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So I just spent the better part of an hour graduating a food grade HDPE 5 gallon bucket with permanent marker so I can easily fill it with water of a certain amount for homebrewing.

I'm all done. The only problem is that permanent marker wipes off of HDPE quite easily. I guess I should have tested that first...

Anyways... what CAN I use to write on HDPE plastic? Or will I be forced to etch the markings in with a nail or something?

I tried a Google search for "How to write on HDPE plastic?" and came up empty.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you just label the bucket with a writable/printable sticker? $\endgroup$
    – Arsak
    Jun 1 '16 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ I could, but the that would come off when I power wash the bucket. $\endgroup$ Jun 2 '16 at 7:03
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From experience, one good way to permanently mark on HDPE is a paint marker. The following is just the first one I found online; no endorsement intended:

   Paint marker
   Promotional image from uline.com

They tend to be stinky and a tad messy, but they usually leave clean, visible lines and are basically indelible, requiring a lot of scrubbing with alcohol, acetone, etc. to remove. No idea how well it'll survive power washing, though.

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  • $\begingroup$ Flags answer for spam :D $\endgroup$ Aug 9 '17 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ @paracetamol I knew some joker'd go there. :-P $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Aug 9 '17 at 19:00
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There's 2 or 3 "permanent" ways. Paint ain't one of them -but- I'd agree that if you're careful, that paint is thick and adhesive enough to tolerate a lot of abuse before it chips, cracks, rubs or just falls off. It may be good enough, ymmv. Way #1. Hot melt. Few consumer hot melt guns and sticks get hot enough, there's commercial guns which actually use colored HDPE (or PP) to weld to HDPE. Way #2. Dremmel, or nail or razor or even a soldering gun tip. You're removing some of the material that's already there with obvious consequences for strength. Way #3. Plasma treatment. I have this for completeness, it's not realistic for consumers Way #4. Ok, I know I said 3, and even then we need to be loose about what "writing on" means. The 4th way is to use sandpaper to make the surface rough enough so that some of the pigments from a permanent marker gets caught in the nooks and crannies - this could obviously be combined with #2...but sanding isn't writing per se. I typically use adhesive labels if I want to mark my HDPE bottles, the large surface area gives plenty of contact and the labels I use have a coating (some of the fancier ones come with an additional clear layer, but I typically use a couple of wrap-arounds of 2" wide transparent packaging tape)

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