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How to Fix a Dried Out Sharpie

I made a great big batch of Chili the other day and preserved it in my pressure canner.  That is what I did, because I do things like that.

Then, I went to an office supply store to buy some labels for my newly jarred chili.  This is what I did, because I do things like that.

While at the office supply store, I walked right past the aisle filled with Sharpies and thought to myself “Huh, my Sharpie’s all dried out.  I should probably buy another one, ’cause I’ll need it to write my labels.” And then it seemed like the biggest ordeal and expense in the world to buy a Sharpie, so I left the store without one even though I knew the one I had at home was dried up and I really needed to buy one.  That is what I did, because I do things like that.  All the time.

So when I got home I checked to see if the Sharpie Fairy had visited me, and indeed she had not.  My Sharpie was still as dried up as it was the last time I tried to use it.  It was not self-lubricating as I had hoped.

So I did this ….

Checked one last time to see if my Sharpie tip was still dried out.

(it’s usually the tip that’s dried out, not the ink that’s gone)

It was.  Dried out I mean.

Grabbed a bottle of Rubbing Alcohol.

Poured some into the cap.

Dipped the tip of the Sharpie into the cap filled with Rubbing Alcohol.

I left it  until I could see a bit of ink swirling out.

I put the cap back on the Sharpie and left it for 15 minutes.

Pulled my cap off and tried again.

That is what I did, because I do things like that.  All the time.

This trick will not revive allllll markers. Sometimes, some things are just too far gone to be revived with a little bit of alcohol.
(For a non permanent marker do the same thing but use water)

You might also be interested in my How to Remove Sharpie from Walls post.


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130 Comments | Filed Under: Everything Else | Tags: ,

130 Responses to How to Fix a Dried Out Sharpie

  1. V says:

    I’m not gonna lie, I think this is pretty genius! Now I know what to do with all the pens I’ve swiped from work…

  2. Laura says:

    You are brilliant. Those suckers are expensive, too. I have the sharpies with the retractable tips. That helps but sometimes they still get left open and dry right up.

  3. Sarah B says:

    Whooooa. I really want to find a dried up Sharpie now so I can try this!!

  4. Helen says:

    forget the cool sharpie trick – I am DIGGING your nails Karen!

    • Helen says:

      And thinking about it now, your nails are almost looking like the perfect blank canvas to draw alittle something on. Maybe, with a fine tip Sharpie…

    • Karen says:

      Helen – Thanks! Yup. I’m into white now. This particular shade is white, made by Joe Fresh. $4. I also bought a bottle of $4 matte topcoat today. So now my shiny white nails, are matte white nails. I never thought I’d ever wear white nailpolish with my ugly manhands, but I love it! Makes me feel fresh and clean. Like I’m in a panty liner commercial. ~ karen

    • bob z says:

      i bought ultra fine sharpies to put a logo on my balls,,,golf balls that is,,,,but now with all this nail talk, i’m not sure how i’ll use them

  5. I’m glad you write this blog. ‘Cause that’s what you do. I’ve got kids. I’ve got dried out Sharpies. I’ve got rubbing alcohol. Guess what I’m gonna do?

  6. Debbie Doodles says:

    You are a hoot! Thanks for the tips! On my Sharpies I mean. So excited about being able to bring my Sharpies back to life.

  7. marilyn says:

    wow good thing alcohol doesnt dry up that bottle has a price sticker on it! how long has that been around! lol good trick with the sharpie.

  8. Beth says:

    Karen – I’m thinking you ought to try stand-up comedy as your new line of work! I’d pay good money to come laugh at (with) you!!

    • Karen says:

      Beth – I’ve had that suggested to me before. Thanks for the compliment. But I’d rather let an angry rat live in my uterus. Nooooooooo thanks. :) ~ karen

  9. Eva says:

    Hey, you just saved my business a ton of money! We use Sharpies all time to label thousands of things, and the minions are “always” leaving the caps off! They each get their own bottle of rubbing alcohol now (cause we treat them that well!) :)

  10. Ginger says:

    This is great! I must be a Sharpie, because, I too, can be “revived” with alcohol.

