Whiteboard Cleaning
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People have all sorts of different tricks that they use to clean a whiteboard. Some things work well for whiteboard markers. Other methods are better for marks by markers that are not dry erase. I decided to finally put all of the rumors and tips to the test. I sacrificed my large commercial whiteboard and coated it with the following materials:

  • Dry erase marker (three different brands, various colors)
  • Wet erase marker (one brand)
  • Permanent marker (four different brands, various colors)
  • Crayon (one brand, several colors)
  • Pencil (standard #2 and colored pencils)
  • Ink (stamping pad refill ink)
  • UV permanent marker (one brand)

To make the test really difficult, I let the whiteboard sit for over a month with the test marks on it. I have to say that the dry erase and wet erase marker were usually wiped away without any problem. The permanent markers and UV marker didn't come off in most tests, and the stamping pad ink seeped into the board and would not come entirely off with anything short of a belt sander. However, if you decide to not let the ink sit as long as I did, then you will likely not have the permanent discoloration when you use the cleaners suggested below.

Our testing procedure for each cleaner was the same. Apply the cleaner, wait two minutes, wipe 20 times with a clean cotton cloth. For cleaners that did not follow the rules, we did our best. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, dry cloth, and wet cloth were not left on the surface for two minutes before use. The clear tape was left on for two minutes before being pulled off. The markers (dry, wet) were applied, two minutes elapsed, then a dry or wet cloth was used to wipe 20 times.

We used a limited number of wipes because we didn't want to sit and scrub with each cleaner. One could scratch the finish off if an abrasive cleaner was used, and it would be all nice and white. However, the next time you try to write on it, you wouldn't be able to erase it. The goal is to find the best cleaner that makes you wipe as little as possible that is completely safe for your board surface. We also mark down scores if the product left a film since we really only want to clean the board once and we don't want to clean off our cleaner after cleaning it.

Overall Score is how well the cleaner performed on all of the marks that were on the board. Whiteboard Score rates how well just the whiteboard markers were removed. This way you can pick the best cleaner for your particular application.

Whiteboard Cleaner Results – Click a Heading to Sort
Cleaner Brand Overall
Score
Whiteboard
Score
Notes
Acetone Klean-Strip 4 - Good 5 - Awesome Smeared the ink, fumes
Alcohol, Isopropyl Generic 4 - Good 5 - Awesome Easy to get, good results, fumes
Baby Oil Johnson & Johnson 1 - Horrible 1 - Horrible Worse than water, oily residue
Cleaner Lift Off 2 2 - Poor 3 - Fair Removed some marks
Cleaner Lysol Kitchen Cleaner 2 - Poor 3 - Fair Removed some marks
Cleaner Oil Eater 4 - Good 4 - Good Removed most marks
Cloth, Dry Generic 1 - Horrible 3 - Fair Took away only the dry erase
Cloth, Wet (Water) Generic 1 - Horrible 3 - Fair Removed wet and dry erase
Dish Soap Dawn 1 - Horrible 3 - Fair Removed wet and dry erase
Eraser Pad Mr. Clean 1 - Horrible 3 - Fair Same as soapy water
Hair Spray Suave Naturals 3 - Fair 2 - Poor Cleaned well, left residue
Lacquer Thinner Kleen-Strip 3 - Fair 2 - Poor Cleaned well, left residue
Water Displacer WD-40 2 - Poor 2 - Poor Cleaned well, left residue
Marker, Dry Erase Expo 2 2 - Poor 3 - Fair Removed some marks, not worth the hassle
Marker, Wet Erase Vis-A-Vis 1 - Horrible 1 - Horrible Did not add any cleaning power
MB10W Whiteboard Cleaner Solutions MB 5 - Awesome 5 - Awesome The best cleaner tested
Mineral Spirits Klean-Strip 3 - Fair 4 - Good Cleaned well
Mixture Vinegar & Fantastik 2 - Poor 3 - Fair Worse than Fantastik
Mixture Vinegar & Orange Glow 2 - Poor 3 - Fair Worse than Orange Glow
Nail Polish Remover Generic 4 - Good 5 - Awesome Smeared ink, fumes
Orange Cleaner Fantastik 3 - Fair 4 - Good Removed most marks, smeared ink
Orange Cleaner Goo Gone 2 - Poor 4 - Good Did not perform well
Orange Cleaner Orange Glow 2 - Poor 4 - Good Slightly better than soapy water
Paint Stripper Klean-Strip 1 - Horrible 1 - Horrible Removed board surface, fumes
Stain Remover Greased Lightning 4 - Good 5 - Awesome Removed most marks
Stain Remover Tech 3 - Fair 4 - Good Did not remove permanent markers
Tape, Clear 3M - Scotch 1 - Horrible 2 - Poor Only removed dry erase
Vinegar Heinz 1 - Horrible 3 - Fair The same as water
Whiteboard Cleaner Expo 2 - Poor 4 - Good Lightened most marks, removed few

