You know, I’ve always been just a bit suspicious of those blue water-erase marking pens. They seem almost too good and too easy to be true, and I wondered about the long-term results.

Now I’m thinking I was right to wonder.

About 10 years ago I made this quilt.  mini-mariners-compass-quilt

It’s from Fons & Porter’s Fat Quarter Friendly, and was not a simple project. Those paper-pieced stars are only 5.5″ across; some of the triangles are itty-bitty. Anyhow, I just pulled it out to put up with my autumnal decor and discovered this:


No, those blue marks were NOT visible last year. (Btw, please don’t judge my appliqué work and machine quilting too harshly; I have improved a lot in the last 10 years.  😉 )

I tried spritzing with water, but this time around the marks did not disappear.  I then washed the entire thing in a load of laundry.  No joy.

After an online search, I found someone who said a white vinegar solution helped.  I let the quilt soak for a day in a 50% white vinegar solution, then ran it through the laundry again.

The results?


Only minimally better.


My suspicions were confirmed.  Whatever it is in those pens that makes the marks does NOT go away after spritzing with water.  It may no longer be visible, but the chemicals are still in there and can possibly become visible again at any later date.

I suggest you only use these kinds of marking pens on projects you aren’t going to care about in 10 years.  If you must use them, consider thoroughly immersing your entire piece to completely wash out any traces of the marking pen. (If that’s even possible.)

For me?  I’m going to stick with more traditional methods of marking from now on, such as chalk or a very fine, light pencil line.

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6 thoughts on “Should You Use Those Blue Water Erase Marking Pens?

  1. Sandy, I think it’s a very beautiful quilt.
    I notice that the blue is only showing up next to the dark blue pieces on your quilt. Is it possible it’s the fabric, and not the blue water erase marking pen?

    1. Hi Ilse,
      I thought of that, too. But then, it’s very strange that the dyes would crock after 10 years. Any thoughts?

  2. Oh, that is a beautiful quilt! I hear you about the marking pens. I have washed and washed the areas on my circus quilt where I used chalk, and it still won’t come off. What I’m using now is a regular #2 pencil. It works on light and dark fabrics (because it’s shiny) and washes off with plain water.

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