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What is the Difference Between Washable and Permanent Markers?

Color Swell has a range of bulk washable markers that can be used safely and deliberately (or accidentally!) on different surfaces with the knowledge that the marks can generally be washed off.  But why can these marks be washed off where permanent marker marks cannot?

Alcohol and Binding Agents

The secret behind permanent markers is that they use a pigment that is not soluble in water and is instead suspended in a toxic alcohol like xylene or toluene. As soon as the mark is made at room temperature the alcohol evaporates and the pigment, with the help of the binding agent, dries out and holds onto the surface that you have marked with the pen.



Since it is fast-drying it is better to use a permanent marker on a non-porous surface such as metal or plastic.

If a pigment is not water-soluble then this means that a damp cloth will not dissolve the pigment. The best way to remove the mark would be with something like acetone (used for removing fingernail paint) or white spirits.

Water Based Washable Markers

Color Swell nontoxic washable markers use pigments that are water-soluble. These markers contain elements that dry quickly (and are certified nontoxic).

Water can take a little longer to dry, so a washable marker is better used on a porous surface like paper so the ink can bind with the surface before drying out.

Being water-soluble generally means that a damp cloth can be used to remove a stain to some extent, though you may find that some of the pigment remains on light surfaces and/or specific materials.

It is possible to revive a washable marker (unlike permanent markers) using techniques we have looked at before on the Color Swell blog.

Buy Bulk Markers from Color Swell!


Color Swell has a range of bulk washable markers at an excellent price and quality. Buy washable markers from Color Swell today!