How To Remove Sharpie Marks From Your Desk

If you use permanent Sharpies enough, you will eventually make the mistake of accidentally marking your desk. Don’t panic though, in this article, we’ll show you how to remove those marks from your desks. 

Though wood desks are the hardest, the methods we cover will apply to a large variety of surfaces. 

Key Takeaways

If you get Sharpie markings on your desk, follow these removal steps as soon as you can. Fresh marks are easier to remove than old dried-up marks. 

Rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover are the most effective household items that can remove sharpie marks. 

Sharpie specifically recommends Amodex to treat marks and stains. For tables, they recommend using Amodex in conjunction with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Every material absorbs Sharpie markers differently, so results will vary with your desk’s material. 

black sharpie nearly touching wood desk

Yes, Sharpie Markings Can Be Removed From Desks 

Permanent markers are simply water-resistant dyes or pigments. Just because they are water resistant does not mean they are completely non-removable. 

The key to removing Sharpie “permanent” markings from any surface is to use a solvent that can break down the ink. 

How To Remove Sharpie Marks From Any Desk

Act Quickly, If Possible

The first rule for removing Sharpie marks or any permanent marker from a desk is to act as quickly as you can. Fresh marks are easier to remove than older marks. 

Fresh marks are not completely dried out, so they will react to solvents more effectively. If it’s an old mark, you can still remove it. Just be prepared to use a little more elbow grease. 

Effectively Attack Older Stains

If your marking is very old, here’s a pro tip: write over the old Sharpie mark with a fresh Sharpie. This introduces fresh ink everywhere which can actually reflow the old ink! 

This essentially makes the entire stain/marking fresh ink! Now you can use your cleaning solution (isopropyl alcohol, nail polish remover, etc.) to attack the stain and it will be removed more easily.

It seems counterintuitive to add more permanent markings when we walk to get rid of a mark in the first place. However, this is a great hack that works well with old stubborn Sharpie marks. 

Test Solvents On Hidden Area

Test your solvent of choice on a hidden area of your desk. This will show you how the solvent will react to your desk’s material so there are no surprises when you use it on the visible side of your table.

This step is because certain materials will react differently than others. 

For example, a plastic table is not very porous, so you probably won’t see any unexpected effects when using a cleaning solution. An oiled wood table on the other hand might show a noticeable area where the sharpie mark was cleaned as you can affect the wood’s finish. 

Test out the cleaning step in an unseen area so there are no surprises when you attack the Sharpie mark. 

Choose A Cleaning Agent

70% rubbing alcohol bottle with sharpie standing next to it on desk

There are a ton of chemicals that can get Sharpie off of almost any surface. Choose your solution depending on what is convenient for you. There are also some nuances to each solution you use, so read through the options below. 

Here are some of the solutions of choice that can help remove Sharpie stains from your desk.

Alcohol (Isopropyl and Denatured) 

Rubbing alcohol is my personal go-to for removing a Sharpie mark. It is super effective and you can use a short soak for stubborn marks. It’s also a common household solvent.

If you have access to high-concentration alcohol (90%+), that will be more effective in removing a Sharpie mark compared to the lower-concentration stuff. 

Amazon Basics 91% Isopropyl Alcohol
  • 32-fluid ounce bottle of first-aid antiseptic
  • First aid to help prevent the risk of infection from minor cuts, scrapes, and burns
  • Active ingredient: 91% isopropyl alcohol
Check Price on Amazon


Acetone can be a harsh solvent, but it is very effective at breaking down Sharpie permanent markers. Avoid using a high concentration of acetone on plastic surfaces.

The fumes can also be pretty irritating, so try to use it in a well-ventilated area or outside if possible.

Nail Polish Remover (Has Acetone)

The main solvent in nail polish remover is acetone. Because there is usually a high percentage of acetone in a nail polish use caution on plastics. Use the same caution as mentioned in the previous acetone section.

Hand Sanitizer (Has Alcohol)

After the pandemic, everyone has some hand sanitizer nearby. This is a great solution if you don’t have rubbing alcohol. Most hand sanitizers have alcohol as the main ingredient, so they are just as effective. 

You may have to use a bit more to get rid of Sharpie marks because the alcohol concentration is a bit lower.  

Hair Spray (Has Alcohol)

Hair spray is another household item that contains alcohol. It conveniently comes in a spray can too.

If you don’t want the spray to get everywhere, simply spray a small cloth first and then wipe down the area affected by the permanent marker.

WD-40 (Has Xylene)

WD-40 is always recommended in user forums on effective ways to remove permanent markings. 

The reason this works is that it has the chemical Xylene. This is a solvent that can break down pigments/dies very well. 

WD-40 with Smart Straw - Sprays 2 Ways, 14.4 oz
  • