I have exactly one permanent marker, a small keychain-sized one called the Sharpie Mini that works well for marking plastic freezer containers.
The last time I went to use it, it was laying in the kitchen drawer with the cap off. Not sure how that happened, but I’m just gonna blame the cat.
The keychain Sharpie was dead it had dried up and it refused to write.
It wasn’t that old and hadn’t seen a ton of use, and it was the only one I had, so I turned to the collective wisdom of the Internet to fix it.
The general consensus was that when a permanent marker dies, it usually still has ink in the reservoir; the tip has just dried out and lost its absorbency. Here are my 3 top tips on how you can rejuvenate a sharpie marker that has dried up.
Table of Contents
1 How to Rehydrate a Dried-Up Sharpie
The most common solution to rehydrate a dried up Sharpie: And other markers that use alcohol-based ink, add rubbing alcohol (surgical spirit in the UK).
Method 1 – Dip the Tip in Rubbing Alcohol
I found the simplest instructions for reviving a Sharpie by Karen on her website The Art of Doing Stuff.
The instructions were to pour a bit of rubbing alcohol into a bottle cap, then place the tip of the dried Sharpie in the alcohol. Leave it long enough to see a ribbon of ink flowing out.
Then recap the marker and let it sit for 15 minutes.
The idea is that leaving the marker uncapped allowed all the alcohol to evaporate from the porous tip, causing the dried ink to clog it up. Adding alcohol rehydrates the ink and loosens it up, and the porous tip once again draws ink down from the reservoir. Did you know that because a Sharpie like a lot of other alcohol-based markers can fade especially when exposed to sunlight.
Now, I didn’t have any rubbing alcohol, but I did have a whole box of alcohol pads. Long story short, about 50 alcohol pads later, my Sharpie returned more or less to life, but didn’t work as well as it had. Probably would have had a much better result using actual rubbing alcohol.
Rubbing alcohol is also used to remove Sharpie from plastic surfaces as well as rehydrating them.
There are more complicated ways to rehydrate your Sharpie.
1.2 Method 2 – Take the Sharpie Apart & Add Rubbing Alcohol
Crazy Russian Hacker shows in this video how to remove the ink reservoir from the barrel, then add alcohol 4ml at a time using a dropper.
1.3 Method 3 – Inject Rubbing Alcohol into the Tip
Another technique I’ve seen people recommend is to stand a Sharpie point up and use a syringe to inject alcohol directly into the tip.
If you try either one of those methods, just remember to add alcohol a little bit at a time until the marker starts working again. Too much alcohol will completely dilute the ink and you could end up with a mess.
Also, be careful of your fingers when using pliers or needles.
How to Fix a Dried-up Sharpie Without Rubbing Alcohol
A Sharpie markers ink is usually made from a combination of mainly alcohol and perchrome ink. That is why nearly all the tutorials recommend using a bit of alcohol to fix a dried up Sharpie by topping it up.
If you don’t have any alcohol and you think it may be just the tip that has dried out you can try soaking it in water but if it is nearly empty then this will not work.
(Others have suggested using vinegar or fingernail polish remover – acetone – but I don’t know how effective that is).