How to Take Permanent Pen Stains off of White Shoes

Updated February 21, 2017

Getting permanent pen ink on a favourite white shoe just might spell the end for that particular pair, but don't lose hope right away. Try these stain-removal techniques to take the stain out of the shoe, or at least lighten it to such a degree that it is still wearable. Using household products, you can get to the stain quickly, improving your chances that you can remove it.

Apply rubbing alcohol or water-based hairspray lightly to the stain, then blot with a white cloth. You will see the marker ink transfer to the cloth. Continue to apply either the alcohol or the hairspray and then blot. When the stain is gone, apply clean water and then blot.

Pre-treat the stain with a strong liquid detergent, then soak the shoe in a solution of bleach and water (one part bleach to five parts water) for 15 minutes. Attempt this step only if the spot treatment did not work and you are willing to risk damage to the shoe.

Take the shoe to a professional dry cleaner if you are unable to remove or lighten the stain effectively. The dry cleaner may have tips or products to help.


Treat the stain as soon as possible for the best chance of removal.


Depending on the material the shoe is made of and the type and colour of the permanent pen, the stain may not be removable. However, it might be lightened enough to be unnoticeable. Do not put your shoe in the clothes dryer in between attempts at stain removal. The heat will help the stain set into the shoe. Test any stain removal technique on a hidden part of the shoe if possible.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water-based hairspray
  • White cloth
  • Water
  • Bleach
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About the Author

Veronica Smith-Jennings is a former teacher who started freelance writing in 2003 and has been published in regional parenting magazines as well as on various websites. Her writing interests include home renovation and gardening, politics, education, sports and early childhood development. She has a Master of Arts in English education and a Bachelor of Arts in English.