alcohol in the house or prefer not to use it, there are other products you can use to remove ink from a highlighter pen. For example, you can use a solvent as a substitute.

One solvent that can be usefully employed is hand sanitizer. After testing an inconspicuous area first, place some sanitizer on a clean rag and start to gently blot the stain. Keep another rag or paper towel underneath the stain at the same time.

Keep repeating this step until the highlighter stain is out of the clothing, then wash your clothes as usual. Avoid using hand sanitizer or alcohol on leather, suede, and dark-colored fabrics. It can bleach these fabrics a bit and cause fading.

3. Hairspray

Hairspray works well to get ink stains out of many fabrics, especially synthetic types like polyester. However, you need to check the ingredients of your hairspray and make sure it contains alcohol.

Spritz the stain with hairspray enough to soak it, then let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, rinse the area with cool water. Repeat if necessary.

4. Baking Soda And Vinegar To Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes

If you have some patience, using a baking soda and vinegar mix can be an ideal way to get a variety of stains out of your clothing. You can also use cronstarch instead of baking soda.

The reason you need patience is you often need to let this combo sit on the stain overnight. Vinegar is a great stain remover thanks to the acidity tah thelps dissolve the stain.

However, because of the high acidity avoid using vinegar on silk fabrics.

To get rid of the highlighter stain using vinegar and baking soda, first soak the stain with vinegar. You can also pour the vinegar onto the stain.

Mix three tablespoons of baking soda with one tablespoon of vinegar to create a thick paste. Rub the paste gently into the stain with your finger or a paper towel. Make sure to coat the entire stain, mixing up more paste if you need it.

Let the fabric sit overnight, then shake and gently remove the crumbly bits of paste and wash your fabric as usual. Inspect the material for any lingering stain, and repeat the process if necessary.

5. Commerical Ink Removers

Yes, you can always go to the laundry detergent aisle and pick up an ink remover for those pesky highlighter stains. Many o these products work on stubborn ink stains like Sharpie, pens, and of course, highlighters.

If you tend to get ink on your clothing often, it might be worth keeping a small bottle of ink remover on hand. Two options are Amodex Ink & Stain Remover and Carbona Stain Devils. You can usually find ink remover for between $6 and $12.

To use it, place a paper towel under the stain on the wrong side of the clothing. Apply the ink remover directly to the stain and rub it in with another paper towel.

Follow the instructions on the product for how long you need to let it sit on the fabric. Then, rinse the stain with water and wash the clothing as usual.

6. Saltwater Can Get Highlighter Out Of Clothes

Saltwater can work well on ink and other stubborn stains like blood and grease. Mix 1/2 cup of salt with cold water and create a thick paste to apply to the stain.

Let it sit on the stain for 10 to 20 minutes, then rinse with cool water and wash as usual. If the stain is fresh, you could rub a spoonful of dry salt into the ink.

Let the salt sit on the highlighter stain for ten minutes, then soak the stained spot in a bowl of milk overnight Rinse the milk with cool water and wash the clothing as usual.

Do not use salt on dry-clean-only fabric.

7. Lemon Juice

Lemon Juice is a popular natural cleaner in many households, used both for deodorizing and stain removal. The high acidity levels in lemon juice help break down many types of stains, including highlighter.

You can use lemon juice to get highlighter out of clothes in a couple of ways. First, you can cut a lemon in half and rub it on the stained area. Then, steam the area with a steamer or an iron with a steam function.

Hold the steam close to the fabric but don’t put the iron or steamer on the fabric. Let the steam saturate the stained area then rinse the fabric with cool water.

Alternatively, put the stained part of the fabric into a cup of lemon juice and soak it for about an hour. If the stain is large or old, soak it overnight.

Then, rub a tablespoon of salt into the stain, using it to scrub in the lemon juice. Rinse with cool water and wash as usual.

