How to Get Highlighter Out of a Cotton Shirt

by John DeMerceau

Highlighter ink leaves an embarrassing and unsightly fluorescent stain on cotton shirts. Since many highlighters use water-soluble ink and cotton is a robust fabric that stands up to detergents and solvents, it is not difficult at all to remove highlighter ink from your cotton shirt. Even if you happen to be unlucky enough to stain your shirt with a non-water-soluble highlighter, you will be able to remove it with a common stain remover.

Items you will need

  • Laundry spot-removing prewash spray
  • Dry-cleaning fluid or solvent-based spot remover
  • Nail polish remover
  • Paper towels or a clean, dry cloth
Step 1

Blot any fresh stain with a clean, dry cloth or paper towels to remove as much of the highlighter ink as possible.

Step 2

Spray or otherwise apply a pre-wash stain treatment product to the area and allow it to penetrate the stain for as much time as is specified on the product label.

Step 3

Wash the shirt in your regular wash or by hand. Dry it as you normally would in your dryer or on a line and check to see if the stain is gone. Continue to Step 4 if the stain is still visible.

Step 4

Apply acetone-based nail polish remover, dry-cleaning fluid or a spot remover to an inconspicuous spot on your shirt, such as under the collar or along the back of the neck on the inside of the shirt. Blot it with a paper towel or rag and check if any dye appears on the towel or rag. Repeat the laundry pre-wash treatment if the shirt is not colorfast.

Step 5

Apply nail polish remover, dry-cleaning fluid or spot remover directly to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel. Repeat until the stain disappears. Moisten a clean cloth with water and blot away the remaining chemical and stain residue.

Step 6

Wash and dry the shirt as you normally would before you wear it to get rid of solvent residue.

About the Author

John DeMerceau is an American expatriate entrepreneur, marketing analyst and Web developer. He now lives and works in southeast Asia, where he creates websites and branding/marketing reports for international clients. DeMerceau graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in history.