Need better whiteboard, or cleaner, or paint, or...
August 6, 2013 8:10 AM   Subscribe

My company bought me a (cheap) whiteboard, probably from Staples, for my office. It is 36 x 24 inches. I cannot get it to stay clean. I have tried several markers and the "best" so far is the Expo dry erase. I also have a spray bottle of Expo white board cleaner. The trouble is I cannot get the board to get really clean. A history of everything I've ever written on the board is still there, faintly. What products have you used that seem to work successfully? Any tips? Thanks!
posted by Rad_Boy to Technology (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've used hand sanitizer (purell) and a soft towel and that seemed to work. Also, you might want to swap out your dry erase markers -- some seem a bit more stubborn than others.
posted by mochapickle at 8:16 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Alcohol wipes (like the kind in a first aid kit). Which I guess is really just seconding Purell.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:20 AM on August 6, 2013

Regular Windex works better than the Expo cleaner (which probably means vinegar would work but I've never tried it.) For older marks, sometimes it helps to trace over the mark with a fresh dry erase marker and erase it immediately.
posted by peep at 8:20 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Pec-12 - it even removes non-dry erase markers (sharpies)
posted by Sophont at 8:20 AM on August 6, 2013

I have encountered whiteboards that come shipped with a wrapping of protective plastic on the surface. This is applied before the bordering is put on, so it looks like it is the surface. After scratching the corner of the board I was able to get the plastic loosened enough and bubble up in one spot to tear it free and peel it off the whole board. Once that was done, the board worked perfectly. I'd check to see if there appears to be a plastic file across the whole thing.
posted by procrastination at 8:21 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is what Clorox wipes are great for. We use them exclusively at my school because they do double cleaning duty.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:23 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found that black markers erase much better than colored markers.
posted by kayram at 8:26 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

100% acetone nail polish remover. It's like magic. Dampen a paper towel with it, wipe the board. Easy. Cheap. Available at any drugstore.
posted by phunniemee at 8:29 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Isopropyl alcohol, aka rubbing alcohol, is the relevant component in alcohol wipes, purell, possibly the PEC-12(haven't smelled it, can't be sure), and the chlorox wipes. It's cheaper to buy a bottle of it and some paper towels than it is to buy a roll of wipes, and if you spill some on the carpet it won't damage it (unlike the acetone). It will even remove permanent marker. The 70% solution that is easy to find in stores should be sufficient.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:35 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Since you mentioned paint, I just wanted to say that whiteboard paint is terrible. It works for a few weeks at the most.
posted by rada at 8:52 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl). Don't peel off the foil safety seal. Instead, prick it with a pin to make a squirt bottle.
posted by ryanrs at 9:07 AM on August 6, 2013

Since you mentioned paint, I just wanted to say that whiteboard paint is terrible. It works for a few weeks at the most.

I painted a wall in our office a little over a year ago, and it's still fine. Gets used constantly and gets dirty, but after a swipe with nail polish remover is bright and clean again like nothing happened.
posted by phunniemee at 9:29 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing isopropyl alcohol -- I have a cardboard backed whiteboard calendar at home that doesn't dry-erase at all as soon as you write on it. It dries. Even if the markers aren't permanent. So we've kept it pretty spotless thanks to the rubbing alcohol in a small squirt bottle, and it's going on about six-seven years now. It hasn't even faded the printed calendar boxes.
posted by Dimes at 9:42 AM on August 6, 2013

Replace the whiteboard with a piece of glass. Affix the glass to the wall with the plastic hangers designed for mirrors.

I have two of these in my office and they are 1000 times better than whiteboards for ease of cleaning. They never absorb the marker ink.
posted by gnossos at 9:59 AM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Mr Clean Magic Eraser was the only thing that cleaned our completely gross whiteboard. It made it like new.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:27 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I cleaned one whiteboard pretty well with nailpolish remover(acetone). It cleaned some of the 2nd white board, but not all, so I was planning to make this post. Will try alcohol and/or bleach, not at the same time, and maybe some magic eraser. thanks.
posted by theora55 at 11:02 AM on August 6, 2013

No bleach! You will just get it all over your clothes and the carpet! And the chemistry of bleach is completely different. Try the alcohol (or wipes) and the eraser first. My intuition is that bleach will lead to sorrow.
posted by troyer at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Plain old standard, normal Windex and some paper towels. The Windex works even better than the Official Expo Whiteboard Cleaner stuff does.
posted by easily confused at 12:04 PM on August 6, 2013

I teach on a white board. Wiping the board with dry Kleenex works for me. I do have to change the tissue every 4 square feet or so. The used tissues get really cool black handprints on them.

