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I need to remove permanent marker from hard plastic. How can I do it?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

What color is the marker and the piece of plastic? What type of plastic? Most Lego pieces are ABS plastic, but I think the clear pieces are something else. – dfrevert Aug 12 '14 at 19:55

I use pure Eucalyptus oil. It works wonderfully. Keep in mind that if you are using it on LEGO, it will also remove the original printing (but won't harm the plastic itself), so I wouldn't recommend it in that case. But other than that Eucalyptus oil can remove marker, paint, glue-residue, and all kinds of gunk much better and faster than products like Goo-Gone. I'm an artist and use it on a regular basis. Eucalyptus oil is available in small bottles at health-food stores, larger bottles at pharmacies (that's what I use), and also at some Asian stores (usually the cheapest).

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I've used a dry erase marker, over the permanent, to remove it from a white board. I don't know if that'd work on Lego or not.

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I know it's not the most cost-effective way, but I used to use gasoline on a rag to remove a lot of markings on plastics of all kinds. It won't warp the plastic when used sparingly on a rag.

The only downside is that it may "smear" the marker, depending on the kind of marker that was used.

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Using something you may already have in your home:

Aerosol hairspray

Spraying this over permanent marker allows the marker to be wiped off, and then you can rinse off the residue in warm water. I've used or seen used this remedy on many types of plastic in my life, but I can't recall if I've used it on LEGO pieces before. I think I did use it on a yellow brick some 12+ years ago, but time makes the details unclear.

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Rubbing alcohol has worked for me.

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Nail polish remover (or purer acetone if you happen to work in a lab) works really well. You can either soak the piece in it (I like to use a small tupperware container) if it is really covered, or wipe it away with a paper towel wetted with the solution.

This works because the sharpie in is a non-polar molecule and thus will dissolve in solvents like acetone. Rubbing alcohol also works like this, but is markedly less effective.

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You need to be careful with Acetone though, as it will melt the ABS used to make the bricks if left for too long. – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Oct 28 '14 at 9:07

Dry erase marker works great but often just rubbing it out with a dry paper towel works also.

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Without reading the existing answer from Grandpappy that also refers to Dry erase markers, I'm not sure what you mean? – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Aug 13 '14 at 11:22

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