You are in your home office, working on an important project and you accidentally knock over a permanent marker only to see that the ink immediately starts to bleed, ruining your desk and the work surface.
If this has happened to you, stay calm and don’t panic in such a situation.
I have been in a similar condition a couple of times when I worked with my Sharpie. In my opinion, the quickest way to remove the permanent marker from a wooden desk is to:
- Apply a little bit of isopropyl alcohol to a clean cotton ball.
- Dab the permanent marker region with the wetted cotton ball until the permanent marker, like Sharpie, begins to lift.
- To remove the remained marker spots, reapply isopropyl alcohol with a fresh cotton ball.
- And then use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe down the area to clear away any residual cleaner.
Further, in this guide, I will share a host of other methods (in case the above one does not work), along with all that I have learned from my mistakes, and what worked for me.
Hopefully, the tips and techniques I will discuss will help you out in the future if you find yourself stuck in a similar situation.
Permanent Marker Stains On Wood
Before we proceed with permanent marker cleaning methods, it’s important to know that the ink in permanent markers can either be alcohol-based or oil-based, which is generally determined by the type of solvent used in it.
Also, these inks are designed to be resistant to water, so trying to remove them with water will only make the stain worse. Instead, you need to use a solvent that will dissolve the ink.
For alcohol-based markers on finished or varnished wood, you can use rubbing alcohol, whereas, for oil-based markers, it’s good to use something like WD-40.
Apply the solvent to a cotton ball or paper towel and dab it on the stain. Once you’ve applied the solvent, you should see the ink transfer from the wood to the cotton ball or paper towel.
Continue dabbing until the stain is gone permanently. Once the surface has been cleaned, wipe it with a damp cloth.
Removing the Sharpie from Wooden Surfaces
Besides rubbing alcohol and WD-40, there are many other ways you can try to take the Sharpie permanent marker stains out from wood surfaces. Some of them would use items that are probably already in your home, while others may require a trip to the store.
The methods I will discuss here will mostly be using the materials you already have in your pantry, making it very easy for you to get the job done even if your kid has doodled all over your work desk, hardwood floor, tables, chairs, or varnished doors with a sharpie.
But still, I would recommend testing the products in an inconspicuous area first to see the reaction of your wood to the cleaning agent. This would be particularly helpful if you have an expensive piece of finished wood furniture you don’t want to get ruined.
So, without any delay, here is a list of ways to clean permanent marker stains on wood…
Method 1- Vinegar
Don’t panic if you’ve found a stubborn permanent marker stain on your counters and cabinets in the kitchen, bathroom, or kid’s room- there’s an easy solution.
One promising approach is a vinegar-based stain removal method –
- Simply soak a clean cloth in it
- Rub over the affected area until all traces vanish
- Then use a fresh dry cloth for the final wiping up
Vinegar is the go-to for removing ink stains from wood, but baby oil, spray-on sunscreen, lotion sunblock, and hairspray are all unexpected yet useful alternatives.
If vinegar doesn’t do the trick, these can also be used in a similar fashion and just might work better.
Method 2- Peanut Butter
Another excellent way to remove a permanent marker is by using peanut butter, mayonnaise, or vegetable oil. You would most likely have them in your kitchen or on the dining table.
- Scoop some of the peanut butter out and start rubbing it on top of the marker stain using a spoon or butter knife.
- You will see the color from the permanent marker slowly coming off your desk as you continue to rub the peanut butter in.
- After allowing it to sit for a minute or two, use a paper towel to wipe off the excess peanut butter, and the stain should be gone as well.
- Give the area a final wipe with a damp cloth to remove any residue from the peanut butter before allowing it to air dry.
- If the stain is still visible, you can repeat the process or try one of the other methods listed below.
Method 3- Ronsonol Lighter Fuel
Ronsonol Lighter fuel is a fluid that’s used to refill lighters but can also be effective in removing markers and other stains from wood floors or other surfaces.