Acetone :: Klean-Strip

Overall Score: 4 - Good – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 5 - Awesome

This is in the hardware section of your favorite store. When I purchsed it from Wal-Mart, I was not only carded, but I also apparently had a buying limit. That minor hassle aside, this was one of the better cleaners out there. It didn't really do much to the ink, but the rest of the marks came off with only a little work.

If you intend to use this as a cleaner indoors, make sure that you do your cleaning away from flame and turn on the fans! The major drawback of this cleaner is that you get a nasty chemical smell. Acetone is also the primary ingredient in nail polish remover.

Alcohol, Isopropyl :: Generic

Overall Score: 4 - Good – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 5 - Awesome

Rubbing alcohol is cheaper and produces a bit less fumes than acetone, but its cleaning power is nearly the same. It worked marvelously on the whiteboard marker and even removed the dull sheen that a whiteboard may accumulate. I have heard that some brands of marker don't clean as easily with alcohol and leaving marker on the board for a very long time can make it harder to erase, but the Expo brand of markers apparently use something very similar as a solvent in their markers because it works very well for me.

Baby Oil :: Johnson & Johnson

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 1 - Horrible

I got this suggestion from a reader to my web site. This was about the worst thing in the world that you can do to your whiteboard. It removed about as much as water, but it also left an oily film that needed to be cleaned before the board could be used.

I do want to note that I did not want to actually try something like this because I saw no merit in the cleaner. However, I wanted to be very thorough, and that's the only reason it is included in the test.

Cleaner :: Lift Off 2

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

This cleaner removed crayon and a couple of the marker streaks, but I feel that it is very ineffective. It is no better than soapy water when it comes to whiteboard marker marks and several other cleaners outperform it when compared on how well it cleaned the other types of marks.

Cleaner :: Lysol Kitchen Cleaner

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

Though it is not designed for whiteboards nor for the types of marks we were trying, this cleaner still performed adequately. I was disappointed that the whiteboard didn't glisten when we were done cleaning it, and it left a thin film of cleaner on the surface.

Cleaner :: Oil Eater

Overall Score: 4 - Good – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 4 - Good

My mother swears by this cleaner ... well, at least at the time we did the test. She likes to try new cleaners and only the most powerful and effective ones stay.

Of course, her "champion" of cleaners did quite well. It did not seem to really take away all of the whiteboard markers, but it made up for that with the permanent marker, ink, and other things.

Cloth, Dry :: Generic

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

Worked as well as expected. Mostly wiped away the markers that were designed to be wiped away.

Cloth, Wet (Water) :: Generic

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

One should not hope that just water will remove ink, crayon, and the other things with which I coated my board. Worked as well as we thought it would.

Sorry about the lack of a picture. Just look at the one for vinegar instead; they have the exact same cleaning power.

Dish Soap :: Dawn

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

It worked about the same as plain water. Well, just a tiny bit better, but the difference was minimal.