  11. Tiana says:

    When I was a kid I would pull the backs off my crayola markers and put in a few drops of water to get them going again. This is mostly because my parents were super cheap and I knew it would be ages before they would buy me a new set.

    They never even knew, lucky bastards!

    • Karen says:

      Tiana – I think beyond 10 or 15 years ago, every parent was that cheap. I remember going out for dinner (like once or twice my entire childhood) and not being allowed to order a beverage! Water only. ~ karen

  12. Dana says:

    i sat here for almost 3 minutes trying to figure out what kind of statue you’re testing your sharpies on. until i realized it’s just an out of the ordinary notepad. because you do things like that.

  13. Melanie says:

    When we were in elementary school we used to suck the markers until they would start working again. There was usually at least one kid with a blue mouth! When I saw the title- I was hoping this was your technique.

  14. Christina says:

    Genius! And I agree, the white nails are lovely. I wish I could wear nail polish but one of my jobs requires me to occasionally handle food products and therefore no chippy nail polish for me. :( And I have nice nails too! *pouts*

  15. You know what I love more than using a sharpie? Using a REVIVED sharpie. I’m going to throw a sharpie-revival party for myself tomorrow.

    Kudos for so many great tips :)

    *Tania @ Passport2Design.com

    • Karen says:

      Tania – Thanks! I hope the Sharpie party works out for you! Remember, there are a few Sharpies that are too far gone to be revived. ~ karen

  16. Heather says:

    WoW too cool!!! I have a few Sharpie pens that I need to try this with, thanks for the tip!

  17. Jen A says:

    “Sometimes, some things are just too far gone to be revived with a little bit of alcohol”

    Ain’t that the truth!

  18. Jessi says:

    Dang! You’re a genius! Now I gotta go gather all my dried up Sharpies and give it a try!! Amazing!

  19. Lita says:

    I can’t believe that you only own one sharpie.

  20. Amy says:

    Genius! Pure Genius!

    My son can’t seem to remember to put the cap back on the Sharpies. I am forever having to replace our supply. I am definitely going to give this a try.

  21. Ran says:

    Oh this is just brilliant! It also works very well. I do not know why I have rubbing alcohol at work but I do, and we have a large supply of sharpies that have dried up yet we still keep them at our desks and then become angry when they no longer work.

    Unfortunately this trick did not work on our highlighters. I request a highlighter reviver tip next!

  22. Evalyn says:

    Can’t help but mention that the white nail polish bears a likeness to White-out. Just sayin’, because I’m a fool for office supplies.

    You need to start buying your rubbing alcohol at the Dollar Store!

    “some things are just too far gone to be revived with a little bit of alcohol.” Gospel.

  23. blake says:

    your timing is flippy delicious…working on a floorplan for a client yesterday I was throwing Sharpies across the studio because every one I pulled out of the old soup can I keep them in were dried out…We all must have known, somehow, that someday we would have a tip for fixing dead, dried Sharpies…why else would we keep them close?…hmmmphhf!

    I adore you!

  24. Stephanie says:

    Karen,

    Have you ever bought the 12 lb box of sharpies and assorted pens on Woot? I got a bazillion Sharpies for less than $10 and I brag about it every chance I get!

  25. Ana says:

    When I was little, we would open dried up markers and put a few drops of vinegar in the felty part. They smelled like vinegar but they worked!

  26. Melissa says:

    I realise you, and most (all !?) of your readers are far too sophisticated and modern to still use gel pens… but let’s just say someone wasn’t… and still had some… and they kept dying when there WAS STILL INK IN THE PEN!!!!!!! what would one do about that(hypothetically, of course)?

    • Karen says:

      Melissa – Hah! I have no idea how to fix one of these “gel pens” you speak of. However, I looked it up and apparently there’s not a whole lot you can do. The ink dries up quickly in those suckers. The only advice I found was to roll the ball over and over and over again until it starts to roll and pick up ink again. ?? Worth a shot I suppose! ~ karen

    • Pam'a says:

      Come sit by me, gel pen sistah. I hate that too. I have had *some* success with tap-tapping the point on a hard surface a bit until the ink is forced down. If that doesn’t work, I try holding the tip near (not IN) a flame for just long enough to heat it a bit, then tapping it.

