Permanent Marker is... Permanent
October 19, 2004 1:17 PM   Subscribe

You know how sometimes that black sharpie and an empty desk seem like a canvas? You know how tempting it is to draw on that work desk? I do. I have bitten into my forbidden fruit and woe is me. "Porthole Multi-Purpose Glass and Surface Cleaner" got it to he point of being faded. A slow Tuesday has elevated me to the gossip of the day after my little cartoon drawings were discovered. The surface is standard office/cubicle fare. The area is perhaps 6"x8". Save me!

And no, there is nothing offensive about anything I drew. It was just school margin doodling done without thinking. Now kind of wishing I wrote something like "Fuck You" or a huge penis, as the amount of people who are now waiting for the boss to get back so they can kiss ass is alarming for something that's no that big of a deal. "Why would he draw something in permanent marker... I mean he obviously doesn't think!" I now know why offices are so boring, people, much like children, get alarmed by anything non-beige.
posted by geoff. to Work & Money (24 answers total)
Working in an organic chemistry lab, one quickly learns that "permanent" markers are in fact not at all permanent. Isopropyl (a.k.a. rubbing) alcohol will take it right off. (As with any powerful cleaner, test an inconspicuous area of the desk first to make sure the alcohol doesn't damage the desk itself.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:25 PM on October 19, 2004

SHAME on you. No, I'm kidding.

Go to a hardware store and buy some industrial-strength rust-remover. Not WD-40. You need a solvent with plenty of nastiness in it. Look for the word "penetrating" on the front. Apply with gloves, rub hard, ink gone.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2004

You're going to need a trip to the local janitorial supply store. You need a graffiti remover designed for marker, I'd suggest asking the store staff. I know that Goof Off is used broadly.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2004

Pencil can be just as fun and also opens up many new shading techniques ... a nice blotter might help you more, though, and it's perfectly safe for Sharpies!
posted by Shane at 1:32 PM on October 19, 2004

(Meaning: I know exactly what you mean.)
posted by Shane at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2004

Good old-fashioned lighter fluid will do the trick as well, though it's probably easier to find a can of Goof-Off than a can of lighter fluid these days.

Also, acetone should work.
posted by baltimore at 1:36 PM on October 19, 2004

Acetone (aka nail-polish remover)
posted by falconred at 1:37 PM on October 19, 2004

A tip for taking care of it while stuck in the office: Somewhere in your office there should be a First Aid kit containing some towelettes soaked with isopropyl alcohol. Or the janitor's closet might have something. Or the computer staff might have something intended for cleaning screens/printers/etc that would work.
posted by mmoncur at 1:42 PM on October 19, 2004

Isopropyl Alcohol is best. Not damaging and it'll come off like water.

Acetone is okay, however, other MeFi-ites have informed me it eats through plastic. I've not witnessed that myself through its usage, then again, I would never let such a powerful cleaner sit on a surface for more than a few seconds.

Isopropyl alcohol is much safer than acetone. You can use it to "disinfect" your hands, when you're bored (it's not that good, but probably beats that hand sanitizing lotion, in effectivity and price).
posted by shepd at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2004

Alcohol, the solution to all my problems! I should have known to go come to you first.

Thanks all, I got it away, or at least to the point where you have to really look hard, which is all I care about. Ask Metafilter has saved me so many times, it's like a collective non-Jewish Jesus.
posted by geoff. at 1:49 PM on October 19, 2004

"to go come to you first" geeze. Too many rubbing alcohol fumes.
posted by geoff. at 2:19 PM on October 19, 2004

Ask Metafilter has saved me so many times, it's like a collective non-Jewish Jesus.

Ask MetaFilter: Haughey, Haughey, lama sabachthani?
posted by Danelope at 2:21 PM on October 19, 2004

When my 4th grade teacher accidentally used a sharpie instead of a dry erase marker on the whiteboard, she used nail polish remover (acetone) to remove the offending text.

