How can I get dry-erase (Expo) marker out of my white dress shirt?
July 7, 2012 11:37 AM   Subscribe

How can I get dry-erase (Expo) marker out of my white dress shirt? I threw rubbing alcohol, Shout, and a bleach pen at it. No visible difference from any of them immediately or after a wash, but it faded slightly in the dryer. I am tempted to do it all over again, but I'm worried about the impact those chemicals and washing over and over again is going to have on my new shirt!

It's strange that it faded only after I dried it. It's a new shirt, so I freaked a little and applied rubbing alcohol, Shout pen, and bleach pen all at the same time. None of them had ANY visible effect! Disappointed, I washed it twice and then stuck it in the dryer. Only after I dried it did it fade slightly.

I'm open to redoing this process till it goes away (provided it fades more) but this is a brand new white dress shirt and I'm afraid washing/drying it over and over again will shrink it or ruin it before it's time.
posted by Vexir to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total)
Have you tried white board cleaning spray?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:42 AM on July 7, 2012

Unfortunately, no matter what suggestions people have for stain removal, you have very likely set the stain by putting the shirt through the dryer.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:43 AM on July 7, 2012 [18 favorites]

Can you hang it in the sun? That may help some. But drying it might have set the stain.
posted by chiababe at 11:47 AM on July 7, 2012

It's totally white? Simmer it in dye remover -- you can buy a packet for $2ish; it's sold with the fabric dyes in craft and discount dept. stores. Much gentler than bleach...
posted by kmennie at 12:00 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are specifically formulated ink removal products. I use one called Ink-Away. Motzsenbocker's also has one. It's worth a try, though you might have set the stain irreversibly by putting the shirt in the dryer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:03 PM on July 7, 2012

Oh, right, forgot... Rubbing alcohol -- you may have to use quite a bit, rub it in with a cotton swab, but this often helps with ink. (People may also recommend hair spray; I think it works because of the alcohol.) I did once remove ballpoint pen that had been through the drier with rubbing alcohol; not sure how different an animal dry-erase is though.
posted by kmennie at 12:08 PM on July 7, 2012

You probably set it in the dryer. Next time I'd dry Ink-Away or the like.
posted by maryr at 12:13 PM on July 7, 2012

It's probably too late because of the dryer, but if you have a grocery store with a really good laundry aisle you can probably pick up a bar of Fels-Naptha soap and try that.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:51 PM on July 7, 2012

If all else fails try WD-40.
posted by tamitang at 12:57 PM on July 7, 2012

Have you tried just agitating the bejezus out of the spot? In my experience, what remains once the liquid carrier evaporates from dry-erase ink is a black powder not far from copier toner. (Source: too many years using my fingers as a whiteboard eraser and getting that crap all over everything)

I suppose you might run the risk of driving the pigment powder into the fibers, but I'd be tempted to put some detergent on it (mostly for lubrication but also in the hopes it would act as a carrier for the pigment), then just go to town like I was beating it on a rock in a stream. I know this has worked when I've cleverly worn a white dress shirt to class and dragged my shoulder across a full whiteboard; no personal experience with dry erase applied directly to fabric.
posted by range at 1:33 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

You said you used a bleach pen. If the shirt is totally white, try soaking it in bleach.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 3:14 PM on July 7, 2012

According to the Expo-marker FAQ,
Dry erase ink contains pigments .... [These] small particles of color become trapped when they come in contact with clothing fibers ....
So the problem is not ink coloring the shirt fibers, it's tiny pieces of colored pigment trapped in the fabric, which explains why this is more difficult than ordinary fabric stain removal. I think your options are (a) removing the particles from the fabric (as range discusses above) or (b) removing the color from the particles. Or (c) buying a new shirt.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:23 PM on July 7, 2012

Yeah, I've tried everything, only fades it.

Still hoping somebody chimes in with the magic bullet here.
posted by Rash at 10:32 PM on July 7, 2012

What concentration was the rubbing alcohol? 30-40% is woefully inadequate. 70% would be better. Technical grade isopropanol better still.

Acetone, WD40 and kerosene are all good things to try (and I've gotten things on par with these as well as other organic solvents on my clothing over the years and never went home naked). You don't need to soak the shirt - wetting the stain and wiping with a paper towel should tell you if it's going to help at all.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:06 PM on July 7, 2012

If this is a white shirt, you're probably out of luck. I tried everything suggested above on a dress shirt: alcohol, whiteboard cleaning spray, wd-40, all kinds of soaps and stain preparations. Repeated washings (but not drying). I was able to get the spot to fade pretty significantly after repeated soakings with the whiteboard cleaning spray and scrubbing with a toothbrush, but it didn't go away completely. The shirt I was treating was blue with white stripes, and so the pattern kind of hides the stain enough to not be too noticeable. But this would not have been good enough on a white shirt. You might experiment with bleach, but be aware that extended exposure to bleach will eventually break down the fibres and weaken that area of the fabric.
posted by amusebuche at 11:35 PM on July 7, 2012

Perhaps a Shop-Vac with a Micro Cleaning Kit?
posted by dhartung at 11:38 PM on July 7, 2012

Look in the grocery store for the RIT dye and get a package of "Color Remover" - try that. It's worked for me when nothing else would, but it's very possible that the dryer has sealed your fate.
posted by aryma at 11:53 PM on July 7, 2012

To clarify, yes I did try whiteboard cleaning spray and the rubbing alcohol I bought was 91%.

It looks like drying it screwed me over, although at that point after trying rubbing alcohol, stain remover, and a bleach pen and seeing not even a shred of difference I pretty much gave up and dried it anyway. Seeing it fade gave me hope and lead to this post.

The mark might be low enough that if the shirt is tucked in, it can't be seen. It definitely won't be seen if I wear a suit jacket on top of it, so at the very worst I'm restricted to wearing it only in that scenario. Unfortunate really, it's a nice shirt.

I will still try a couple things (including Ink Away). Does anyone know if soaking the entire shirt in bleach vs using a bleach pen on the spot will make any difference (aside from breaking down the fabric...)? I'm sort of hoping that if I throw all kinds of chemicals at it right before I wash/dry it maybe over a couple weeks it'll go away...
posted by Vexir at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2012

[These] small particles of color become trapped when they come in contact with clothing fibers ....

This makes me think it'd be a great candidate for the Tide Buzz. Mixed reviews, I know. It does jack on some stains and miraculously immediately shifts others. Not worth going out and buying one just for this, but perhaps a "Wanted to borrow" post on your local freecycle list might turn one up.
posted by kmennie at 9:03 AM on July 9, 2012

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