Something I've learned: never erase ink that's still wet. It will make dingy smudges. But wait 60 seconds and you're good!
posted by aws17576 at 12:34 PM on August 6, 2013

Get a fresh new marker. Mark very heavily over the ghost writing that can't be cleaned. Use your eraser. The new marker markings wilk carry away much of the ghost scribble.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:46 PM on August 6, 2013

Seconding the Clorox Wipes suggestion. Works well when the erasers don't/
posted by amicamentis at 6:01 PM on August 6, 2013

Alcohol based hand sanitizer, or anything handy with rubbing alcohol.
posted by windykites at 6:20 PM on August 6, 2013

I've had success cleaning a blackboard by first wiping it with Coke (or presumably Pepsi/alternate cola of choice) and then water.
posted by Wantok at 7:37 PM on August 6, 2013

If you go the replacement route, a hardware store will sell you a gigantic piece of "Thrifty White" shower panel for like $12 and cut it down for you for about $2. Works just as well!
posted by jander03 at 10:08 PM on August 6, 2013

Mr Clean Magic Eraser was the only thing that cleaned our completely gross whiteboard. It made it like new.

Yep. Those boards are usually melamine, the same stuff the magic erasers are made of. So there shouldn't be any long term damage. Just use the sponges as your eraser.

Also the Windex thing. I looked at the ingredients one time, and at least one brand of cleaner used the same ingredient as Windex. A lot of the smudging I've seen on whiteboards is because the ink mixes with people's greasy hand oil on the board, as well as environmental gunk deposited on the board.
posted by gjc at 2:21 AM on August 7, 2013

I draw on whiteboards for a living. We use a 50/50 mixture of Isopropyl alcohol and water for everyday cleaning, but when it's being stubborn hand sanitizer works.

If you get permanent marker on there by mistake just go over it with a whiteboard marker, wipe, and it comes right off. If you have a huge area of permanent marker WD40 works well. I caution against most chemical cleaners as they tend to leave residue that prevents whiteboard marker ink from sticking to the board.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:48 AM on August 7, 2013

Response by poster: OK, here is what I have tried, with very little effect: WD 40, isopropyl alcohol, Mr Clean Magic Eraser, automotive cleaner wax, and Expo white board cleaner.
Then I read somewhere that the low odor markers were hard to get clean because of the special ink they used. These were the markers I used most frequently, so I tried some regular dry erase markers and these were much easier to clean. I sent an email to Expo with so far no reply.

Thanks for all the suggestions.
posted by Rad_Boy at 7:06 AM on August 14, 2013

(Not trying to be all hey what about my idea, there a reason you haven't tried nail polish remover? Because it actually works. I have never in my many many years of owning stubborn white boards not had it work.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:58 AM on August 14, 2013

Response by poster: OK, I admit I haven't tried it. I'll give it a try next week and let you know.
posted by Rad_Boy at 10:17 AM on August 15, 2013

Response by poster: Well, I tried acetone nail polish remover today and it didn't work. I think the only recommended item that I have not tried is PEC12.
It looks a little pricey so I guess I'm out of luck with this board. Maybe I can get my company to spring for a new one.

Thanks to all.
posted by Rad_Boy at 7:19 PM on August 19, 2013

Let me encourage you again to try and see if it does have a protective film across the surface. I'd scratch hard at a corner of the board with a key or something sharp and see if you can get any film to bubble up. Really, we had a huge white board in our office that didn't work for months until we figured out that the installers never removed the protective film.
posted by procrastination at 9:13 AM on August 21, 2013

Wow, I am shocked. Just yesterday I cleaned all of the whiteboards in our office because we're moving. Nail polish remover got off everything, even the stuff that's been there since before I started working there in Jan '12, and even the place where some dingbat wrote on it with sharpie.

At this point I'd consider donating your zombie whiteboard to science for medical testing.
posted by phunniemee at 5:13 AM on August 22, 2013

Response by poster: In response to procrastination, yesterday I took my knife to the board and sliced, teased, scrapped, cut, nudged, etc. to no avail. This board does not have a protective film. Thank you for the suggestion, though. I was really hoping!
posted by Rad_Boy at 7:41 AM on August 29, 2013

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