How to Fix a Dried out Sharpie

Simple Chemistry Trick To Revive a Dead Sharpie Pen

Red Sharpie Pen
Justin Horrocks, Getty Images

A Sharpie is a great permanent marker, but it's prone to drying out if you use it a lot or don't seal the cap perfectly. You can't wet the pen with water to get the ink flowing (a tip that works for water-based markers) because Sharpies rely on organic solvents to dissolve the ink and make it flow. So, before you throw out dead, dried-out Sharpie or other permanent marker, try this tip:

Sharpie Rescue Materials

  • 91% Rubbing Alcohol
  • Dried Out Sharpie Pen

Permanent markers contain organic solvents, which are notoriously bad about evaporating away before you get a chance to use all of the ink. To rescue a dried pen, you need to replace the solvent. The easiest option is to use rubbing alcohol. If you can find 91% or 99% rubbing alcohol (either ethanol or isopropyl alcohol), those will be your best bet for fixing your marker. If you have access to other chemicals, you could also use another high-proof alcohol, xylene, or possibly acetone. You probably won't have great success with rubbing alcohol that contains a lot of water (75% or lower alcohol).

2 Easy Ways To Save a Sharpie

There are two quick and easy ways to fix a dried Sharpie. The first is for emergency use, when you don't need a lot of ink or for the pen to last forever. Simply pour a bit of alcohol into a small container or the pen cap and soak the tip of the Sharpie in the liquid.

Leave the pen in the alcohol for at least 30 seconds. This should dissolve enough ink to get it flowing again. Wipe any excess liquid off the nib of the pen before using it or else the ink could be runny or paler than usual.

A better method, which makes the Sharpie good as new, is to:

  1. Grasp the pen in your hands and either pull it open or use pliers to separate the two parts of the pen. You'll have a long portion that contains the pen and pad that holds the ink and the back portion that basically keeps the Sharpie from drying out when it's capped or spilling ink on your hands when you write.
  1. Hold the writing part of the pen down, as if you were going to write with it. You're going to use gravity to feed the new solvent into the Sharpie.
  2. Drip 91% alcohol (or one of the other solvents) onto the ink pad (same piece, but opposite side of the writing part of the pen). Continue adding liquid until the pad seems saturated.
  3. Put the two pieces of the Sharpie back together again and cap the Sharpie. If you like, you can shake the pen, but it doesn't really make a difference. Allow a couple of minutes for the solvent to completely saturate the pen. The solvent needs a bit of time to work its way into the nib of the pen, but you don't need to wet the writing part to get the ink flowing.
  4. Uncap the Sharpie and use it. It will be good as new! Just remember to recap the pen tightly before storing it for future use or you'll be back to square one again.

Use Sharpie Pens To Tie Dye Fabric

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Fix a Dried out Sharpie." ThoughtCo, Jan. 31, 2018, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2018, January 31). How to Fix a Dried out Sharpie. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Fix a Dried out Sharpie." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2018).