Finding the Permanent Solution

You know that awful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when something goes horribly wrong? What if that horribly wrong thing was a permanent ink marker leaving its imprint on one of your precious quilts?

Several years ago, I was heartbroken to find pencil markings could not be removed from a quilt I had spent weeks appliqueing. I tried everything to get those marks out. The fabric faded with each attempt, but the pencil marks never completely disappeared. I’ve become pretty diligent about checking marking tools on fabrics before I mark my quilts.

100 0577 300x225 Finding the Permanent Solution

Fabric color faded while trying to remove pencil markings.

I also keep a couple of permanent markers in my sewing studio. They’re great for marking on plastic templates. What would I do if a permanent marker was to accidentally leave its mark on a quilt? Recently, I heard that rubbing alcohol could remove permanent ink. Could this be true? I had to put it to the test.

photo1 e1377811484313 300x198 Finding the Permanent Solution

The culprit

I marked a piece of 100% cotton with this red permanent marker and layered it over a piece of batting and another piece of cotton to simulate a quilt sandwich.

photo2 e1377812603366 300x294 Finding the Permanent Solutionphoto3 300x300 Finding the Permanent SolutionI grabbed a bottle of 99% isopropyl rubbing alcohol, some cotton rounds and paper towels. For this process you have to work fast, so it’s best to have everything ready to go.

photo4 e1377812773282 237x300 Finding the Permanent SolutionFirst, I dribbled a little alcohol on the marked heart; then I immediately used a cotton round to blot it back up again. I continued this procedure until the stain had absolutely disappeared. As you can see below, it only took about 9 cotton rounds. I also checked the batting and the fabric on the bottom. No sign of the red marker. All gone! On an actual quilt, I think I would follow the procedure with a complete, gentle wash.

photo5 e1377812832586 300x286 Finding the Permanent SolutionOut of curiosity, I also tried this same experiment using several other stain removers. The cotton picked up some pink, but the marks looked just as red.

Keep those permanent markers secured away–but know that if one gets out of hand, you have a “permanent” solution.


About Eileen Fowler

I am an Associate Editor at Quiltmaker. My quilting hobby, that began over 20 years ago, turned into a career when I was hired by Quiltmaker in 2008. My quilting passion is slowly taking over every nook and cranny in my house. I have a supportive husband who makes it all possible.
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