If you’ve drawn lines on the fabric you’re working with or marked a specific spot for embellishments, you have probably used tailor’s chalk. This handy material is great for tracing seams and measurements when sewing clothes. You can use it for quilting, too!
Unfortunately, sometimes you need to remove tailor’s chalk marks, and that can get a little tricky, depending on the type of material and the type of tailor’s chalk you’ve used.
So how do you remove tailor’s chalk? Removing tailor’s chalk marks can seem difficult, but there are many methods to remove the stains, including using a fabric eraser for clay-based chalk or heat to melt wax-based chalk. You should try your chalk on a test piece of fabric before marking up the entire project so you can practice removing it.
Keep reading for the ultimate guide to tailor’s chalk and how to properly remove it.
Everything You Need to Know About Tailor’s Chalk
Tailor’s chalk can be found in several different forms. It is a hard substance that is used to make markings on a garment or a cloth, especially in regards to sewing, such as notating where a garment will need to be taken in or shortened.
These markings are generally temporary, and they allow for the exact placement of an embellishment or seams to be sewn. Tailor’s chalk is handy because the markings do not readily disappear, even when the fabric is moved around, such as being folded or draped while measurements are taken.
Tailor’s chalk has historically been hard chalk. It is most commonly found in a rectangular shape, but it can also be found in the shape of a crayon. Some types of tailor’s chalk actually look like little pieces of soap.
You can also find marking pencils and pens, which are a little different than tailor’s chalk but serve in much the same purpose, especially when sewing objects such as quilts.
Types of Tailor’s Chalk
Tailor’s chalk comes in two major forms, clay-based chalk, and wax-based chalk. These typically come in an easy-to-grip size, although some companies may slightly larger pieces that may be useful for those who need a lot of tailor’s chalk.
Tailor’s chalk also comes in a variety of colors. While historically it came in black or white, you can now find it in yellow and even red, like this chalk on Amazon. These different colors allow it to show up on a variety of different fabrics.
Tailor’s Chalk Uses
It’s for much more than just tailoring. While your seamstress or tailor will generally use tailor’s chalk, many more hobbyists are beginning to use the chalking material in their everyday work or even arts and crafts.
You can use it for a variety of projects, such as:
- Making doll clothes
- Designing costumes
No matter what you use it for, it can be quite helpful to mark out your sewing seams or even the placement of buttons. Use it to mark the location of piping or borders, or draw in the location of a buttonhole before taking your project over to your sewing machine.
If you’re free-handing a pattern, the ability to erase the lines and start over is especially helpful.
How to Best Use Tailor’s Chalk
When you are using tailor’s chalk, how you hold the chalk depends on the type of tailor’s chalk you are using, as well as how you intend to mark up your fabric. As you use the piece of chalk, you should consider the different sides of the chalk to make sharply demarcated lines on your project.
You should alternate which end or side you use so that you don’t wear the tailor’s chalk down all in one region. Many pieces of chalk have grooves that make holding it easier and allow you to get a steadier grip on it.
When you are making lines on your fabric, such as adding a hood to a jacket, consider using the flat edge of the tailor’s chalk to mark large lines or even the outer shape of your patterned piece. Some people suggest using school chalk as an alternative for details such as buttonholes.
When you only need to make a quick line that doesn’t have to be perfect, consider using your larger pieces of tailor’s chalk. This can be helpful for areas of your sewing project such as marking the hem on a skirt that needs to be shortened.
For finer details, consider smaller pieces of tailor’s chalk that are easier to hold and manipulate.
In order to avoid stretch or damaging your fabric, you need to mark the fabric by going with the grain rather than against it. Do not press on the material too firmly, or you could stretch the material out.
When you are quilting, you can use tailor’s chalk to draw temporary lines on your border pieces. Doing so can help you create mitered corners as you are sewing.
How to Remove Tailor’s Chalk
If you have used tailor’s chalk, and it is now visible on your final garment or project, there are a few things you can try to get rid of the chalk marks.
You should always consult the care guide for your fabric or project, if one is available, as well as read any directions for your tailor’s chalk before using and if you have marks that need to be removed. Doing so will ensure that you don’t use material on the chalk marks that will cause it to set and permanently stain, as well as minimize the possibility of damaging your fabric or project.
When working to remove tailor’s chalk marks, make sure to work on an inconspicuous spot first. If you have not pre-washed your fabric, this is especially important to make sure that your fabric is colorfast, whether it is a shirt, a suit, or a quilt.
Make sure to remove the spots or marks completely before drying the clothing, quilt, or project in a clothes dryer. Drying the material can cause the marks to permanently set in the fabric.
6 Ways to Remove Clay-Based Tailor’s Chalk
These are 6 ways to remove clay-based tailor’s chalk. The best way will be up to you depending on your fabric material. Below this list, you’ll find the best way to remove wax tailor’s chalk, so skip to that section if that’s what you’re dealing with!
Gently brush the chalk mark with a brush. A clean toothbrush is great to gently use on stray marks without ruining your fabric.
If brushing the marks do not eliminate them, consider dabbing at the marks with a sponge dampened with water. Do not do this with a fabric that is not colorfast or that cannot get wet. Allow to air dry.
2. Fabric Eraser
Try using a fabric eraser. Following the guidelines on the eraser, gently attempt to erase the marks from your fabric.
Make sure that you don’t stretch the fabric or rub too firmly against the grain of the fabric, which could damage your fabric irreversibly. These are generally recommended to be used on light pencil marks, but some can be used on any marks.
Sometimes erasers that come with pencils and pens can be effective at removing chalk marks. Gently erase the marks with your eraser.
3. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
Consider using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Test this in an inconspicuous area of your project, as these erasers are highly effective but can damage some materials.
4. Vinegar Mixture
Try a vinegar mixture. Mix 2 parts white vinegar to 5 parts water and wash your project. The water should be cool to cold, and you should air dry the project afterwards.
Some heavy chalk marks won’t come out with a diluted solution. For these, you could try soaking a soft, white cloth (to ensure no color is transferred to your fabric) in white vinegar. Dab at the chalk marks and gently rub them. Wash the fabric in cold water, and then allow it to air dry.
5. Shout! Stain Remover
Shout! stain remover has been used by many people to remove stubborn tailor’s chalk marks from projects. Test it in a spot that is not readily visible to make sure that the stain remover will not harm your fabric.
We are fans of these Shout Wipe & Go textured fabric cleaners, which are perfect for chalk marks.
6. Carbona Carpet Cleaner
Carbona carpet cleaner can be highly effective for removing tailor’s chalk marks on your fabric.
If you have upholstery fabric that has tailor’s chalk marks and cannot be washed, try applying a small amount of Carbona carpet cleaner with a toothbrush. Gently rub it on and allow it to sit. After several minutes or following the directions on the cleaner, brush the marks away.
The Best Way to Remove Wax Tailor’s Chalk Marks
Wax-based tailor’s chalk marks can be more difficult to remove than clay-based chalk marks. They can create a stain that is similar to a stain from candle wax.
If you have a stain from wax tailor’s chalk, get your ironing board out.
- Warm-up your iron on a low heat setting.
- Set up the garment or project on your ironing board with the stain facing up. You should also place a clean towel (that is white to avoid color transfer) between layers of the garment.
- Put a layer of clean brown paper over the wax stain. Make sure you are using unprinted paper. Gently press the iron onto the paper over the stain without rubbing or moving the iron.
- If the stain is large, reposition your iron to remove all of the stains.
- Gently brush the fabric with a soft brush.