Does Highlighter Stain? Find Out Now!

Highlighters are a popular tool used by students and professionals alike. They are great for organizing and highlighting important information in notes, textbooks, and documents. However, one common concern is whether or not highlighter stains clothing or other surfaces. In this article, we will explore the answer to the question, “Does highlighter stain?”

The Science Behind Highlighters

Before we can answer whether or not highlighters stain, it’s important to understand how they work. Highlighters work by using fluorescent chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light and emit visible light in a different color. These chemicals are called fluorophores and are what create the bright and vibrant colors that highlighters are known for.

The ink used in highlighters is typically water-based and can have different chemical compositions, depending on the brand and type. Some highlighters may have more pigments or stronger fluorescent qualities than others.

Does Highlighter Stain Clothing?

One of the main concerns people have about highlighters is whether or not they will stain clothing. The answer is, it depends. The best way to prevent staining is to avoid getting highlighter ink on your clothing in the first place. If you do get ink on your clothing, there are a few things you can do to minimize or remove the stain.


The best way to prevent highlighter ink from staining your clothing is to be proactive. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a desk blotter or scrap paper under your work to avoid ink bleed-through onto your clothes.
  • Avoid wearing light-colored or white clothing when using highlighters. Dark-colored clothing is less likely to show highlighter stains.
  • If you do get ink on your clothing, try to treat the stain as soon as possible before it sets in.


If you do get highlighter ink on your clothing, here are a few things you can try to remove the stain:

  • Blot the stain with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel to remove any excess ink.
  • Apply a stain remover, laundry detergent, or rubbing alcohol to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing.
  • Wash the clothing in cold water with a laundry detergent that contains enzymes, which can break down the stain.
  • Check to make sure the stain is fully removed before putting the clothing in the dryer. Heat can set in the stain and make it more difficult to remove.

Does Highlighter Stain Paper?

Another concern people have is whether highlighters will bleed through or stain paper. Again, the answer is, it depends on the paper and the type of highlighter used.

Paper Quality

The quality of the paper can impact whether or not highlighter ink bleeds through or stains. Thin or low-quality paper is more likely to have ink transfer or bleed-through than thicker, higher-quality paper. If you’re concerned about highlighter ink bleeding through, consider using thicker paper, printer paper or high quality notebooks.

Highlighter Types

Some types of highlighters are less likely to bleed through or smudge on paper than others. For example, gel-based highlighters tend to be more smudge-proof and less likely to bleed through paper, while liquid highlighters can be more prone to smudging or bleeding. It’s important to select the right highlighter for your needs, and for the type of paper you’re using.

Does Highlighter Stain Other Surfaces?

In addition to clothing and paper, some people may be concerned about whether highlighter ink will stain other surfaces. Here are a few common surfaces people use highlighters on, and what you can do to prevent or remove stains:


Books are a common surface for highlighter use, but the ink can bleed through pages and leave stains. To prevent this, use a scrap piece of paper under the page you’re highlighting. Additionally, avoid pressing too hard with the highlighter, as this can cause the ink to bleed through the page more easily.

Walls and Furniture

Accidentally getting highlighter ink on walls, furniture or other surfaces can be frustrating. To avoid staining, be sure to keep highlighters away from these surfaces. If you do get ink on a surface, use rubbing alcohol or a stain remover to clean it up. Test the solution on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it won’t damage the surface.

Electronic Screens

Electronic screens, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, can be damaged by highlighter ink. Avoid using highlighters on these surfaces, as the ink can be difficult to remove and can cause permanent damage.


Highlighters can be a valuable tool for organizing and highlighting information, but they can also cause stains if not used carefully. Understanding how to prevent and treat highlighter stains can help you stay organized without ruining your belongings or the surfaces you work on. Remember, prevention is key, so be sure to use a blotter or scrap paper under your work, and avoid using highlighters on surfaces that could be stained.


  • Does using hairspray remove highlighter stains from clothing?
  • Hairspray can sometimes be effective in removing highlighter stains from clothing. Apply hairspray to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing the clothing in cold water.

  • Can highlighter stains be removed from carpet?
  • Highlighter stains can be difficult to remove from carpet. Try blotting the stain with a clean, damp cloth and using a carpet stain remover or rubbing alcohol to treat the stain.

  • Should I soak highlighter-stained clothing in hot water?
  • No, soaking highlighter-stained clothing in hot water can set the stain and make it more difficult to remove. Use cold water when washing the clothing and check to make sure the stain is fully removed before drying.

  • Are there environmentally-friendly highlighters available?
  • Yes, there are environmentally-friendly highlighters available that use non-toxic and water-based ink. Look for highlighters that are made from recycled materials and that are refillable to reduce waste.


  • “Why Do Highlighters Have Different Colors?” Science ABC, Science ABC, 10 June 2021,
  • “How to Remove Highlighter Stains.” Clorox, Clorox, 23 Aug. 2019,
  • “Which Highlighter Works Best?”, JetPens,

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