Before You Throw A Marker Away, Try This Trick To Bring It Back To Life

Sometimes markers refuse to mark anymore, despite having plenty of ink left inside. The usual response to this affliction is to rub the marker furiously on a piece of paper before slamming it into the garbage, but there are more constructive ways to attempt a resurrection.

A post from last February on The Art of Doing Stuff suggests dipping the tip in a small reservoir of rubbing alcohol until ink starts to drip out. Then you put the cap back on for 15 minutes before removing it and falling back in love with that marking utensil you sort of hated for a little bit while it abandoned on you.

We’re not sure how this works, because Mr. Wizard — like all great Misters from the 80s — is no longer around to explain it to us, but we’ll just consider it to be more proof of the magical healing properties of alcohol.

How to Fix a Dried Out Sharpie [The Art of Doing Stuff]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Cat says:

    “the magical healing properties of alcohol.” *

    * In moderation.

    Oh, you were talking about rubbing alcohol. Never mind.

  2. makreljohnson says:

    Many markers use alcohol-based inks and dipping the tip in the alcohol dissolves the dried goo/crust on the tip, thus regenerating its marking CAPACITANCE!


  3. CalicoGal says:
  4. DrRonster says:

    The article shows 70% but I always buy 91% isopropyl and I would assume it would work better since it is diluted less.

    • Altman says:

      True for the marker. Not true for wounds. 91% evaporates much more quickly than 70%, so it spends less time on your skin and thus has less time to kill bacteria. And 70% is more than toxic enough to kill any nasties that would want to invade.

      (Molecular biologist here.)

    • amgriffin says:

      Operating under the Blistex principle: the burn means it’s working.

  5. pop top says:

    Way to end on a down note, Phil.

    • PHRoG says:

      Well…at least it made me think of the guy, hadn’t heard about him in some time! Off to Amazon to look for some DVDs of his for the kiddos. ;)

  6. chiieddy says:

    It works because the alcohol dissolves the dried ink and clears the plug in the marker, allowing ink to flow again. It’s not that mysterious.

    • Geotis says:

      You’ve already told your children the truth about Santa Claus haven’t you?

      • chiieddy says:

        No kids, but given that I had this conversation with my sister when giving my niece her holiday gift this past weekend.

        Me: I have you Festivus gifts!
        Sister: That’s a made up holiday from a TV show.
        Me: And Christmas isn’t a made up holiday?

  7. thomwithanh says:

    Mr. Wizard died in 2007 :(

  8. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Thanks for the tip – my daughter loves to leave her markers open to dry out, so this will be tested soon enough in our house.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Well, if the marking core dries out, clearing blockages in the plug won’t really help much. You might want to shift her from markers to a drawing medium that will not dry out if left uncapped?

  9. Lyn Torden says:

    Isopropyl alcohol is not the optimal choice, as it will re-dry faster. But it is probably the best compromise given the difficulty of getting the correct chemicals (a mix of 1-proponol, n-butanol, diacetone alcohol, and a cresol compound you could leave out that gives it a nasty enough odor to keep most people from sniffing these to get high). The non-iso form of propanol would be slightly better. Butanol, if you can get it, would be even better.

  10. dicobalt says:

    BTW this works on dry erase markers too. You can also tape a string to the marker and then spin it around with the cap facing outward.

  11. aleck says:

    Some markers have removable cap in the back. It also helps to add water or water/alcohol mixture there as well to dissolve the dried out ink.

  12. Bob S says:

    Mr. Wizard, 1980?
    Don Herbert has been on TV a lot longer than that!!!

    When I was a kid in the early 50’s and we got our first television Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard, had his show on Saturday mornings. It premiered on March 3, 1951. It was probably live too since it was before the Video Tape Recorder appeared in the mid 50s. The quality was certainly better than the early kinescope recordings.

    It was a must see show for me when I was a kid and I still enjoyed watching him in the 80s too.

  13. Steeb2er says:

    Mr. T is still alive and kickin’, thank you very much.

  14. teamplur says:

    Another option is to remove the rear cap, pull the felt cartridge out, turn it around and put back. this exposes the tip to the back end that probably still has plenty of ink. (sometimes) combine this with the alcohol option for even better results… maybe?

    • mauispiderweb says:

      This is what I’ve always done. I’ll have to try the alcohol one, though I’ve been removing permanent marker with alcohol for forever, so I don’t know why I never though of it myself.

  15. CubeRat says:

    Rubbing alcohol will also dissolve marker written on the wall or frig by the ‘little darlings’ who get your marker by mistake. (or who decide that the paper isn’t as fun as the frig).

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      I use the alcohol based gel hand sanitizer to clean up the white boards when someone of questionable IQ uses the wrong marker on these boards. It works great with very little mess.

      • Ratty says:

        Drawing on permanent marker with the whiteboard markers should make it erasable as well.

        • The Porkchop Express says:

          I have used this on old “stained” dry erase marker that was never erased in the first place.

          I figured if the old stuff won’t erase, you cover it with new stuff and erase that. it worked, for much more scientific reasons than I had though.

  16. maruawe says:

    You mean that I have been doing this for years and they are just telling others about it….
    This is a long formed habit for me …. I also use the florescence markers for making glow in the dark pictures and carvings

  17. Dallas_shopper says:

    My mom was a teacher before she had us kids, so I’ve known about this trick forever!

    Teachers = heroes.

  18. kalaratri says:

    If you split open the ink of a sharpie or two and drop them in a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol, you can use it to dye many costume quality wigs. Spray on, wait for it to dry and rinse out. Good for transforming wigs for costumes.

  19. ellemdee says:

    I revived a dried out hilighter with plain old water by pulling out the writing tip and dropping some water into the tube (where the dried out yellow ink was). Still working a few months later.

  20. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    Did Phil really cite his own blog?

  21. CtrlAltTabby says:

    We always added a drop of alcohol into the back end of the marker, then left it standing tip down for a while.