How to Remove Sharpie Stains From Shoes

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Intentional Sharpie doodles turn boring shoes into creative works of art, but an accidental scribble on a shoe is another story entirely. Sharpies are permanent markers, which means their ink won't wash off with soap and water. Rubbing alcohol, however, removes permanent marker ink, especially if it's fairly fresh. Vinegar, sunscreen, or in some cases, a melamine foam eraser, will also work depending on the shoe material.

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Remove Permanent Ink With Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol from the local drugstore removes ink from all types of shoes, as it makes the ink liquid again. The trick is to apply the alcohol with a cotton swab, paper towel, or a white cleaning cloth that can absorb the ink pigment; otherwise, the ink just stays on the shoes. Pour some of the alcohol onto a cotton ball or swab and then press the wet part of the cotton onto the ink on the shoe, watching as the cotton absorbs the ink. Follow up with fresh, clean swabs dipped in alcohol to remove more ink to avoid transferring the pigment back to the shoe. Continue until you've removed as much ink as possible and then blot the area with a dry cloth to help absorb any liquid still on the shoe.

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For rubbery areas on shoes, such as running shoes or tennis shoes, a single, quick wipe with alcohol or hand sanitizer often does the trick. In some cases, a baby wipe or a sanitizing wipe is all that's needed to remove Sharpie ink from shoe soles and rubber or vinyllike shoe surfaces.

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Try a Dab of Vinegar

White vinegar is excellent for all sorts of household cleaning projects, including removing permanent marker ink from shoes. Pour a little vinegar onto a lint-free white cloth and dab the ink marks on the shoes. If the vinegar doesn't loosen the ink from the shoe right away, press the cloth onto the stain and rub gently in the direction of the ink mark, as if you're tracing the lines. Check the cloth regularly and rotate to a fresh area as the fabric absorbs the ink.

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Use Sunscreen for Shoe Rubber

Sunscreen also removes Sharpie ink from numerous surfaces, but it's best to only use it on nonabsorbent types of shoe materials that won't stain. For instance, you can try sunscreen on vinyl shoes or rubbery shoe soles, but it's best not to use it on your favorite old-school canvas high-tops that absorb liquids with ease. For best results on porous materials, test the sunscreen in an inconspicuous area, letting it dry before applying more all over the ink-stained areas of the shoes.

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Apply a little sunscreen to a lint-free white cloth and then blot the ink with it. If no ink comes up right away, squirt some sunscreen directly over the inky areas and then blot or dab with a clean white cloth. The ink should transfer into the sunscreen and ultimately into the cleaning cloth. Continue until you've removed as much as possible.

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Erase Sharpie Marks

Melamine foam sponges, such as the Magic Eraser, easily remove ink from shoe soles, heels, and the firmer parts of the footwear. Wet the foam sponge and wring out most of the water. Scrub the ink spots on each shoe and they'll disappear. For the more flexible parts of the shoe, such as the upper or the area that covers the foot, place one hand inside the shoe for support and then scrub the ink on the upper. It may be a bit more difficult to remove ink from absorbent textured upper fabric using a Magic Eraser, but it's still worth a try.

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