6 Steps to Removing Permanent Marker from a Whiteboard

As a general rule, most people who use dry erase boards are aware that one must use only whiteboard markers in order to ensure easy clean up. However, there is always the potential for human error—permanent markers often look quite similar to their dry erase counterparts, which can lead to confusion, particularly with the pace of many of today’s up-tempo work environments.

Fortunately, contact with permanent ink does not necessarily mean the end of your whiteboard. It will take a little bit of additional work, but even so, removing these types of marks is not much more difficult than the typical swipe of a dry eraser. If you should find yourself in this predicament, simply follow these six steps to get your board looking like new again.

Step 1: Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

Most of the time, cleaning whiteboards doesn’t require many tools to get the job done, but it is definitely best to have everything readily available before you begin. You will need a dark colored dry erase marker, a standard whiteboard eraser (preferably an older one that can be ruined), a regular pencil eraser, rubbing alcohol, and a cotton swab or pad to apply it with. If rubbing alcohol is not available, nail polish remover or hand sanitizer (both of which should contain the necessary alcohol) can be substituted instead. Keep a soft rag or paper towels handy as well.

Start by laying out your supplies on a clean, flat surface, where you will be able to do a bit of rubbing and scrubbing without your whiteboard shifting around much. Now you are ready to get to the dirty work!

Step 2: Cover Permanent Marks with Dry Erase Pen

Whether you are working with a magnetic whiteboard or non-magnetic, permanent ink will often come off much easier than you might assume. It may sound like a strange to way to start out, but go ahead and take your dry erase marker, and simply scribble over the top of the permanent marks, making sure to completely cover everything that you wish to remove. Then immediately move on to step three, as below.

Step 3: Use the Dry Eraser

As previously noted, this step may spell the end for your dry eraser—however it is much easier and less costly to replace an eraser than it is to replace the whiteboard itself. Rub away all of the marks from the board with firm, steady pressure. You may need to rub a little harder if you encounter troublesome spots. This process will usually result in flecks of dried ink scattering across the board, and will also most likely saturate your eraser with permanent ink, meaning you will probably not want to continue using it in the future.

If vigorous rubbing does not seem to be doing the trick, brush the surface clean of any debris, let the ink sit for a few moments, and then try again. Don’t start shopping for that new whiteboard online just yet! There are still a few more methods to employ if these first few steps are not successful.

Step 4: Try a Different Kind of Eraser

Your typical everyday pencil eraser is capable of doing more than just taking graphite off of paper—you can also use them to rub away smaller permanent marks that may remain on your dry erase board. Just keep in mind, as with dry erasers themselves, pencil erasers may be left stained and basically unusable after this type of application. Of course, the cost of an average pencil or eraser is going to be considerably lower than the cost of your average magnetic white board, so the risk is usually worth the potential reward.

Due to their smaller size, pencil erasers are best for spot cleaning and smaller jobs. If you are attempting to clean a larger area, and the previous methods have not sufficed, don’t fret—there are still other solutions to try.

Step 5: Apply Rubbing Alcohol

Using a cotton pad or swab, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the board where permanent marks are present. As noted above, hand sanitizer or nail polish remover containing alcohol will also work for this purpose. Using your chosen substance, rub away the unwanted ink with circular or back and forth motions. The process remains the same for a magnetic whiteboard or most any other type of dry erase surface.

Once again, if this step does not seem to be removing all remnants of the permanent marker, try applying a bit more alcohol with a clean swab and repeat the process again. Most dry erase boards will not require more than one good scrub, but ink will usually be tougher to remove, the longer it has been sitting on the surface.

Step 6: Wipe the Slate Clean

Assuming that most all of the permanent marker has been removed at this point, all that will be left is to dry your whiteboard and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Using a soft cloth or paper towel, wipe away any remaining wetness and residue, letting the board air-dry for at least 15-20 minutes before resuming regular use, or before reapplying any magnets to a magnetic white board.

There are many products available for cleaning your whiteboard online and in stores, but in many cases, they are not necessary to achieve the desired result. With just a few basic household items, you can return your board to a clean, usable surface, saving you time and money and assuring continued productivity.

To possibly save yourself more work in the future, it may be prudent to store your whiteboard markers away from all other pens and writing utensils. Many users elect to keep them situated on the board (or an adjoined pen tray) exclusively, keeping other markers entirely separate in order to avoid confusion. Although they tend to be very durable, you can still save yourself the trouble of cleaning whiteboards by keeping your office supplies organized and smartly placed. After all, a wise person once said it best: work smarter, not harder!

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