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How to Remove Pencil Quilt Markings from Quilt Blocks

by Sue Starcevich
(Frederic, WI)

I am doing the "quilt as you go" method and have all my blocks quilted.

I used a No. 2 pencil to mark the quilt lines and used 80/20 batting. Can I wash the quilt blocks before I assemble or should I assemble and wash the whole quilt. I do not know what to use for soap for removal of the pencil marks. Also after washing should I dry it in a dryer or block it on the floor. Thank you.



The current status of the quilt blocks dictates how I would wash them.

If you have already trimmed your quilt blocks to a uniform size and they are ready to assemble as a quilt, then I would NOT wash the blocks before assembling the quilt.

It is possible during the washing and drying process that the edges will stretch or fray, resulting in blocks that are no longer 'quite' square. You'd 're-square' so that the blocks would fit together nicely. That's a duplication of work. I'm not for doing a job twice unless there's some real benefit from it. The additional trimming could distort how these blocks would fit together.

If the blocks are not squared up yet, then I would DEFINITELY wash them first by hand for a couple of reasons.

  1. Hand washing will minimize any distortion. The extra agitation from a washing machine is unnecessary. You are only trying to remove the pencil lines and perhaps some naturally occurring oil from your hands from working on the project.

  2. I'd want to be sure that I was satisfied with how the pencil markings came out before I went to the effort of putting the quilt together.

  3. Washing in smaller units puts less stress on the blocks when they are wet.

  4. If washing does not remove all the pencil quilt markings, and you find you must remove them by hand, the job will seem much more manageable a block at a time.

Washing Instructions

Cool water and gentle soap, gentle agitation.

I always use cool water to wash quilts. The warmer/hotter the water, the more chance that you'll 'set' the quilt markings.

I use Orvus because it is gentle, but because I can also buy it economically from a 'Farm and Fleet' store here locally. If you don't have Orvus, use a gentle soap without optical brighteners, dyes, softeners, fragrances and that is pH neutral.

Use our instructions for how to wash a quilt, but instead of using a washing machine, use a container you can easily handle. I like to use the same large (32 qt.) Sterilite plastic boxes I use to store my fabric. Agitate gently by hand.

Problem Pencil Markings

If the pencil marks do not come out in the wash, there are a number of options.

I cannot stress this enough.


These removal ideas have come from a variety of sources and have worked, at least to some extent, for another quilter. But their situation and marking tools used may be different than yours. So please do test first.

Commercial Remedies

The following are sold in quilt and sewing stores and online.

  • Marking Pencil Remover by Quilter's Rule International: This liquid comes in an 8 oz. spray bottle. Quilter's Rule recommends you test before using. It retails for about $7.25/8 oz bottle. It appears to come in both a phosphate and phosphate-free version (red, white and black label).

  • Fabric Eraser by Collins: This is a non-smudging eraser used to remove pencil markings. You can use this BEFORE you wash your blocks.

Home Remedies
  • Soap and Water: Mix a colorless soap and lukewarm water. Use a soft bristled toothbrush to apply the mixture and gently rub the pencil marks. You may need to add a bit of rubbing alcohol. The instructions are this does not need to be washed out. Avoid optical brighteners or softeners in it. Blot with a clean white wash cloth.

  • Baby Wet Ones: Rub gently to remove the marks

  • Soap, Water and Rubbing Alcohol: Mix together: 1/4 c. water, 3/4 c. rubbing alcohol and 7-8 drops of a white dish detergent.

    Using two white washcloths, dip one in the solution and rub the markings to remove. Wet the other with plain water to rub over those same areas to rinse. Air dry the quilt.

  • Biz or Oxyclean: Mix with water in a container and soak the blocks. The problem with both of these is that there is a chance they will lighten the fabrics in your quilt. If you only use it on a couple of blocks, this color change may show in the finished quilt.

  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: Dampen this 'sponge' with cool water and with a light touch gently rub the lines.


I am a big fan of air drying for quilts. In your case, I would recommend air drying, until you were sure all the marks had been removed. I would want to avoid having any marks transfer in the dryer, making more work.

Readers if you have other suggestions for removing pencil marks, please let us know by using the 'comment' link.

Sue, thank you for your inquiry about removing pencil quilt markings. I hope this information is helpful to you.


Julie Baird

Comments for How to Remove Pencil Quilt Markings from Quilt Blocks

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Pencil marks
by: Anonymouajws

Thanks for the baby wipe tip...worked great on white Kona cotton on a quilt square.....happy! 👍

From the Editor: Excellent news! ~ Julie

Fels Naptha and Warm Water
by: Anonymous

I found that using Fels Naptha, warm water, and a toothbrush works.

Get a cup of warm water and dip your toothbrush in it. Lather a little on the bar and then get to scrubbing! It takes some elbow grease, but it works—even on marks that are iron-set.

I have some stubborn marks that I’m still going to run through a hand wash and dry, but the FN got them out most of the way. Those were a few days old, mind you.

The FN got new, iron-set marks out completely, and with little effort.

From the Editor: Thank you so much for sharing this...particularly about the Fels Naptha working on previously ironed marks. That is gold!


Julie Baird

Just found site
by: Helen F.

I will save this site immediately. I used suggestions regarding quilt with pencil marks. It worked beautifully...Thank you!

From the Editor: You're most welcome! So glad it worked for you.



Tricot material
by: Shanna

Years ago we made quilts from tricot and marked it with a pencil. I have a pink piece of tricot that I cannot get the pencil makings out of. Any solutions for that?

I will try the things you have mentioned and see if that won't work.

From the Editor: I recently moderated a comment shared here where the quilter had used Fels Naptha and had good results after the marks had been ironed.

If nothing else works, it might be worth a try.


Julie Baird

Pencil marks gone
by: Lou

I tried pre-treating and I tried baby wipes with no success. What worked? Grandma's Secret Stain Remover and a little elbow grease.

From the Editor: I love that stuff, too. It's saved many a shirt around my house.

Thanks for sharing!


Magic Eraser
by: Anonymous

The Mr Clean Magic Eraser worked very well on cotton batiste to remove pencil marks on an heirloom dress I wanted to embroider and had marked incorrectly. I had dampened the dress and it didn't come out so I wet the eraser and lightly rubbed over the marks then washed with a drop of Ivory liquid dish soap and it was gone.

Thank you for your help.


did something wrong i guess
by: RookieQuilter

Hello ... I was looking for some way to remove the 'heat set' pencil markings for my quilt label. I tried the 'wet wipe' option ... it did seem to remove the pencil mark, but unfortunately it also smeared my size 05 Blue Micron handwriting :(

Fortunately, this piece was only a test!

I hope this helps someone else in time :)

I appreciate the advice offered here and I am glad I found this web page. I am going to to try again, and use less pencil! ** Happy Quilting **

pencil marking removal
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much, I teach a class with 7-10 yr olds, one of the girls got carried away with her pencil markings- your baby wipe tip worked like a charm! Heartbreak avoided.


From the Editor: So glad it helped!

~ Julie Baird

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