How to Remove Sharpie from Wood Safely

How to Remove Sharpie from Wood Safely

If you have kids around, then there’s every chance you will have a Sharpie problem. Kids love to play with these markers and sometimes leave marks on wood and other items in the home. Since they are “permanent” markers, they tend to be much more difficult to clean than the regular markers.

These markers, if left on wooden surfaces for a long time, may ruin wood furniture.

To help homeowners remove Sharpie marks from wood and other surfaces at home, tons of alternatives have been created to help efficiently remove these marks. In this piece, we’ll take a look at how to remove Sharpie from wood safely.

How to Remove Sharpie from Wood

Permanent markers have been designed with certain chemicals that are capable of damaging wood if left unattended for a long period of time.

Fortunately for you, we have designed a step-by-step guide on how you can conveniently remove Sharpie from wood. However, it is important that you remember that each method to be used will depend on the finishing of your wooden furniture or surface. Some of the ways include:



Overtime, toothpaste has been identified as one of the easiest methods to remove Sharpie and other permanent markers from painted wood or other wooden surfaces.

The trick to efficiently using toothpaste to remove Sharpie marks lies basically on the type of toothpaste used. Ideally, it is advised that you make use of plain white toothpaste or baking soda based toothpaste. Why?

These traditional tubes of toothpaste do not contain additional abrasives and do not damage the wood in the process. Unlike gel and whitening tubes of toothpaste that contain extra abrasives capable of damaging the quality of wood, these traditional tubes of toothpaste are not in any way harmful to the wood, or yourself.

Although most people may decide to rub alcohol as an alternative to traditional toothpaste, the latter has proven to be way safer than the former (alcohol can damage finishes). Here’s how you can apply toothpaste to the wood:

  • Step 1 — You have to turn the wood up so that the Sharpie mark is facing you directly. You need to ensure that the marker stain is flat and easily accessible. This is advised to prevent the paste from running down the surface when you’re applying it on the marked spot.
  • Step 2 — Squeeze a sufficient amount of paste onto the surface. Ensure that the paste covers the full part of the marked spot. If you feel it’s not enough, you can apply more as you go.
  • Step 3 — Get a clean cloth and place it under running water. Ensure the cloth is soaked in water, then squeeze out the excess water before placing it on the wooden surface. Once that is done, use the dampened cloth to clean the toothpaste off the wood for at least five minutes. Continue doing this until the paste is completely cleaned away.
  • Step 4 — While cleaning off the paste in a circular motion, you need to apply pressure, but it shouldn’t be too much as this can damage the wooden surface. You can decide to add more paste depending on how fast it is to completely clean the paste.
  • Step 5 — When wiping, try not to go against the grain. If there are remaining stains after cleaning up, you can try to add baking soda. Repeat the process again until every Sharpie mark is completely removed.

If you’re having a hard time getting the Sharpie mark off the wood even after repeating the process, then you try using peanut butter or alcohol. Endeavor to wipe away any peanut butter or alcohol completely with the help of a damp cloth, then promptly dry any remaining moisture.

Nail Polish Remover

Unknown to most people, nail polish works as well as alcohol, or even better, when it comes to removing Sharpie and permanent marker stains from wood. Although efficient, aggressive scrubbing is easily capable of ruining wood finishing. Here’s how this method works:

  • Step 1 — Pour a little bit of nail polish onto the wood stain. Ideally, it is advised that you settle for acetone-based nail polish remover as these have proven to be the best nail polish removers capable of removing permanent marker stains.
  • Step 2 — With the help of a paper towel, gently scrub the stain until it begins to gradually vanish off the wood. If after cleaning, there are still tiny permanent marker stains, you may have to repeat the process again until the painted spot vanishes completely.

This has been identified as the easiest Sharpie removal method. To keep your fingers safe, you may decide to put on gloves to get the job done.

Isopropyl Alcohol

As mentioned earlier, alcohol happens to be another innovative and efficient method of getting Sharpie stains off the wood. While the process is quite similar to that of toothpaste, there are certain differences. Here’s how you can use alcohol to smear off permanent marker from wood.

  • Step 1 — Pour a sufficient amount of alcohol onto a soft and clean washcloth.
  • Step 2 — Once that is done, apply the washcloth directly to the Sharpie stain then continue to rub the cloth over the wood. Ensure that this is done carefully to prevent any more damage to the wood.
  • Step 3 — As the marker stains begin to disappear, dampen the washcloth in water, squeeze out the excess water, wipe the alcohol away and dry off the wood. If tiny marker stains are still visible, repeat this process again until they are completely gone.

