Which Permanent Marker is Most Permanent?

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Updated on Nov 19, 2012

Grade Level: 6th – 8th; Type: Chemistry


Discover which brands of permanent marker are least water soluble.

Research Questions:

  • Which “permanent” marker is really the most permanent?
  • Do permanent markers come out in the wash?

Have you ever noticed that some permanent markers seem to last longer than others? Test out which brand of permanent marker is the most permanent, even after being washed in the laundry, by using this experiment.


  • Masking tape
  • Six different brands of permanent black markers
  • Large piece of cloth
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Washing machine
  • Detergent

Experimental Procedure

  1. Wrap a piece of tape around each marker, and then label the tape with a number on each marker
  2. Cut out twelve pieces of identical cloth, each 6 square inches. Lay them out in two straight lines.
  3. Use each marker to make a dot on one piece of cloth from the first line and on one piece of cloth from the second line. Write the number of the marker on the corner of each of the two cloths.
  4. Leave the clothes for a minute or two to let the ink dry.
  5. Set one row of cloths aside.
  6. Put the other row of cloths into the washing machine. Run them through the wash with some detergent and hot water.
  7. Let the cloths dry completely.
  8. Order the washed cloths from darkest to lightest, and then compare them with the corresponding cloth in the other row.
  9. Record your findings, including the ranking of each cloth (from darkest to lightest) and the color of each mark.
  10. Analyze your data. Which marker was truly the most “permanent”?
  11. For most accurate results, you may want to repeat the entire experiment at least two more times.

Terms/Concepts: Water soluble; What is the ink in permanent markers made from?

References: First Place Science Fair Projects for Inquisitive Kids, by Elizabeth Snoke Harris. Page 113.

Keren Perles has worked as an educational writer, editor, teacher, and tutor of all ages. Her experience spans the subject areas, from science and math, to English and the Hebrew language.

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