How to Remove Permanent Marker from Wood

Permanent markers. The bane of every mother’s existence. Rarely do we need a marker to be permanent, but we all have them on hand for those times that we do. Somehow our kids sniff them out just like the secret mommy chocolate stash in the pantry! Now mind you, my boys have a craft table in our kitchen complete with jars neatly organized with crayons, colored pencils, and washable markers. They have a craft kitchen cabinet filled with craft supplies just for them that they are allowed to use without needing permission. They know they are allowed to work on their projects at the bar, their little Ikea craft table, or the kitchen table. I keep my sharpies in the back of an off-limits junk drawer in the kitchen. My guys are very good boys and mostly obedient and yet somehow we still ended up with permanent marker all over the kitchen table. Gah!

Fortunately, permanent marker can be removed from wood fairly easily with the following tips. Pin this tip for later in case you ever need it! You will be so glad that you did.

how to remove permanent marker from wood

Supplies needed to remove permanent marker from wood:

1. Regular toothpaste. Not the gel kind. Just find some plain, basic, toothpaste.

2. Soft damp rag.

Liberally apply the toothpaste to the area that needs treatment and rub with damp rag.

how to remove marker

Make sure you have enough toothpaste on your wood so that your cloth moves freely across your wood without a lot of friction. You don’t want to damage the finish on your furniture. This may take awhile to accomplish. I think I rubbed the toothpaste for a continuous five minutes before it all came off.

toothpaste on wood

Rinse your rag and wipe off all of the excess toothpaste. Repeat the process if there are still areas of permanent marker needing removal. You can use a Magic Eraser lightly to remove tough areas but be warned that the Magic Eraser will take the finish off of your table. Try and remove as much as possible with the toothpaste. For this table, I did not need to use a Magic Eraser.

Here is our kitchen table now:

breakfast nook

And here is the before and after once again!

how to remove permanent marker from wood

Pretty impressive! Now I need to go fill in that scratch and some of those dings on the table with a Minwax paint pen :).

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  1. says

    How do people figure these things out? Haha – major props to whoever thought to rub toothpaste on their tables to get off permanent marker. That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Beth says

      I think desperation! You’re willing to try anything that makes somewhat sense to get it out :). And now my table smells minty fresh.

  2. Lauri says

    Toothpaste works great for getting magic marker, crayon, pen, etc off almost any surface with the exception of human skin and marker that has sat hidden on a wall under a desk for several months – (and doesn’t remove the sheen on paint like magic erasers do – what can I say, my daughter is an ARTIST – lol), but I would be VERY careful using it on wood. If the wood has a good thick varnish on it, then it would probably be ok, but I’ve used it on wood where the finish had thinned (an old kitchen table) and the toothpaste got into the grain of the wood and damaged it – not bad, but enough that if it were on an heirloom piece, I would have been upset. Just a tip from one who has used toothpaste to clean nearly every surface in her house.. =)

    • Beth says

      Thanks for that Lauri! Do you have a tip for those who have marker on their heirloom furniture? What else might work?

      • rhiannon says

        Goo Gone or similar oily product designed to remove sticky stuff is amazing for getting marker off wood. Magic erasers are way too abrasive, though they are amazing on painted surfaces.

  3. Lauri says

    I’ve luckily never had to experiment with heirloom pieces, but I’ve used rubbing alcohol (or hand sanitizer), goo gone, and hair spray all with limited success. Toothpaste is definitely my go-to artwork remover. Everyone RAVES about those magic erasers…I tried one on my wall that was just pained 6 months ago (in satin finish) – and it not only removed the marker, but all of the sheen! I now get to re-paint that wall – not happy with the erasers. On a side note – beware of toothpaste fumes when removing large pieces of artwork in enclosed spaces….apparently it IS possible to get high off that stuff! =) Great post by the way – I’m sure many people will thank you for this at some point down the road!

    • Beth says

      Hi Jen, Since I don’t have butcher block I can’t speak from personal experience, but I’ve heard that you can take table salt and pour it on the stain and then use a half of a lemon to vigorously scrub the stain. Leave overnight and wipe up in the morning. Once you get the stain out be sure to “seal” your wood with several coats of mineral oil.

  4. Leah says

    Thank you for this!!! I got permanent marker on my desk at work and found your blog on how to remove it. Tried it immediately (I used Crest Pro Health For Me) and it came out in less than 60 seconds!!! And my desk smells minty breezy :-)

  5. says

    This really and truly worked for me on a Oak Varnished chair, that my 5 year old for some odd reason to draw a huge happy face on in Blueberry Smelling Permanant marker. So unlike her, I was shocked!! Thank goodness for your tip, it is clean & minty fresh! LOL

  6. Lori says

    Works! Grandsons artistic side took a accidental wrong turn. Both the drawings and coffee table look great. Aw life with internet solutions…. Gramps won’t even know it was there. Thanks from grateful grandmother.

  7. Porchia says

    Thank you so much for this tip. I thought I was about to get killed after my three year old daughter drew on grandmothers table with a permanent marker . It was a huge drawing. If it wasn’t for this post I don’t know what would of happen thanks sooooo much again

  8. Dennis Dunaway says

    IT WORKED!!!
    My wife had spent a month refinishing our hanging double sided cabinet which is 28″ wide x 30″ high x 7′ long. All Oak. It hangs above the similar Breakfast Bar. I was taking ceiling measurement for some work and to my horror I had bumped my magic marker against the wood in a couple of places. OK A couple more than a couple. I just found this site and since I was poly finishing a couple of outlet plates grabbed my tube of Crest Anti cavity tooth paste (regular paste not gel ) said a quick I hope this works and started rubbing. I personally rubbed WITH the wood grain as it was imbedded between the wood grains. IT WORKED. It did not take away the Poly sheen either. We use Poly clear Coat NO stain as we Love the NATURAL wood colors. THIS WORKS


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