The Best Way to Get Permanent Marker Off a White Board

The Best Way to Get Permanent Marker Off a White Board
Photo: Josep Suria, Shutterstock

Last June, my kindergartener came home on the last day of school with a folder of avant-garde “How to flip a pancake” writing samples and a pencil case full of not one, not two, but ten uncapped markers. Of course, he had used one of those uncapped markers to cover every inch of his white dry erase board with blue squiggles. And of course — that marker was permanent. (“How did he get this unsanctioned writing implement?” she wailed at the sky.)

After offhandedly mentioning it in a TikTok, the comments on how to remove permanent marker from dry erase boards poured in. Many excitedly claimed, “Use this and it’ll come right off!” And two-and-a-half months later, the day before he started first grade, I actually tried them. While there was no “coming right off” to speak of (all methods required vigorous scrubbing and a bit of a neck clench), but here’s what I learned.

Does hand sanitizer get rid of permanent marker?

After the past two years we’ve had, I felt compelled to start out with my new bestie, hand sanitizer. While she removed the individual strokes of the marker, she still left the board blue. You’re good for a lot of things “hanitizer” (as my kids call it), but getting off old, crusted permanent marker isn’t one of them. Pass.

Can a dry erase marker get rid of permanent marker?

Riddle me this: a marker can remove a marker? Some people swore by this method of using the marker intended for the board to remove the damage, but alas, it delivered similar results to hand sanitizer. Surface strokes were gone, but a dark blue smudgy tint remained.

Did bug spray get rid of my permanent marker?

Disclaimer: The only bug spray we have in our house is a “natural” insect repellent called “Buzz Away” (made by Quantum Health) and its ingredients are as hippy dippy as you’d imagine. While the mix of citronella, ethanol, castor oil, cedarwood, peppermint, lemongrass and eucalyptus essential oils did not work to remove the marker, a standard DEET-based repellent might.

Did spray sunscreen work?

I used Target Up & Up brand Sport Sunscreen Spray with broad spectrum SPF 30 and it worked similarly to the bug spray, which is to say, not well. Perhaps if it had been more like its unwoke forebears of the late 90s/early aughts, instead of being so reef-conscious? (By the way, you might as well not bother with “reef-safe” sunscreen, after all.)

What about Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

Magic…where? While the bald man may perform miracles on grubby handprints of mysterious origin lining your walls, doors, and light switches (he can even remove disgusting mildew off deck railing, but I digress), he was no match for the power of the almighty Sharpie. The only thing he erased was the top surface of colour, and my hope that any of these random household products were going to work.

Rubbing alcohol?

I finally saw a bit more success with 70% rubbing alcohol, but still was not amazed by the results. While it removed the top, dark surface of colour and some of the underlying murky smudge, it still left a sad pallor that seemed to say, “Well somebody slept in their eye makeup again.” There was too much leftover rattiness on the board to claim victory.

And finally, nail polish remover

Now this — this was the Eureka moment I’d been waiting for. With a few generous pours of generic nail polish remover (not acetone) on a cotton ball, the permanent marker lifted quickly and easily, leaving a much smaller amount of residue than the other techniques. A few wipes with a clean napkin afterwards left it looking…not new, but definitely clean and clear enough to re-use.

Now, I re-iterate that this cleaning took place more than two months after I discovered the offending marker, and the above methods may have worked better if used sooner. But if nail polish remover can work two months later, that’s probably your best bet close to the time of contact as well.

 

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