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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, ibrokemyscooter asks, “What makes a permanent marker permanent?”

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Craig: Hi, I'm Craig, my eyebrows are drawn on with marker, and this is mental_floss on YouTube. Today, I'm going to answer ibrokemyscooter's Big Question, "What makes a permanent marker permanent?"  

Well, unfortunately for you, no one has invented a permanent scooter, but I can answer your question. Let's get started.

(mental_floss Big Questions intro plays)

Craig: According to Sharpie, a permanent marker does two things: one, adheres to most surfaces and/or is water resistant, and two, uses dyes or pigments. So what ingredients are required for that to work? Well, different types of permanent marker have different formulas, but generally, a permanent marker consists of the following: a solvent, a colorant, and a resin.  

First there's the solvent. This is what allows the other two substances to combine and exist in the sponge inside of the marker. For example, n-propanol is an alcohol that acts as a colorless solvent.  Other solvents that sometimes get used in permanent markers are ethanol and isopropanol.  

Earlier, I mentioned that the permanent marker uses either dyes or pigments. That's what's known as the colorant. It gives the marker its color. Duh. There's a slight difference between dyes and pigments, though either can work as a permanent marker. A dye is usually a liquid, or at least soluble, and a pigment is a dry powder.

Finally, duh-duh-duh-duhhh, there's a resin, and that's what's really important here; that's what actually makes the permanent marker permanent. It's a sticky, glue-like substance, which ensures that the marks actually stay on the paper. The solvent makes it so that it's not too sticky, though. You don't want sticky marker, trust me. I don't know why you should trust me, but trust me.

A non-permanent, or boring, marker also contains resin, because the people who use those still want what they write to stick to the paper. They use a different kind of resin, though. Remember at the beginning when I said that permanent markers are water-resistant? Well, markers have resin that dissolves in water, but permanent markers don't, so if you get regular marker all over a shirt, you can just throw it in the washing machine and it gets stains out. That's not the case with a permanent marker. You do still have to do your laundry, though. Which kinda sucks.  

All that said, permanent markers don't really create marks that last forever, like, the Sharpie website states that, quote, "With outdoor exposure on a non-porous surface, the marks from a dye-based marker will be gone in perhaps 3-4 months. With indoor exposure on a porous surface, like artist canvas or paper, we would expect marks from a dye-based marker to last several years." But nothing lasts forever. That was an ad-lib by me. But also a good lesson.

Thanks for watching mental_floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of these permanent nice people. If you have a big question of your own that you'd like answered, leave it below in the comments. See you next week... or whenever, you can watch a video whenever, it'll be up permanently. Bye.  

(mental_floss endscreen)