Pretty much any non-polar solvent'll work, though. I guess if you got really desperate, you could try Hydrofluoric Acid, which is able to etch glass. I think acetone/isopropyl and elbow grease will be more than enough.
posted by LimePi at 2:46 PM on October 19, 2004

You so don't want to use HF (hyrdofluoric acid) on that. The acetone, IPA (isopropyl alcohol), etc., are all good. On the permanent/dry erase case, we've also found that writing over the permanent with a dry erase, and then erasing that, works without solvents.
posted by whatzit at 2:59 PM on October 19, 2004

Mini-derail: If, like LimePi's former teacher, you've written in permanent marker on a dry-erase board, writing over the mark with a dry-erase marker may enable you to erase it. Tried this at work and it did the trick...
posted by letourneau at 4:08 PM on October 19, 2004

HF is very, very nasty stuff.

Local effects include tissue destruction and necrosis. Burns may involve underlying bone. Systemic fluoride ion poisoning from severe burns is associated with hypocalcemia, hyperkalemia, hypomagnesemia, and sudden death. Deaths have been reported from concentrated acid burns to as little as 2.5% BSA.

Read this if you want to be very scared of HF.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:14 PM on October 19, 2004

I use regular Expo whiteboard cleaner spray to clean my students' desks every week or so. It gets everything but the carved-into-the-wood things. Also, it doesn't smell too much even if your office ventilation is bad. There are also whiteboard cleaner wipes (in a baby wipe container thing) that you could keep around if you can't break the habit.
posted by Cecilia at 5:07 PM on October 19, 2004

I would not suggest nail polish remover. All my phones are "etched" from me trying to use them while doing my nails...
posted by JoanArkham at 6:24 PM on October 19, 2004

Big desk calendar. Clean graffiti and replace it with motivating phrases your boss will discover, i.e. "I love my job. Work is happiness. My boss rules."
posted by mecran01 at 7:36 PM on October 19, 2004

Further derail, I did a similar thing that wasn't intentenial but rather an accident. I was attending a meeting in the office of the VP of something or other when the VP wasn't in his office. Because of a combination of 1) a lack of chairs, 2) my being late and subsequently forced to sit in the VP's chair, 3) my only writing utensil being a sharpie pen, and 4) inattentiveness while jotting done some notes from the meeting, I ended up writing a little bit of sharpie on the guy's desk.

I think your story is worse, though. You're the office wierdo of the week! I was just an inattentive youngster.
posted by sleslie at 7:45 PM on October 19, 2004

Think outside the box: switch desks with someone else.
posted by SPrintF at 8:01 PM on October 19, 2004

Did anyone else notice the "lab technician" was wearing a T-shirt the entire time?

Notice the fumes were going straight outside with no filteration? "Powerlabs" my ass. More like two steps away from a chemical accident.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:43 PM on October 19, 2004

If those folks really are handling it in the exposed air, I wouldn't want to be their health insurer. Hello necrotizing lung tissure and bone cancer! I've worked with HF. HF (or fluorine itself) is normally handled in a glove box or a vacuum manifold, isolated from the atmosphere. Anything else is exceptionally foolish.

By the way, Sharpies are alcohol based (isopropanol), but just about any semi-protic polar organic will disolve the ink: methanol, IPA, acetone, MEK, DCM, trike, etc... Our biggest problem in the lab is not washing it off in fact. Isopropanol is just about the only safe thing to use on a plastic surface though. Acetone, in particular, can be very damaging to most plastics. It is however a really cool way to make "smoked" plexigalss.

HF wouldn't work especially well on ink (as compared to say, the desk itself) other than the fact that HF will eat anything organic---not dissolution so much as destruction.
posted by bonehead at 11:14 AM on October 20, 2004

Sam Barros (the sole person behind PowerLabs, ChemLabs, Electro-Labs, Bomb-Labs, Crazzzzy-Ass-Labs) is actually a pretty interesting guy, and extremely educated in the dangers of the stuff he plays with. For instance, if you read the disclaimer at the very top of the HF page, you'd know that he's well aware of the nastiness of HF. For the above-linked picture, he stopped the experiment mid-way specifically because the reaction was getting out of control.

He's my personal Mad Scientist hero, and he's only 20 years old.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2004

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