How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains from Wood: 10 Best Methods

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If you’re both a homeowner and a parent, you are definitely no stranger to mistakes and accidents. When you have kids playing around, you’re bound to find your precious wooden furniture covered in several marks of permanent marker. 

Fortunately, this mishap is not without remedy. In this guide, I’ll show you how to remove permanent marker stains from wood surfaces using different methods.

Method #1: Toothpaste

A common way to remove permanent marker stains is by using toothpaste. This stain remover is quite popular since it has been proven effective by many parents. However, make sure to use regular toothpaste, one that has no whitening paste or crystals in it.  

toothpaste and permanent markers on wooden surface

Follow these steps to use toothpaste as a cleaning solution:

Step #1: Apply the Toothpaste

Apply a generous amount of toothpaste to the surface, covering the stain completely.

You can apply more products later if it is not enough. Allow the toothpaste to sit for approximately 15 minutes. 

Step #2: Get a Wet Washcloth

Get a clean washcloth and hold it under running water. Once the washcloth is wet, wring it out to remove any excess water. 

Step #3: Rub the Toothpaste

In gentle circular motions, rub the product into the permanent marker stain. Continue this circular motion for approximately 3 to 5 minutes or until the ink stain has been removed. Do not apply too much pressure. 

removing permanent marker with toothpaste

Step #4: Get Your Clean Cloth and Wash Off the Toothpaste

Using your damp cloth, wipe away any excess toothpaste on the wood’s surface. When wiping the excess, make sure to wipe along the direction of the wood grain. 

Step #5: Let it Dry or Repeat if Needed

After letting the wood dry, take a moment to inspect the surface. If any marks remain, I’d recommend repeating the process until they’re gone.

Method #2: Nail Polish Remover

You can also opt to use a nail polish remover or acetone [1] to remove permanent marker stains. Apply the product on a cloth until it is damp. Rub the cloth on the affected area. When using acetone, make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. 

nail polish remover

Method #3: Rubbing Alcohol

Using rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol is another method that is a popular and highly recommended product for removing permanent marker stains from wood. However, it is worth noting that alcohol can also remove varnish and wood stains from the surface. 

Pour a substantial amount of alcohol on a piece of clean and dry cloth. Proceed to rub the product on the surface with the stain. With a little elbow grease and some rubbing alcohol, the stain marks will be removed in no time. 

alcohol to remove permanent marker stain

Rubbing alcohol is one of the most effective products to use when removing stains on wood surfaces. If you do not have to rub alcohol on hand, similar products, such as a nail polish remover, will suffice. 

Method #4: Hand Sanitizer Gel

Hand sanitizer gels are formulated to contain alcohol. Thus, using this item can also be another effective way to remove marks from wooden surfaces. Apply a substantial amount of sanitizer gel on the area and gently rub it with a cloth. 

hand sanitizer and markers

Method #5: Melamine Foam (Magic Eraser)

Another method you can try to remove markers from furniture is by using a magic eraser or a whiteboard eraser. This product is a special cleaning abrasive pad that is designed to eliminate stains from different surfaces. Make sure to dampen the pad before using it. 

magic eraser

Method #6: Hairspray

Another beauty product that can be used when removing marker stains is by using a hair spray. Apply a generous amount of aerosol hairspray to your cleaning cloth. Once you have enough product, you can rub it over the stained area. 


Hairspray is formulated with alcohol and is an effective method product for removing permanent marker. 

Method #7: Baking Soda

You can also use baking soda to solve this domestic problem. Simply make a mixture of this household item and water in a cup. Add just the right amount of water until you have a semi-sandy paste. Then proceed to rub the paste unto the stain.

baking soda

Allow the mixture to sit on the surface for approximately 2 to 5 minutes, then clean it with a damp washcloth. Repeat the process until the stain has been removed from the surface. 

Method #8: Dry Erase Board Cleaner

Using a dry-erase board cleaner is another product you can use to remove marker stains from your wood furniture. A dry erase marker board cleaner is formulated to contain a solvent than can easily remove marks from different surfaces. Dry erase markers are easy to use. 

Dry Erase Board Cleaner

Method #9: Vodka

It might sound surprising, but vodka can indeed help remove those pesky marks from your furniture. High-strength alcoholic beverages can be as effective as rubbing alcohol when it comes to lifting stains from surfaces.


Method #10: Fine-Grit Sandpaper

You can also use physical measures to remove stains by using fine-grit sandpaper. Gently sand the surface of the affected area. Removing a few layers of wood will also remove the marker stain. 


How to Get Rid of Markings on Lumber and Other Unsealed Wood

Aside from learning the basics of removing marks from a permanent marker, you also need to know how to do it on lumber and unsealed wood. When dealing with unsealed wood, it is best to use fine-grit sandpaper. 

On lumber and unsealed wood, the permanent marker ink tends to penetrate into the wood. Thus, removing several layers from the wood is one of the most effective solutions. 

How to Remove Marks on Your Painted Wood Furniture

To remove marks from your painted wood furniture, you simply need to make a paste by combining toothpaste and baking soda. You can also use vinegar or ammonia as an alternative. 

For deeper marks, you can use a fine-grit sandpaper to gently sand the surface, following the wood grain. After sanding, wipe away any dust and apply a matching paint or touch-up marker to the affected area.

Finish by applying a layer of furniture wax or polish to restore shine and protect the newly treated spot.

Different Wood Types

Here are different wood types you should know before choosing the product to apply. 

lumber neatly stacked in a home depot

Laminated Wood vs Real Wood

Laminated wood is made of layers of lumber boards that are glued together, whereas real wood is bulky and has texture variation. 

Finished vs Unfinished Wood

Finished wood has been treated with a stain or another protective layer after its primary processing. On the other hand, unfinished wood hasn’t undergone this additional step.

Tips for Removing Permanent Marks Without Damaging Your Wood


How do you get Sharpie off wood cabinets?

You can use alcohol to remove Sharpie off wood cabinets. Make sure to rub the product gently on the surface using a cloth to remove Sharpie marks and stains.

Does vinegar remove Sharpie from wood?

Yes, vinegar can remove Sharpie from wood. This solution can also get rid of Sharpie from other surfaces, not only on wood. 

Should you call professionals to remove permanent markers from your wood pieces?

It is recommended to call professionals to remove permanent markers from your wood pieces, especially if it is on unfinished wood. Calling a professional will help you salvage your furniture. 

How do I remove marks on a polyurethane-finished table?

You can remove marks on a polyurethane-finished table by using alcohol and cloth. Apply alcohol on the affected area and gently wipe the surface until the marks are gone. 

How do I get rid of marks on melamine desks?

You can eliminate marks on melamine desks by using rubbing alcohol or similar products. Make sure not to apply the product directly on the desk but rather use a cloth instead. 

How do I remove permanent pen marks on my wall?

You can remove permanent pen marks on your wall by making a paste using baking soda and water. Spread the resulting paste onto your wall and gently wipe the paste until the marks are gone. 

More removal tips and guides here


The next time you encounter permanent ink stains on your furniture, fret not. These marks can easily be removed using products you can find inside your home. However, the methods to remove permanent marker from wood are on a case-to-case basis. 

There is no best method. Some may work, and some may not. Therefore, it is best to seek professional help when all else fails.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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