Eraser Pad :: Mr. Clean

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

It was advertised to remove crayon, marker, and a slew of other things. We had to throw it away because it smeared the ink and it got into the sponge. Don't waste your money on this product.

Hair Spray :: Suave Naturals

Overall Score: 3 - Fair – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 2 - Poor

This did pull up some of the permanent marks, but also was very ineffective on other marks. The sticky residue brought the score down for whiteboard markers, plus you can find many better ways to remove the marks. I would not suggest this one.

Lacquer Thinner :: Kleen-Strip

Overall Score: 3 - Fair – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 2 - Poor

Most of the marks were removed or lightened, but the ink was smeared around and there was this residue; a glossy substance that didn't let the whiteboard markers work again.

Water Displacer :: WD-40

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 2 - Poor

I thought that this would be down there with Baby Oil and it basically ended up there. It did remove some more of the marks, but it didn't remove the ink nor really work well on the permanent marker. This is made as a lubricant, though not that good of one. It is not a cleaning product but many have found "alternate" uses for this substance.

I did get a comment that said WD-40 successfully removed a residue that built up on his whiteboard. Spraying it on and wiping it off with a towel produced a clean board. So, if your board has a dull sheen, maybe this will work for you too.

Marker, Dry Erase :: Expo 2

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

The marker did almost nothing to the marks that were on the board, and I would suggest you try any cleaner instead of a marker. It did pick up most of the dry erase marker that was difficult to remove, but it also is not something that I would use to clean an entire board. If you need to get rid of small whiteboard marks from a whiteboard surface, this may be a good option for you.

Marker, Wet Erase :: Vis-A-Vis

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 1 - Horrible

I ruined a marker in order to show everyone that it worked just as well as a wet cloth. You don't need to replicate this particular cleaning experiment.

MB10W Whiteboard Cleaner :: Solutions MB

Overall Score: 5 - Awesome – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 5 - Awesome

I am unable to say enough good things about this product. The older version caused a lot of irritation if you breathed it in, but now it is completely transformed. If you need a serious whiteboard cleaner, you need to go check this out.

Solutions MB contacted me and let me know about a whiteboard paint that they produce, and they told me about this cleaner. After sending me a sample, I thought it would fail because it smelled only like soapy water. When it came time to do the test, we waited a bit before testing this product. I sprayed the whiteboard, waited the full amount of time, and I didn't see much change in the marks. I was still skeptical before I started wiping, but after the very first wipe, a good portion of the square was already clean. Three or four more wipes, and I was done.

My testing partner let out a "Wow" and I wanted to test it again. A couple spritz over on another section of the board, wait five seconds, then wiped. Again, almost everything came off immediately.

If you are going to buy a product to clean your board, I strongly suggest this one! After the test, we cleaned the whole 4' x 8' board with just a few tablespoons of the cleaner and it removed the baby oil, Lysol Kitchen Cleaner film, and other residues that remained from the other cleaners we were testing.

Since the testing, they have worked furiously to improve the product. It now doesn't have any downsides! The new version of the cleaner no longer causes any inhalation irritation and it seems to work exactly the same as the old formula. This cleaner is able to make the whiteboards at work sparkle. My testing whiteboards had some marks I believed were actually staining the board and would be impossible to remove. I simply sprayed this stuff on, grabbed a paper towel and wiped gently. Presto, those spots were gone too. Simply remarkable and worth using.

Mineral Spirits :: Klean-Strip

Overall Score: 3 - Fair – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 4 - Good

The permanent marker was lightened, the ink was removed instead of being smeared, and a few of the marks came up. Although this was not the best option for cleaning off the non-whiteboard tests, it did do a pretty good job with whiteboard markers.

Mixture :: Vinegar & Fantastik

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

This acted just like a slightly stronger vinegar. The amount removed was minimal.

