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How to Remove Permanent Marker from Wood

How to remove permanent marker from wood

As a mom of two small (very active) boys, I have to be prepared for any and every kind of mess. Crayon on the wall, mystery stains on the rug, and all types of dirty laundry. Recently, my boys gave me the “opportunity” to learn how to remove permanent marker from wood.

In my research, I discovered that there are three commonly recommended approaches for how to removing permanent marker from wood. I wanted to test all three in order to determine the BEST method for removing permanent marker from wood.

The Experiment

I wasn’t sure which permanent ink removal method would work best so I decided to test each solution. I drew three permanent ink “X” marks on the underside of my wood kitchen table. This way if all methods failed then I wouldn’t be left with ink stains in a noticeable spot!

I tested each of the following popular methods on separate “X” marks:

  1. Toothpaste
  2. Aerosol Hairspray
  3. Rubbing Alcohol
Remove permanent marker from wood using this ingredient.

Toothpaste

I went into the toothpaste method with a lot of hope. This is because I had once seen it successfully remove permanent marker stains from wood floors in a video on TikTok. I grabbed a tube of Colgate toothpaste, put a little bit on a cleaning cloth, and got to work.

After scrubbing (and scrubbing) with the toothpaste, the stain did eventually lift… but this method required the most effort of the three. If you are trying to remove permanent marker and toothpaste is all you have on hand, it WILL work eventually… but it does require a lot of scrubbing.

Baking soda-based toothpastes (think Arm & Hammer) would likely work best for this type of job. If you don’t have a baking soda-based toothpaste, you can add a tiny bit to regular toothpaste and get to work.

I have also seen sources recommend scrubbing with baking soda and water paste. 

Regardless of what combo you choose, be gentle and scrub with the grain of your wood. You do not want to damage the finish of your furniture in the process!

Aerosol Hairspray

There were a handful of sources that recommended using aerosol hairspray as an ink removal method, so I gave it a try!

To apply, I sprayed the hairspray in a concentrated area of my cleaning cloth and rubbed it over the stain. 

This method was more effective than the toothpaste option and I didn’t notice much (if any) damage to the finish of the wood. 

I believe this method worked because the main ingredient in most aerosol hairsprays is alcohol, which brings me to the final permanent ink removal method…

Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol was one of the most commonly recommended solutions for removing permanent marker from wood. When I read this I felt skeptical.

Alcohol is a great choice for removing ink stains from (most) fabrics, so I could understand why it would also work for removing permanent marker from wood. At the same time, rubbing alcohol is very good at removing varnish and stains from wood… which is where the skepticism came in.

My goal was to remove the permanent marker without removing the finish from the surface of my table.

I poured a little rubbing alcohol on the corner of my cleaning cloth and rubbed it over the “X” on my table. I have to say, this worked SO well. It was almost like a magic trick – the ink was instantly lifted from the surface of my wood table. After a few seconds of rubbing, the stain was undetectable. 

How to remove permanent marker from wood

Because I didn’t have to scrub very hard or for very long, the finish of my wood table was not damaged at all. 

Rubbing alcohol was easily the most effective method for removing permanent marker ink stains from wood.

If you don’t have rubbing alcohol on hand, nail polish remover and hand sanitizer gel are two alternatives worth trying (also alcohol-based).

How to remove permanent marker from wood

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