      Swearing doesn’t seem to work, but does make me feel better.

    • Karen says:

      Melissa/Pam’a – Be careful with the tapping. The reason I didn’t mention tapping is because gel pens apparently have a “delicate” mechanism. People are advised against tapping them. I’d try the flame first (good idea to melt the gel ink and get it going) and resort to tapping the ball last just so you don’t completely ruin the pen. Although I guess that doesn’t really matter since it’s broken anyway … Uch. Do whatever you want. :) ~ karen

      • Pam'a says:

        I haven’t had a gel pen turn on me yet, but like you said, at that point it’s kind of moot. No matter what happens, it can’t hold a candle to my fifth grade mortification when, after idly sucking on the end of my Bic pen, it decided to fwoosh out the end and into my mouth, and on my face…and onto the dress I had on for picture day. :(

  27. Nicole says:

    Karen, I’m amazed. Not because you’ve done something very clever but oh so simple yet AGAIN, but 1) because you only have one sharpie in your house, and 2) because you’ve had it long enough for it to dry out!

    Clearly you and I have different lives but I like the peek into yours.

  28. Sandra says:

    Love your stuff! Thanks for the great ideas & giggles along the way.

    On a Sharpie related point ~ do you know that hand sanitizer will take Sharpie off hard surfaces?(except purple – that one’s alittle tougher to get off) One of the coolest things I have learned as a preschool teacher! Laminate counter tops & desktops are sharpie-free in my classroom!

    • Karen says:

      Sandra – Thanks so much! I had heard that tip but I’ve never tried it! Maybe I’ll do a little comparison with my usual remedy. I did a post several months ago on how to remove Sharpie from a pure white wall. Great results! http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/karen-answers-how-to-remove-sharpie-from-white-walls ~ karen!

    • Alissa says:

      Also, hair spray will remove Sharpie! I had a teacher who was always accidentally writing on the overhead projector with Sharpies, and it was the 80s so everyone carried hairspray. I guess in the 2000s everyone carries Purell now, though. :)

      • Karen says:

        Alissa – Actually, hairspray doesn’t work! Sorry, I had to say that. I experimented with a few things on my wall, and hair spray definitely did NOT work. It might work for removing Sharpie from a slippery surface, but not on anything else. EEP. Just warning people before they make a mess of their walls, LOL. ~ karen

  29. Chris Graham says:

    Can I use tequila to bring back my sharpie’s mojo?

  30. Whitney says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I just reposted your tips onto the Sharpie blog (http://blog.sharpie.com) – giving you 100% of the credit of course :)

    Great work. Love your blog!
    -Whitney

  31. Stacey says:

    You were just featured on the Sharpie Facebook feed! I love it when my internet worlds collide!

    • Pam'a says:

      That’s very cool, and kind of weird, when I think about it– Wouldn’t the Sharpie people prefer that everyone just keep throwing the dried-out ones across the room so we’ll buy more new ones?

      Discuss.

  32. Rebecca says:

    Thank you. You just saved my highlighter! I need it for work, and it’s the only one I have right now! I can’t believe I actually remembered this post!

  33. Rebecca says:

    Nope, it’s dead again! Oh well, worth a shot!

    • Karen says:

      Rebecca – LOL. You can try it again. Sometimes it takes a couple of shots to work. ~ karen

      • DLT II says:

        ‘Sometimes it takes a couple of shots to work” – This is true of many things.

        Thanks for the tip – we used to do this with our ginormous chisel tip markers in middle and high school – We didn’t have extra fine tip sharpies back then.

  34. Katie says:

    GENIUS! I think I just fell in love with you… thank you for solving all the worlds problems. It seems to always be alcohol that does it, lol. :)

  35. Lilly says:

    Is that a pad of paper you’re writing on? If it is, I want one. Where dya get it?

    • Karen says:

      Lilly – It *is* a pad of paper. It’s the “Mighty Morph Pad”. A Canadian product. Google it to see if it’s available around you. Basically you can twist and move and wiggle it into any shape you want. ~karen!

