highlighter on clothes

How to Remove Highlighter from Clothes

After a hard day of studying, it’s incredibly annoying when you look down at your jeans only to realise you’ve highlighted them as well as your notes!

The bright orange highlighter mark may look great on your history textbooks, but it’s a different story with your ankle grazers.

There’s only one thing for it—you’ll have to ditch the studying for a few minutes and go treat the highlighted eyesore.

Follow the steps below to remove highlighter marks from your clothes.


Tips to Keep in Mind When Tackling Highlighter Stains

highlighter stain on clothes

  • Blot the highlighter stain; don’t scrub it! Scrubbing will drive the stain deeper into the material’s fibres.
  • Always clean your item of clothing after you’ve treated it. Washing your garments will remove any product residue and odours from them.
  • Work from the outside of the highlighter stain and towards its centre. This will stop you from spreading the mark around the item of clothing.
  • Don’t dry your clothes until they’re highlighter-free. Heat sets stains and makes them difficult to remove.
  • Act fast and remove the highlighter stain as soon as you can. The longer the stain is left, the harder it is to remove.
  • For future reference, always screw the caps back on your highlighters when you’re done using them. Store your highlighters in a pencil case or stationery box. And if you spot a leaky highlighter, carefully remove and dispose of it. Then you can clean the mess up.
  • It’s unlikely that just washing your clothes will remove the highlighter marks from them. The laundering process may dull the appearance of the blemish, but it won’t necessarily eradicate it. In most cases, it’s better to treat the highlighter stain and then wash your clothes.
  • Test your chosen cleaning solution out before you use it. A small patch test will tell you if the treatment you’re about to apply to your item of clothing will have an adverse effect on it. If there is some sort of negative effect, you must stop using the product and try a different solution.


Method 1: Rubbing Alcohol

rubbing alcohol for highlighter stain

Steps to follow:

  1. Remove the highlighter-stained item from your person.
  2. Pop some gloves on to protect your hands.
  3. Lay some paper towels on a flat surface.
  4. Pop your item on the flat surface.
  5. Tuck some paper towels up behind the stain. They will catch any liquid that runs through the material.
  6. Pour some rubbing alcohol into a shallow dish.
  7. Grab a neutral-coloured microfibre cloth.
  8. Dip the cloth into the rubbing alcohol.
  9. Wring out excess liquid.
  10. Blot the highlighter mark.
  11. Continuously blot at the spot until all the highlighter blemish is removed.
  12. As you blot, you’ll notice that some of the highlighter stain is being pushed out of the material and onto the paper towels that are being held on the back of the stain.
  13. Remember to use a new patch of cloth each time you blot. This will stop you from reapplying the highlighter to the treated area.
  14. Change the paper tissue at the back of the stain if it gets too wet.
  15. When you’re done, wash your item of clothing as normal with detergent.
  16. Before drying the item, check it over.
  17. If you see stains, repeat this method.
  18. Only dry the item when you know for sure that there isn’t any highlighter left behind.

Tip: You can use hand sanitiser instead if you like! Just replace the rubbing alcohol with the sanitiser.


Method 2: Hairspray

hairspray and cold water rinsing

Steps to follow:

  1. Pick up a can of hairspray with a high alcohol content from a shop.
  2. Spread your item of clothing out on a flat surface.
  3. Pop some paper towels up behind the highlighter stain so the liquid/dye doesn’t run through the material.
  4. Spray a generous amount of hairspray onto the highlighter blemish.
  5. Wait a few minutes for the hairspray to dry and go stiff.
  6. Take your item over to the sink.
  7. Run cold water through the bag of the highlighter stain. The water should flush the highlighter out.
  8. Repeat the steps above multiple times to remove the highlighter mark.


Method 3: Bicarbonate of Soda and Distilled White Vinegar

bicarbonate of soda and vinegar for highlighter stain

Steps to follow:

  1. Mix three parts of bicarbonate of soda with one part of white vinegar in a shallow dish. Create a paste from the two products.
  2. Spread this paste over the highlighter stain. Use your fingers to do this.
  3. Leave the paste to dry on the stain overnight.
  4. The next morning, wipe the dried paste off the garment and launder it as usual.


Method 4: Salty Water

salt and water

Steps to follow:

  1. Mix half a cup of salt with water in a bowl until you get a paste.
  2. Lay your stained garment on a flat surface.
  3. Pop some paper towels behind the highlighter stain to catch the moisture.
  4. Spread the paste all over the stain.
  5. Wait about twenty minutes.
  6. Hold your item under the cold water tap.
  7. Allow the cold water to run through the back of the highlighter stain to help flush it out.
  8. Repeat the steps above if the stain is still present.
  9. Wash your item of clothing as normal.


Method 5: Salted Lemon Water

remove highlighter stain with lemon juice

Steps to follow:

  1. Remove the item of clothing from your person and lay the garment on a flat surface.
  2. Stuff some paper towels up behind the highlighter stain to stop the dye from transferring onto the back of the item.
  3. Cut a lemon in half.
  4. Rub half a lemon all over the highlighter stain.
  5. Fill a bowl with lemon juice and water.
  6. Soak the stained patch in the lemon water.
  7. Wait about an hour.
  8. Grab some salt and rub it into the highlighter mark.
  9. Wait a few minutes.
  10. Rinse the garment.
  11. Inspect the item and repeat the steps above if need be. Or if the item is free from stains, wash it as normal.

Note: This method should only be used on white clothes because lemon juice tends to have a bleaching effect.


Method 6: Specialised Cleaners

specialised cleaners for pen and ink stains

It’s possible to use an off-the-shelf cleaner to take out highlighter marks on your garments.

It’s worth keeping in mind that specialised products often get mixed results with users. Some people think they work very well, others don’t have much luck with them.

As you’d expect, what type of stain you’re dealing with, how big it is, and how old it is also impacts how well off-the-shelf stain removers work.

So, don’t be too disheartened if you buy a product and it doesn’t work the first time or at all.

Some specialised products you could look into include:

  • Amodex Ink Stain Remover is a pocket-sized stain-removal tool that can be used on a variety of materials, including cotton, corduroy, and silk. It can also be used to treat a variety of stains aside from ink-related ones! And to top it all, it’s also recommended by the manufacturer of Sharpie! It’s simple to use. You just apply the Amodex to the blemish, rub it in, and then wash your item.
  • Dr. Beckmann Stain Devils Pen and Ink is part of a larger batch of products sold by the Dr. Beckmann brand. The Pen and Ink cleaner has been specifically designed to treat mishaps relating to pens, highlighters, and other writing tools (for example, gel pens/chalk/whiteboard pens).

Like Amodex, Stain Devils is easy to use and gets to work in as little as three minutes. However, it cannot be used on delicate materials like leather, suede, wool, and silk.

Note: You need to read the instructions on the product’s packaging and adhere to the advice you’re given.

highlighter stains on clothes


Can You Just Wash Highlighter Out of Clothes?

You should treat and remove the highlighter stain on your clothes and then wash them.

If you just wash your clothes, the highlighter stain might not come off properly, and it’ll just fade instead. In this case, the blemish might look a lot better, but it’s still there in the material’s fibres.

What’s more, this ‘illusion’ will make you believe that the clothes are clean, so you’ll proceed to drying them.

The trouble is, after you’ve dried the laundry, the heat will have set the highlighter stain. So, when you do notice the blemish later on, it’ll be even harder to eradicate.

In short, get rid of the highlighter stain and then clean your clothes.