Will Sharpie Bleed in the Wash? (Easy steps for beginners)

From children drawing gibbering on random objects, including clothes, to grown-ups drawing intricate designs on t-shirts– sharpie is a friend of creative people of all ages.

You or your loved one may have done detailed designing with them on your favorite t-shirt, which you want to last. But an important question is, will sharpie bleed in the wash?

Let’s find out if they will – and what we can do to preserve them.

Sharpie Stains – Bleed in the Wash or Don’t?

Sharpies are known as ‘permanent markers’ that permanently stain paper and similar surfaces – but unfortunately, the same cannot be claimed true for t-shirt or clothes all the time.

All sharpies do not stain t-shirts permanently. Most do wash out or fade out with each wash. This includes both hand washed and the use of a washer. So, the most general answer to your question is- yes, sharpies do bleed in the wash.

How to Keep Sharpie from Bleeding on the Fabric?

Sharpie designs or doodles on clothes may hold value and be dear to some. Instead of getting rid of sharpie stains like many, you may want to prevent the bleed and preserve the sharpie design stains on your clothes. Read along to find out ways you can prevent sharpie from bleeding on the fabric:

Pre-Design Care

If you want to draw on t-shirts or clothes with a sharpie, one technique you should definitely try is washing the fabric before drawing. This will help with the sizing if it is a new piece of cloth. The threads of the fabric are freer, and stains will sink better into the fabrics.

This allows sharpies to stain the clothes better, which will last comparatively longer. Moreover, this will diminish the need of washing the cloth right after you are done painting on it. Hence you will have less to worry about washing recently painted fabrics.

You can use hairspray on the t-shirt before you start drawing on it. Using a thin coat of hairspray makes the fabric stiffen up, and makes it easier to draw on. Moreover, the hairspray particles fill the gaps between fabric fibers. This helps the sharpie ink from getting smeared and may even help with bleeding.

Choosing and Using the Sharpies in the Right Way

For designing t-shirts or any other fabric of light colors, it is better to choose dark-colored sharpies. They certainly stain better and are harder to wash off. Similarly, for dark-colored clothes or fabrics, lighter or even neon-like shades stain better. These contrasts of colors help the sharpie stains appear more vivid.

For both light or dark-colored fabrics, if you are going with lighter color sharpies, you may want to look into the following technique. First, draw your intended design with white or lighter shades of the same color, then layer on the color you want. This will make the sharpie stain appear more visible and help the design last longer.

In any case, you can also simply draw multiple layers of the same shade to make the sharpie color/stain last longer. However, let the sharpie ink dry first after each layer before you go over them again.

Use of Heat

Heat can help sharpie stains set better and prevent bleeding. There are a few ways you can use heat on fabric to help sharpie stains last longer:

Using an Iron

After you are done decorating your cloth with sharpies, let it dry completely. Leave it at room temperature for about a day. Take your iron and adjust to the highest temperature setting according to what cloth you are using. Press with pressure on the inked areas, and hold for a few moments.

If you think it is risky or might cause damage, take a piece of parchment paper and place it over the fabric. Make sure to iron both sides for quite some time.

Using the Drier

If you are scared of burning your clothes while long-press ironing at high heat, there is an alternate way. You can use the dryer of your washer. Simply set the temperature at the highest setting possible that your cloth can withstand. Throw your cloth in and let the dryer run for about 12-15 minutes.

Hair Tools as Alternates

If you are skeptical about using iron directly, or do not currently have a working iron, or do not want to use the dryer machine – there are fun alternative ways.

Higher chances are there are heating tools in your residence – may it be a hairdryer or a hair straightener. You can use both of these as alternates to the previously mentioned methods.

Take your hair straightener and set the temperature to high settings. Fold the fabric so the heated part of your hair straightener can reach the design. Hair straighteners usually have a protective layer and are less prone to burning or damaging the object.

You can still use parchment paper if you are scared. Make sure to flip your fabric and run the straightener over both sides of it.

Similarly, you can use your hairdryer. Hang your t-shirt or cloth on a hanger. Turn the heat of your hairdryer to the hottest temperature setting. Blow the hot air onto the stain/design directly from a few inches of distance. Again, make sure to flip and get both sides of the stained fabric.

Using Clear Paint or Fixatives

You can most effectively save your sharpie design by using clear or opaque fabric paint. These fixatives create a barrier or protective layer, which helps the stain stay safe from water or bleeding out.

After decorating your t-shirt or fabric, wait for the original design to dry for at least around 24 hours. Apply a thin, even layer of clear fabric dye as a coating on painted areas.

It is better to dye with fixatives on both sides of the fabric. Wait for it to dry. If it feels insufficient or not thick enough, go in with another coating. You may take into account that this method may stiffen your fabric, which appears uncomfortable for many.

Laundering Methods and Post-design Care:

While laundering, you can adopt a few methods to prevent sharpie from bleeding:

  • Make sure they are not wet from the sweat. Wait for them to dry before throwing them in the washer. Use hangers to dry if possible.
  • Wash as little often as possible. Wash in gentle cycles every single time.
  • Soak your fabric in strong cold saltwater, followed by washing in cold water.
  • Wash with cold water every time. Use very little soap/washing agent if needed, avoid using any if possible.
  • When you are done washing your sharpie-stained t-shirt/fabric, dry them off at a high temperature in the drier every time. Use a hanger for it to completely dry off.
  • Try not to wear a t-shirt/clothes designed with sharpies to events where you may have to sweat or have a chance of spilling something. Avoid using them on rainy days as well.
  • When you wash your stained t-shirt or fabric for the first time, use some vinegar with it. When washing by hand or machine, add some diluted water to it. Washing the final product with vinegar helps the dye stain better and prevents it from bleeding out.


We hope you found the answer to your question – will sharpie bleed in the wash? As the answer is yes in most cases, we have tried our very best to collect and present ways you can preserve the sharpie-stained design on your favorite t-shirt.

We hope these methods are helpful and easy to adapt. Choose the methods mentioned above and follow our elaborate guide to help you through it!

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