  36. Anonna says:

    Now, can you revive a glue stick? I hate buying a glue stick, opening it up and finding out that it’s dried and hard and no longer a glue stick and is –

    – just a stick.

  37. dicobalt says:

    I wonder if this works for dry erase markers? You know the kind used on white boards?

  38. Sara says:

    I’m an elementary art teacher who is constantly spending my own money on about a billion sharpies a year just to watch them dry out after about two class uses. I’m so going to try this right now! Does it work for
    colored sharpies too?

  39. GJD says:

    For about 20 years I use a needle and a syringe to sloooowly soak the innards of water-base calligraphic pens. This I did, and I still do several times. Lately, the ink gets lighter, sure… watered, flushed to the utmost.
    But it is still good for Christmas cards.

    As for the fountain pens with cartridges, I do the same, for about 10 years now. So I buy cheap ink in a bottle (please send me yours, unused…) and write with about 5 pens. Each with different color, naturally. This helps me with differentiation of entries in my business notebook (I use computer Word file as well, sure…). Notebook does not need battery, the only thing is to keep it out of water or fire.

    Regarding other markers, I use alcohol as well. While typing this I think about using a special diluter for certain stamp inks, which stick to any surface.
    Than I may tinker with more decisive solvents.
    Stanford, Markall and other manufacturers should divulge chemicals they use – if clearly asked.

  40. Theo says:

    will this work with gin?

  41. Kathleen says:

    any idea if metallic sharpies work the same way?

  42. Jenn k says:

    I will have to try this with my backup markers I use at work. I buy thedollar tree permanent markers as we go though marker every 2 to 3 days. This may help get another day or 2 of use out of them.

  43. Jenn k says:

    Lol no I work in a book warehouse we have to mark books if they are damaged for resale.

  44. David B says:

    I came here looking for a fix for my dry high-lighters. I had tried just plain water before and it didn’t work very well. I had a flash of incite and thought maybe what I needed was an emulsifier. I put 2 drops of dish washing liquid in about an ounce of water stirred it around gently so it wouldn’t foam up and tried that instead of just plain water. Worked great right off the bat. The soap helps devolve (emulsifies) the ink into the water . I think it will take a few treatment to get the moisture up into the reservoir of dried ink to really repair it though.

  45. Matt says:

    You ruined my Sharpie, asshole.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Matt – Well, #1 I’m a girl. Generally speaking you wouldn’t call a girl an asshole. Maybe bitch would be better for you. #2. If you were trying to fix your Sharpie chances are it was ruined to begin with. #3. If you’re so hard up that a wonky Sharpie is enough to send you into fits of swearing at a perfect stranger that was only trying to help you out (clearly you did something wrong, which is a horrifying thought since this was such a simple task) then I will send you the $3 to buy yourself a new Sharpie. All I need from you is your address. ~ karen

      • Linda says:

        Normally I would respond to a person like that by calling him a “tool”. He’s too much of a simpleton to be granted the honor of being called a tool….Obviously he doesn’t know how to use his tool….he’s a little short on know how in that department…. ;-)

  46. Pati Gulat says:

    So, Karen,you ruined his sharpie butthole….what was he doing with a sharpie butthole to begin with ??? LOLOLOL !

  47. courtney says:

    works great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  48. That was a good read. I loved the way you wrote that…very cute and informative.

    Thanks for taking the time to share this with us (our company has thrown out about 20+ permanent markers in the past couple of months; they are relatively new!).

    No kidding, there’s two in the waste basket next to me and if I check the umpteen trash cans around our building I’m sure to see more of these new markers that fail to make their mark.

    Whew…it’s people like you that keep corporate fascism/profiteering/mass manipulation via the media, curriculum, etc. to a minimum.

    Now THIS is news I can use!

    Thanks again.

    Thanks again.

  49. Vicky says:

    I’d really like to know what the gorgeous shape is that you are using to test the pen? and where you got it?

  50. Allie Versluys says:

    That’s bull, I just wasted 15 minutes waiting for nothing to happen

    • Karen says:

      Allie – Yeah, um, it’s not bull. You, as I mentioned in the post, had a Sharpie that was beyond repair. ~ karen

  51. K says:

    Thanks !!