Isopropyl alcohol has been identified as the best alcohol type or form to be used to completely get Sharpie stains off the wood. Also, it is advised that you try this on wood pieces where marker stains are not very visible first.

Baby Wipes or Alcohol Wipes

This is an ideal Sharpie or marker removal method, especially for smooth, yet unfinished wood. If you own unfinished wood that has been marked with various permanent or non-permanent markers, there’s still hope for you. Here’s how you can go about this.

  • First, you need to get a baby wipe from any of the stores close to you. Rub the wipe on the stained area. Like always, rub with the grain and not against it. Baby wipes that contain alcohol are the best and most marker stains will be removed immediately.
  • For more stubborn stains: With the help of coarse sandpaper, sand the area that has been stained with the marker. Although leaving some abrasive pattern on the wood, coarse sandpaper will definitely remove all marker stains completely from your unfinished wood. As mentioned earlier, endeavor to sand with the grain and not against it.
  • To smooth out the area and remove all marker particles that may be found on the wood, you are advised to use the 100 grit sandpaper. This will not only smoothen the area but will ensure that it blends with the rest of the wood surface.

Dry Board Cleaner

A less common approach, the solvent found in dry board erasers in small doses is quite helpful in the removal of permanent marker stains from polished wooden surfaces. To use this, you simply need to apply a sufficient amount of it on the marked portion of your wooden surface. With the help of a clean and soft tablecloth, wipe continually until marker stains begin to disappear.

To prevent any damage to your polished wooden surface, the tablecloth or washcloth you make use of should be soft and smooth. When wiping the marked portion, do it carefully and continuously for about five minutes.

If there are still stains left on the surface, repeat this process again until every little marker stain disappears completely. Although ideal for finished or polished wooden surfaces, the dry board cleaner may work for some unfinished wood surfaces.

Melamine foam, otherwise referred to as “magic eraser,” has also proven to be an ideal Sharpie remover, especially on finished wooden surfaces.

While using this method, it is advised that you do not scrub harshly as this may damage wood finishing. Continuously wipe the surface until every marker stain vanishes.

How to Get Started

Removing Sharpie from wood can be tricky and even dangerous. Wood that was painted years or decades ago tends to contain certain harmful or toxic chemicals capable of damaging vital body parts. Lead has been identified to be one of these harmful chemicals.

According to various studies, exposure to lead is capable of resulting in amnesia, brain and kidney damage, and even genetic damage. In addition to this, high exposure to this harmful chemical can lead to death.

Since some of the wood you will be removing Sharpie marks from could have lead in them you need to keep yourself safe by limiting your exposure to lead. It is best that you test the wood for lead before getting started.

Currently, there are a ton of laboratories and agencies that conduct lead tests on wood for as low as $30. After a test is conducted, if it comes out positive, then you may need to hire a professional to get the job done safely.

Regardless of the test result, it is advised that you wear the right set of equipment or gear for the job.

After testing for lead, the next thing will need to do is to get the right materials to get the job done. As mentioned, there are a couple of methods that can be explored to ensure the successful removal of Sharpie marks from your wood furniture or flooring. To remove these stains, you need to get the best materials.

What to Avoid When Removing Sharpie from Wood

Using any of these Sharpie removal methods without applying the necessary precautions will not only damage your wood but may cause you physical pain or harm. To prevent this, there are a couple of things you should avoid if you really want to remove Sharpie from wood safely.

First, do not use any of those sticky or scrubby sponges, they can ruin wood finishing. As mentioned earlier, stick to a very soft and clean washcloth.

Secondly, endeavor not to apply the solution (be it alcohol, toothpaste, dry board eraser, baby wipe, etc) on the overall wooden surface. Only apply it to the affected portion of the wood.

Thirdly, do not use any sandpaper type on finished wood. They are only ideal for unfinished wood.

Lastly, always be sure to carry out a lead test, especially if the wood in question is painted and has been in use for years.

Depending on your DIY knowledge, you may decide to outsource this task to an experienced professional who’s capable of getting it done in a healthy and safe manner.


Removing Sharpie or permanent marker stains from unfinished or finished wooden surfaces can be quite tricky for most people but in this piece, we have shared some of the best ways to go about it. In addition, we have also shared some of the things to avoid if you’re to keep your wood free from damage.

While these methods have been tested and proven to be effective, they are not entirely suitable for all wooden surfaces. For example, the sandpaper method is only ideal for unfinished wood because it can damage the polished wooden surface. Endeavor to use only the suitable method for the wood or surface you have.