How To Get Permanent Marker Off Wood

How To Get Permanent Marker Off Wood

Permanent marker is one of the best things ever invented, but also one of the worst. It is not unusual for it to accidentally find its way onto a wooden surface, whether having bled through some thin paper, or a child has found the pen and decided to draw a beautiful picture on the kitchen cabinet door.

No matter how it found its way onto a surface where it should not be, fortunately for you, it can be removed from most types of wood without damaging the material. In this article, we shall point you in the direction of some simple and easy methods, with most of the solutions available from inside your home. 

So, without further ado, let us try and tackle those stubborn marker pen stains.

Always Test First

Whilst it is tempting to go straight into stain removal, always test on an area that is hidden from view. It is difficult to know what the outcome will be when trying different methods out on various types of wood.

Because of this, if something does go wrong, such as it lightens the wood or causes the stain to become worse, it is best to do it out of sight first before you tackle the marker pen blemish head-on. 

This way, at least you can hide it and pretend it never happened…

Nail Polish Remover

If you are the kind of person who likes to wear gel nails, then it is highly likely that you have some acetone-based nail polish to hand (no pun intended). This product is strong, and may damage the surface of the wood, so it is highly recommended to try it in an inconspicuous area first to avoid disappointment if it does react with the material.

Using a lint-free dry cloth, dab some of the nail polish remover onto the stain, but do not rub the surface as this can cause the wood to become damaged. 

This should remove the stain, but if it does not, luckily there are plenty more things to try, just remember to clean any residue off with water before attempting anything else. 

Baking Soda

Baking Soda

Using baking soda is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to cleaning, as it can be used to remove a number of stains within the home, including the carpet.

In a cup, add in a tablespoon of baking soda with around a teaspoon of water to form a paste. Give or take here and there to create a formula that works for you. So long as it is a paste rather than a liquid, it will work fine.

Rub some of the paste in circular motions over the permanent marker stain to gently remove it. This should lift it away but patience is key, so do not assume it will work straight away.

If you do not have any baking soda to hand, something as simple as regular toothpaste should do the same job – just make sure it is not the gel kind. 


Whilst you might use this for your hair, it can also be used as a way to remove stains. It sounds odd now, but watch in amazement as it works – hopefully – to remove that permanent marker stain. 

Spray the product straight onto the wood and then wipe the residue away with a lint-free cloth. You should be able to see it working immediately with great results. Repeat as much as you need to. 

Rubbing Alcohol

Another household staple – rubbing alcohol. It has many uses when it comes to cleaning within the home, and if it is at 70%, it can also kill most types of bacteria.

Pour some isopropyl alcohol onto a clean, lint-free cloth and dab it onto the permanent marker area until you begin to see the stain starting to lift away. 

Using a different clean, lint-free cloth, dampen it and use it to wipe away the residue and pat the whole thing dry. Whilst this first attempt may not have gotten rid of the full stain, it can be repeated a number of times to get the clear result that you would like. 

If your cloth begins to discolor, stop the process, this might mean it has begun to damage the wood. 


Whilst vodka is normally something you drink once a year during a vacation, it can also be used in a situation like this. 

If you have some plain vodka sitting in the back of a drinks cabinet, then you will want to use it in a similar method to the rubbing alcohol – in fact, if you do not have any isopropyl alcohol to hand, then vodka is a great alternative.

In the same fashion as before, soak a lint-free clean cloth into some vodka and dab it onto the stain. Give it some time and eventually you will start to see the stain lifting – just do not drink the remaining vodka if you had poured it into a cup!

Magic Eraser

Also known as melamine foam, this product cleans surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom without the help of any added chemicals. 

If you have a very small area of permanent marker to remove, then something as simple as this might just do the trick. Avoid rubbing it too hard, and opt to use a smooth surface of the foam. You will want to avoid damaging the wood during the cleaning process. 

Unfinished Wood? Try Fine Grit Sandpaper

If the surface is unfinished wood, then using fine grit sandpaper should be an easy and effective solution. Because the permanent marker can find its way into the wood, sanding a few small layers will gently remove it.

If this is the option that will work best for you, avoid sanding too much, especially in one area. You will want to keep the surface looking even. When this is the case, keep the sandpaper strokes broader.

Never attempt this on treated and finished wood. If you do, you will take off any stain that has been used. 

Final Words

Whilst it may seem like the end of the world when you find a stubborn permanent marker stain on your new and expensive wooden furniture item, all is not lost, it can be removed with a bit of elbow grease and a lot of patience.

Before you begin, you will have to prepare yourself to potentially go through a number of clean lint-free cloths, and many different methods before you reach the one that gets rid of the stain for good. 

If the stain is too large, for example the toddler has created a work of art on the hardwood floor, then it might be worth calling in the professionals to do the job for you. With that said, it is still worth a try!

Diarmuid Brock

I'm a carpenter by day and an amateur woodworker by night. I don't believe in limitations, and I love to help others. I'm here to answer your questions and make your life simpler. I craft and create with all-natural, reclaimed, and repurposed materials.

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