How to Get Permanent Marker Off Wood
Learn how to remove unwanted markings from your floors or furniture without damaging the underlying finish.
Ah, the unfortunate moment you realize your permanent marker is bleeding through onto the table. Or, perhaps the children got their hands on the non-washable markers in the craft cabinet. Or, the dog chose an unfortunate chewing stick that left its mark on your hardwoods. Permanent marker can be permanently damaging on the wrong surface, but some finishes are easier to damage than others. Fortunately, you can easily remove it from wooden surfaces with a few gentle cleaning solutions. You probably have several of these available in your home now, and they’ll make it easy to reverse those permanent marks in no time at all.
Whether the wood is raw or treated with a penetrating stain (transparent or opaque) makes a difference. It’s always best to test a treatment on an out-of-sight spot to be sure that it doesn’t affect the finish.
Loosen and lift permanent marker spots using a dab of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton cloth. Dab lightly to saturate the spot, and then use a damp cloth to wipe away the residue. Repeat if a faint mark still remains.
Nail Polish Remover
Acetone-based nail polish remover works as well as rubbing alcohol when it comes to lifting permanent marker stains from wood. Avoid any aggressive scrubbing, as it could damage the finish on top of the wood.
Hand Sanitizer Gel
Not surprisingly, alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel can help mediate permanent marker spots in a pinch. Drip a little bit onto the affected spot and use a soft cloth to wipe the gel – and the stain – away.
Melamine Foam (a.k.a. Magic Eraser)
When used gently, magic erasers will help to remove permanent marker spots off finished wood surfaces. Avoid hard scrubbing, as it can damage the finish, but gentle spot treatments will lift the stain in no time at all.
Just like it helps to lift ink stains from your favorite work blouse (pocket protector, fail!), hairspray can loosen and help to lift permanent marker stains on wood. Give it a spritz, and the mark will lift and dissipate in front of your eyes. Wipe it away with a cloth, and you're all set.
Create a paste using baking soda and water and gently rub it into the permanent marker spot with a soft cloth. The baking soda acts as a gentle agitator and helps to lift the stain without damaging the wood.
Baking soda-based toothpaste will work okay at lifting permanent marker. Gel toothpaste won’t do, but give the baking soda whitening toothpaste varieties a try.
Dry-Erase Board Cleaner
The solvents in spray cleaner used for dry-erase boards are helpful in small doses at removing permanent marker from polished wooden surfaces. You may also have luck going over the markings with a dry erase marker itself, especially if the wood surface is painted or coated with an opaque stain. Do not attempt this on natural or unfinished wood surfaces.
What to Avoid:
- Don’t use a scrubby sponge – always stick to absorbent cleaning cloths
- Don’t apply the cleanser over a large area. Treat the spot, not the whole surface.
- Don’t use sandpaper to remove permanent marker spots unless the wood is unfinished, such as lumber or unfinished furnishings.
How Do You Remove Markings on Lumber or Other Unsealed Wood?
Permanent marker or inks are very common on lumber, and the easiest way to remove it before finishing the wooden surface with a transparent stain is to use fine-grade sandpaper. The marker will have permeated into the grain of the wood, and it’ll gradually lighten as it's sanded. Minimize the chances of wearing away a small spot of permanent marker on the lumber by using broader strokes to sand a larger area. For larger permanent marker spots, you may find it easiest to use a palm sander to more rapidly remove stains from a large surface.