8. Laundry Detergent

No, we’re not about to tell you to just wash the clothes in laundry detergent. Remember, in the beginning, we said simply washing your clothes won’t get the highlighter out all the way.

But using undiluted laundry detergent directly on the stain can get rid of it. Squirt about a teaspoon of detergent onto the stain, covering it, but don’t rub it in too much or spread it around.

Let it sit for roughly 5 minutes, then wash the item as usual but by itself. You don’t want the stain to get on any other clothing. Repeat the process if necessary.

9. Dry-Cleaning Solution

What happens if you get highlighter on dry-clean-only clothing? You can use a dry-cleaning product like Dryel to attempt to tackle the highlighter stain on your clothes.

Use a clean white cloth to dab the stain with the dry-cleaning solution. You should start to see the stain transfer onto the cloth. Keep repeating using a fresh cloth until the stain is gone.

Afterward, handwash the item. Dry-cleaning solutions contain flammable ingredients that can potentially ignite in the dryer.

Why You Should Remove Highlighter Ink Immediately

The most obvious reason for wanting to remove a brightly colored stain from your garments is that stained clothes are rarely considered a good look. If the stains set in, the clothes may have to be discarded, and it could be expensive to replace them.

Another reason is that, depending on the location of the highlighter stain and how serious it is, it may even stain your skin.

This is why you should aim to remove highlighter stains as quickly as possible. You’ll be confident that you took the necessary action to minimize any damage. Not to mention, you can continue to enjoy wearing your garment.

However, the primary reason to tackle the stain right away is older stains are more difficult to get rid of. Many of these same tricks can work against old highlighter stains, but you might not be able to get all of the stain out.

One trick is to soak the garment in saltwater, wring it out, and put it in the freezer overnight. The next day, thaw it out and wash it in the washing machine as usual.

What If You Can’t Deal With The Stain Immediately?

Let’s assume that you’re not at home, so you can’t simply throw rubbing alcohol onto your stain and toss your clothes into the wash. What do you do then?

You can try rinsing the area with cold water in hopes that it will get most of the dye out. You can also make sure that you carry an on-the-go fabric stain remover stick in case of accidents like these.

In Summary

Overall, highlighter ink isn’t very hard to remove from your clothing or linens. However, the first plan of action is to remove what you can immediately. By acting quickly, it can help you prevent a permanent stain in your clothing. As with any form of stain removal, you will want to test an inconspicuous area first to ensure that the method will not ruin your clothing.

If you’re lucky, you had on dark clothing when the highlighter got onto your clothes. If this is the case, even if the highlighter stains the fabric, it will not be noticeable. However, keep in mind that it may still transfer to your skin, which is why it’s a good reason to take care of the ink regardless.

Related Questions

Does makeup highlighter wash out of clothes?

It doesn’t matter if your clothes are stained with highlighter ink or makeup highlighter; with a minimal amount of effort, you’ll be able to remove the stains.With makeup highlighter, you could use shaving cream or a makeup remover wipe to dissolve the stain. Make sure you let the product of choice penetrate the mess so that it can remove the makeup.

Are some stains impossible to remove?

The simple answer is yes. Not every stain can be removed. If a stain is left for a long time, it is probable that you won’t be able to treat it.Or, when you try and manage to lift off the stain, the fabric where it was located will have been damaged. The affected area of the material may have even changed color.

How do I get highlighter out of my couch or upholstered furniture?

Of course, test a small inconspicuous area first, but laundry detergent can help get highlighter out of upholstery. If the material can handle rubbing alcohol, dab the stain with this first.Then, use a rag or cotton ball to dab some laundry detergent onto the stain. Gently rub it to remove all of the stain, then rinse with hot water.

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Heather Robbins
Heather Robbins

Heather is a passionate writer who loves anything DIY. Growing up, she learned everything from home repairs to design, and wants to share her tips with you. When she's not writing, she's usually hiking or searching for her next DIY project.

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