  52. John 760 says:

    I rarely leave comments on forums but this was just too good. I’m letting the marker sit as we speak. I couldn’t believe how fast the alcohol drew the ink out. Great technique and one the best DIY fixes I’ve seen yet.

    On a side note thanks for setting up your page so that posting comments is a straightforward process.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks John. And I know what you mean. I hate it when commenting is a pain. Glad your Sharpie wasn’t too far gone to fix. ~ karen!

  53. Your trick to fix a dried out sharpie didn’t even work. it ruined my favorite sharpie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  54. its just me says:

    thank you so much!!!! you just saved my sharpie and my life while I’m doing a project for school. I’m 11 :)

  55. Crayziladybug says:

    What I think is so cool is that you are still getting comments on this trick! Not that it’s not a great tip, but really! Posted Feb. 14, 2011 and it’s now Feb. 16, 2014….Now THAT’S amazing!!

  56. Crayziladybug says:

    And the sharpie butthole was a total hoot…wait….yeah! HA!

  57. Pingback: Make Your Own Contact Paper Stickers with Kids

  58. Susan says:

    You’re sounding sassy and spunky and happy, so I think the vacation worked! I’m sure I’ve got a dead Sharpie around here somewhere to experiment on. Thanks for the info on how to maybe fix it!

  59. Sara says:

    Can you please do a post on how to remove a sharpie from a white couch?

  60. Kim says:

    Chuckling over the “you ruined my Sharpie” comments. If they were already dried out, then they were already ruined. If they weren’t already dried out, what the heck were they trying this on them for??? People amaze me, they really do. Great tip! Thank you.

  61. Daryl says:

    Well I was quite successful soaking my sharpie in gin, unfortunately it created another problem. The Sharpie Was no longer able to write a straight line until I gave it some strong black coffee.
    Here is one to ponder, if you put just one drop of alcohol in the cap of the Sharpie after you are done using it, will that keep it from drying out in the first place?

    • Karen says:

      Hah! I have no idea about your keeping the Sharpie semi-looped all of the time, but it seems like a possibility to me. My concern is that alcohol evaporates pretty quickly. But what do I know. I’ve been known to be wrong. ~ karen!

  62. krista says:

    It works!! I found that nail polish remover works better.. :)

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  64. Tati says:

    Will this work for paper mate flairs???

    • Karen says:

      I’m afraid I have no idea Tati. Sorry, lol! However, if the paper mate is already on its last legs, you might as well try it! And report back. :) ~ karen

  65. Tati says:

    I tried with water… Then alcohol… None worked I’m sooo sad

  66. Tati says:

    I bought them a week ago and now my black is dried up

  67. goat says:

    w-wheres the piece of paper she faintly drew the first mark on? She didn’t just THROW IT AWAY without using it…. did she? D:

  68. grammyk says:

    I just finished a DELIGHTFUL time reading all the comments! Thank you all. I wanted to go get my Sharpies and start dunking ‘em, but I couldn’t tear myself away from the posts. What a wonderful gift to my day! (I like !!’s) Best to you all, I’m off to collect all the Sharpies………….. ^_^

  69. Glenn Fonda says:

    Sharpie was dry, sharpie was dry
    Alcohol came
    Vast clouds upon the mountain
    A ghost of a goose
    Fell upon my face
    I drew him with a fixed
    Sharpie

  70. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always exciting to read content from other writers and practice something from other sites.

  71. Julie says:

    Being the overachiever that I am, I decided to enroll in a Geometry course over the summer. I had to learn pretty much a year’s worth of geometry in, oh, 2 months. During that period of time, I took LOTS of notes… so I decided to get myself some new fancy sharpie pens ( yes pens… they don’t bleed through like regular sharpies) to help the process. About halfway through, I uncapped my favorite pen and began to write… almost. There was just a weird, dried out scratch in the paper. I quickly went and googled how to get sharpies working, found your site, and tried to revive it ( the sharpie). after 30 seconds of dipping, I decided to give up because the ink wasn’t coming out. I capped the pen and went in search of another. 10 minutes later, I decided to just see if it had worked, and VICTORY! good as new. Just letting you know it works with sharpie pens too. :)

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