How to Remove Permanent Marker from Unfinished Wood?

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

How to Remove Permanent Marker From Unfinished Wood

Whether you accidentally spoiled your unfinished wood furniture with a permanent marker or found some unsightly stains on it, figuring out how to remove permanent marker from unfinished wood can seem like a daunting task.

However, with the proper methods and precautions, it is possible to effectively eliminate these stubborn marks without causing damage. In this guide, we will explore various methods for permanent marker removal from wood, providing you with step-by-step instructions and valuable tips.

Let’s get right into it!

How to Clean Marker Stains on Unsealed Wood

There are several effective methods to remove permanent marker from wood surface. Each method has its own merits, and you can choose the one that suits the materials you have on hand.

What to Prepare


  • Clean, lint-free cloth
  • Water
  • Cleaning agent(s)
  • Sandpaper
  • Baking soda or toothpaste
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hairspray
  • Eraser and nail polish remover
  • Vegetable oil or cooking oil
  • WD-40
  • Magic eraser

Method 1: Sandpaper


  1. Use 80-grit sandpaper to rub the stains on the wood furniture.
  2. Make broad strokes and avoid exerting too much force so that you don’t leave scratches.
  3. Once the stain is mostly gone, rub the wood again with 100-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.

This is among the most effective ways to get permanent marker off wood paneling and raw wood furniture, as sandpaper can penetrate the grains to lift out imperfections.

Method 2: Baking Soda or Toothpaste


Baking soda and toothpaste have gentle abrasive properties that can help remove Sharpie without harming the wood surface.

  1. Create a paste by mixing baking soda or non-gel toothpaste and a small amount of water.
  2. Apply the paste directly to the stain, then rub it gently using circular motions.
  3. Continue rubbing until the stain is lifted.
  4. Rinse the wood with water, then pat dry.

Method 3: Hand Sanitizer


Hand sanitizer contains alcohol, which can help dissolve the permanent marker ink and make it easier to remove. Make sure your chosen product has no glycerin, as it can change the color of the wood.

  1. Moisten a cloth with a bit of hand sanitizer.
  2. Use the cloth to rub the marked area.
  3. Rub in circular motions until the ink starts to fade.
  4. Rinse the wood thoroughly with water.
  5. Gently dry the treated surface by patting it with a clean cloth to finish.

Method 4: Hairspray


Hairspray often contains alcohol, which, like hand sanitizer, can help break down the marker ink and facilitate its removal.

  1. Spray a small amount onto the stain then wait a while for the solution to work.
  2. Scrub the stained surface carefully using a cloth or sponge.
  3. Wipe the spot clean and pat it dry.

Method 5: Eraser or Nail Polish Remover


  1. Use a soft eraser, such as a pencil eraser or a white vinyl eraser to lightly rub the stain.
  2. Apply moderate pressure and continue until the ink is lifted.
  3. Go over the surface again with a fresh cloth to ensure there is no persistent residue.

Erasing the stain can be an effective method, especially for lighter ink. If an eraser does not do the trick, you can try using a nail polish remover, but be sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first.

Method 6: Vegetable Oil or Cooking Oil


Vegetable oil or cooking oil are not only handy in the kitchen! They can help break down the marker ink and make it easier to erase from the wood surface.

  1. Apply a bit of vegetable oil or cooking oil to the stain.
  2. Let the oil sit on the stain for several minutes.
  3. Grab a cloth and gently scrub the stained spot.
  4. Keep scrubbing until the stain starts to fade.
  5. Clean any excess oil using another cloth.

Method 7: WD-40


  • Spritz WD-40 directly onto the area stained by the permanent marker.
  • Allow the WD-40 to sit for a minute or two, giving it time to seep into the ink.
  • Carefully and gently massage the marked area using a clean cloth or sponge.
  • Continue the step above until the permanent marker stain disappears.

WD-40 can be effective in breaking down the permanent marker ink. However, be sure to clean the wood properly afterward to ensure no residue remains.

Method 8: Magic Eraser

  • Dampen a magic eraser by moistening it with water.
  • Softly scrub the marked area on the wood surface with the magic eraser.
  • Use circular motions and apply moderate pressure while rubbing.
  • When the stain is gone, rinse the wood, then pat it dry.

Clean Unfinished Wood Surface: Precautions to Avoid Damaging The Natural Wood

It’s important to take precautions to protect the natural integrity of the wood. Here are key steps to follow:

  • Test on a small area: Before applying any cleaning method to the marked area, always test it on a small, inconspicuous part of the unfinished wood. Overall, some precaution is necessary if you cannot go without alcohol when removing stains.
  • Use gentle pressure: Avoid vigorous scrubbing or harsh abrasives that can scratch or dent the wood. A soft cloth or sponge is usually sufficient for effective cleaning without causing damage.
  • Be mindful of water usage: Excess moisture can seep into the wood grain and lead to warping or water damage. Instead, use a damp cloth or sponge to gently wipe away any residue, and ensure that the wood is thoroughly dried afterward.

Getting Permanent Markers Out of Other Surfaces:

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I erase permanent marker from wood table?

Follow the methods outlined in this article, selecting the item that’s available to you. Remember to always test the method on a small, inconspicuous area first.

Will these methods work on wood paneling?

Yes, the methods mentioned in this article are suitable for removing permanent marker from wood paneling as well.


Removing marker stains from untreated wood may appear daunting, but with the appropriate methods and precautions, it can be accomplished successfully.

By choosing among baking soda, hairspray, hand sanitizer, erasers, vegetable oil, WD-40, or magic erasers, you can effectively remove the imperfections.

Remember to exercise caution and patience throughout the process. Following the instructions provided in this guide on how to remove permanent marker from unfinished wood, you can restore the beauty of your wood surfaces and enjoy a clean and flawless surface once again!

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