Mixture :: Vinegar & Orange Glow

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

After scrubbing on the marks, they were barely lightened. I am not even sure that the wet-erase marks were removed properly.

Nail Polish Remover :: Generic

Overall Score: 4 - Good – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 5 - Awesome

When I say "acetone," people think it is a nasty chemical. When I say "nail polish remover," people get a different impression and they think it isn't as harsh. Well, nail polish remover is basically acetone, and the two performed similarly. Nail polish remover is a bit easier to find, and they both removed most of the marks and slightly smeared the ink. They also both evaporated away, leaving a clean whiteboard surface. It did completely remove the dull sheen that whiteboard markers can leave on the surface.

Orange Cleaner :: Fantastik

Overall Score: 3 - Fair – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 4 - Good

This orange cleaner did do its best when it came to cleaning, but my test was more stubborn and the marks persisted. You can see the streaks left by the globs of ink that was on the board. Out of the three orange cleaners I tested, this one performed the best.

Orange Cleaner :: Goo Gone

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 4 - Good

When I added this to my list of cleaners, I initially had very high hopes for it. I have had some amazing results with Goo Gone, but today it failed me. It did smear the ink the least of the three orange cleaners, but that was the end of it's powers.

Orange Cleaner :: Orange Glow

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 4 - Good

I am not sure if rubbing an orange on the table would have been better, but it certainly would not have been worse. As far as cleaners go, this one was pleasant to work with and very average in results.

Paint Stripper :: Klean-Strip

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 1 - Horrible

If you are looking at the picture and you see a white board, you might ask yourself why I ranked this cleaner so poorly. If you are ranking this product solely on the ability to remove ink, marker, and the rest of the substances, then this one is one of the best. The ink smeared a little, but it is probable that further applications would make the rest of the ink come right off the board.

What you do not see is that this damaged the board. If left on, even for a minute, the board surface started to bubble up and could have been wiped away with the cloth I was using. I'm sure that it dissolved some of the board in my brief test and that makes me wonder how many times I could "clean" the board with paint stripper before the board could no longer be cleaned. As if that is not enough, this stuff is not nice to your hands. Avoid use if at all possible. Be very careful if you have no other option besides paint stripper.

Stain Remover :: Greased Lightning

Overall Score: 4 - Good – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 5 - Awesome

Nearly everything was removed by this stain remover. My mom uses it to get stains (oil, pizza, tar, etc.) off of clothing. It looks like you can use it nicely on the board as well. It did not have instant results like the paint stripper or MB10W, but we didn't need to work too hard to make most of the marks come off the board.

Stain Remover :: Tech

Overall Score: 3 - Fair – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 4 - Good

This worked for whiteboard marker and dry erase marker, but merely lightened the rest of the stuff. It did work better than soapy water, and it may do what you need if this cleaner is available in your house.

Tape, Clear :: 3M - Scotch

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 2 - Poor

It was suggested that clear tape could remove stubborn marks. That may be true, but it only works for dry erase marker, and the stubborn ones may not be removed unless you keep the tape on the board for a week or more. Plus, pulling off the tape could damage the board.

Vinegar :: Heinz

Overall Score: 1 - Horrible – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 3 - Fair

As you can see, it only lightened the marks and really didn't remove anything except the dry and wet erase marker. Unless you really like the smell of vinegar, use soapy water instead.

Whiteboard Cleaner :: Expo

Overall Score: 2 - Poor – Whiteboard Marker Only Score: 4 - Good

I was hoping for more. Here is a cleaner that is designed for whiteboards by a company that made some of the markers that I was using. While it did actually work better than water, it did not remove the dull sheen, nor did it remove all of the stubborn whiteboard marks. It really didn't touch the rest of the marks I had on the board. Use it if you have it, but I threw mine away after this test.

The phrase, "put up your dukes," originated with the Duke of Wellington. His nose was so big that people started to substitute his title for the word. This led to a man's fist being called a "duke buster." Tyler Akins <>
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