eli5: What makes ‘permanent’ markers more permanent than regular markers?

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eli5: What makes ‘permanent’ markers more permanent than regular markers?

In: Chemistry
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It’s based on how you make the marker ink. Permanent markers have something in the ink that makes the ink stick to surfaces better and hard to remove with water. Non-permanent markers don’t have that extra sticky solution and is made in a way where you can clean it easily with water.

An ELI15 answer is that markers are made with a dye dissolved in an organic solvent. If the solvent is water-soluble, it’s not permanent. If the solvent is made with a non-water-soluble solution, it’s “permanent”. Sometimes, to make it more permanent, they also include a polymer in the mixture that binds the ink to the surface better.

Marketing! 😄 it’s obviously not actually permanent.

Inks usually just have the “colour” portion. Permanent markers also have a sticky resin mixed into them which makes them “permanent”.

From there some surfaces help stuff “stick” to them easier, other surfaces the “permanent” marker just rubs off because the resin can’t grab on well.

When you get solvent that can dissolve this resin again (making it float in the solvent and thus not stick) it can be rubbed off easily (e.g. alcohol, oils, acetone, etc).

* Your skin produces oils, so your fingers can act as a solvent
* Whiteboard markers have a solvent in them that works on this resin (thus erasing it)

Note: Whiteboard markers use a different resin, one which dries really fast (so the ink can’t spread over the surface and INTO IT to stain it permanently). But also one which doesn’t stick to things as well (so they can be rubbed off later)

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As others have said, it really just comes down to what will wash it off. Permanent markers can’t be washed with water, but will easily come off with rubbing alcohol. I used to work in an organic garden and we’d use plastic labels for all our plants; we’d write in what we’d planted using permanent marker as it could stand up to the watering and rain. When we reused the labels for a different plant, they all got a bath in a tub of rubbing alcohol. Easy peasy.

Interesting info here.
I simply assumed it was called permanent to distinguish it from “washable” markers, like Magic Markers.

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Acetone. That funky smell you get when you open the cap? That’s acetone. And acetone is very good at soaking into or mildly melting certain materials.

Nothing is truly permanent. The ink in permanent markers is typically not water soluble, and uses alcohol, or an oil based solvent. The ink’s lack of water solubility gives it resistance to wiping away, and thus the desired effect of “permanent”. However, paint markers, or sharpies, or any permanent marker can usually be dissolved using a paint thinner, or even acetone or alcohol may remove them.

Pigments that dissolve in water tend to wash away quickly due to the common availability of water. Even the water in the air causes them to break down and fade.

More permanent inks dissolve in alcohol or acetone, which aren’t in normal air and are harder to come across.

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