- Pour a small amount of the fluid onto a clean ball of cotton wool to saturate it.
- Gently start rubbing the ball of cotton wool over the stained area in circular motions.
- You should see the permanent marker coming off the surface and onto the ball of cotton wool.
- Change to a new clean area of the cotton wool when it becomes too stained to continue.
- When you have removed as much of the marker as possible, use a clean damp cloth to wipe over the area to remove any residue from the Ronsonol.
Method 4- Pencil Eraser
While a standard pencil eraser (in your kid’s pencil box) may work on various surfaces like walls, plastic, metal, or glass, I think this should not work on porous surfaces like wood unless you have a more robust eraser meant to clean such surfaces.
But it’s worth trying if you do not have access to any of the other methods mentioned above. Maybe if the Sharpie marker stains have yet not been set on the wood, it can work.
- Grab a pencil eraser and start by rubbing the eraser over the top of the stain in a circular motion.
- If you don’t see any results after a minute or so, try wetting the eraser slightly with some water and then continue rubbing.
- You should start seeing the stain coming off the surface and transferring onto the eraser very soon.
- When you’ve gotten as much of the stain out as possible, clean the eraser and the surface with a wet cloth to remove any remaining stains. Allow them to air dry naturally.
Method 5- Baking Soda
I once used this method to remove the permanent marker stains on the wood paneling. And it worked.
To use this method, make a baking soda paste with water by adding 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda to a bowl half filled with water. Stir nicely to form a paste with a fine-sand-like texture.
- Apply the baking soda paste to the marker stains on the wood paneling.
- Allow it to sit for a couple of minutes – do not let it dry.
- Using a dampened, lint-free cotton cloth, gently rub the paste on the stained area.
- Finally, wipe it with another clean damp cloth.
TIP: If it’s a laminated wood, you could also make a solution of baking soda in water and apply it with an old toothbrush.
Method 6- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
This method requires some commercially available products but is more heavy-duty than other methods listed above. You can use it if all the above fails or if you have a large area that’s stained with a permanent blue marker or black printer ink.
For this method, you will need Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and an Amodex Ink Stains Remover.
- Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to apply a little amount of ink stain remover to the marker spot you’re dealing with.
- Rub the marker stain gently in a circular motion using the magic eraser. The ink will come off as you rub, leaving behind only traces.
- Finally, use a wet cloth to clean the residues away from the unfinished or finished wood.
Method 7- Nail Polish Remover
Using Nail polish remover (acetone) to get Sharpie off the finished wooden furniture is something I haven’t tried on. Because my desk was already ruined heavily I don’t want to take the risk of trying harsh chemicals that can probably ruin the surface further.
I should also say that if you already have the paint or the varnish on your expensive furniture, it’s better to avoid this technique as it can take the finish off while removing the marker stains.
But if you want to take the risk trying this method or if your inexpensive wood surface is still bare, here’s what you need to do:
- Pour some nail polish remover into a bowl and soak a clean white cloth in it.
- Rub the cloth over the stained area in a circular motion until the Sharpie comes off.
- Wipe it with a clean damp cloth to remove the residue and let it air dry.
What if All the Methods Fail to Clear the Marker Stains?
Although there is no such permanent marker that can withstand all the products I have mentioned above, still sometimes you may find the stains unresponsive to any of the given treatments.
This especially happens when the permanent marker has been given a long time to set on the wood.
In such cases, sanding down may be the only way to go. You can lightly sand away the stained layer and then refinish the wood with either a wood stain or paint.
This is a sure-shot method, but it’s also a little time-consuming. So, you must only go for it when nothing else works.
Also, make sure that you don’t sand too hard on your old wood, or else you may end up damaging the wood.
If you want to avoid sanding altogether, then you can also try painting over the stained area with a dark color (like navy blue or black). This way, you will be able to cover up the marker stains completely.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.