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How To Get Your Kid's Marker Stains Out Of The Goddamn Couch

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

Help! My 3-year-old daughter attacked my 6-year-old son with a green marker. The 6-year-old totally deserved it, but the trouble is, the 3-year-old missed and marked up the leather couch! Anything we use tends to take away the coloring of the leather, turning the brown leather white. Any ideas on how to get out the green?? Then we have the white areas to touch up as well….


I certainly hope you took the 3-year-old aside and high-fived her for the BOLD ATTACK against a much larger and more formidable opponent! Way to go 3-year-old! I admire her moxie. Just … when you're taking her aside to tell her that she's awesome, maybe suggest next time she go after the 6-year-old with a Tide Pen instead of a Crayola?

With that said, yeah, marker stains are gonna happen if you have kids. I mean, basically everything bad is going to happen if you have kids, let's be honest here. The good news is that, unlike other messes that kids make, marker stains don't smell and are easy to clean up.

When it comes to ink stains, the two things I want you to remember, if I can ask such a thing of you, are: 1. stay away from water and 2. rubbing alcohol is your go-to cleaner.

The reason you want to stay away from water when you've got an ink stain on something on which you would prefer not to have an ink stain is that the water is quite likely to make the stain spread, which obviously we don't want to have happen!


That same notion is a thing I'd love for you to bear in mind when working with the rubbing alcohol—don't, like, douse the stain with the stuff. What you want to do is dab at the stain with a rag or sponge or even a cotton ball to which you've applied the rubbing alcohol. If need be, squeeze that rag or sponge or cotton ball so that it's damp but not dripping with alcohol. It may take a few applications, but eventually the rubbing alcohol will lift out all those marker stains. This process can also be applied to non-leather upholstery and clothing.

Now, you and I both know that I'm the only cleaning expert in your lives, but on the off chance your cheating heart leads you to another person, place, or thing on the internet doling out cleaning advice, you may see suggestions to use either hairspray or suntan lotion to remove ink stains from leather. If you've got those things in the house, by all means go for it. The reason they work is that they contain alcohol. I already knew about hairspray and why it works, but the sunscreen thing is relatively new to me, so just to be sure, I looked up the ingredients in Banana Boat Sport SPF 30 and, sure enough, denatured alcohol is the first item on the list. A quick note on hairspray: make sure to check the ingredients list—most newer formulations sadly no longer contain alcohol, and so you may end up wasting perfectly good hairspray for naught.


In most instances, the rubbing alcohol or alcohol-based products will work, but if they don't (or if you're dealing with permanent marker stains, which are obviously much trickier) there are some commercial products designed to remove ink stains that you can look for. Hardware and home-improvement stores are your best bet for locating this type of stuff. I cannot encourage you enough to spend any and all excess time you may have on your hands hanging around in a hardware store just checking things out. Perhaps you will get as lucky as I once did and see something like this!


If you're not up to a trip to your local Ace, or just want to familiarize yourself with some brand name ink removers, here are a few products to look out for:

Guardsman Ink Remover Stick


Furniture Clinic Ink Remover

Motsenbocker's Lift Off

And while its primary use isn't ink-stain removal, WD-40 will take the marker out of your leather. Just spray and wipe, spray and wipe. Perfectly safe on leather. Oh! And since we're talking about kids and their messes, WD-40 is also the stuff you'll want when the kids write on the walls with crayon.


Now that I've written a master's thesis on ink stain removal, let's turn quickly to the triaging of the leather that's gotten bleached out. This is blessedly easy: Brown leather polish (like, shoe polish) is the way to go. Apply the polish to a soft cloth or rag, rub it on the discolored areas in a circular motion, and then buff to shine and remove excess polish.

The glass shower door in our bathroom is constantly turning white with some sort of deposit. We've got a good water softener but that doesn't seem to help much. What is the best way to clean off the white deposits? My wife says the only way to clean it is with a razor scraper, but that is tedious and I don't want to scratch the glass.


Way, way back in October, when there was still sunshine and hope and leaves, and happiness was an actual achievable state rather than but a fond but distant memory, we came together in this here space to talk about tricks for keeping the bathroom clean. Three of them, actually! The thing is, though … I sorta buried the trick for cleaning glass-shower doors down at the bottom of the post in a way that was far too easily overlooked. So here we find ourselves again, poised to pay this subject the attention it so richly deserves.


The trick is to use a dryer sheet to scrub the doors. It can even be a used dryer sheet! #ENVIRONMENTALISMMMMMM Just get it wet, or as wet as it will allow for, and use it in the same way you would a rag. Poof! A very easy and effective way to de-scum a glass shower door. There are of course other ways: Our old pal white vinegar is one option; scale removers like CLR, Lime-A-Way and Simple Green Lime Scale Remover are another.

And then there are your tips and tricks! Do you know? I love it when people chime in with suggestions and IRL tales of what's worked in similar situations. I especially love it when those tips and tricks are the kind that come from Mom or Grandpa or your Great Auntie Maribelle. (Great Auntie Maribelle, by the bye, would absolutely know about the weird water-stain removal trick with the ashes and the butter.) Which leads me to this, in which I share two helpful pieces of glass-shower-door cleaning wisdom that turned up in the comments on that October post:

Another tip for those shower doors: Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser. Works like a champ!


Lemon oil is what my mom used on our opaque glass shower doors. Worked like a charm.


Quick formatting note: The Squalor Archive has grown to the point where including it in its entirety at the end of each post creates an unsightly mess. And I needn't tell you how I feel about unsightly messes! The bookmarkable link is still here, and I will include that—but not the full archive—at the end of future posts. I also changed the formatting so that it's a bit easier to scan; if you have suggestions on how I can maximize its user friendliness drop me a note via email ( or talk to me in the comments. God willing, I'll be able to figure out how this week's configuration of comments works.


Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr. Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.

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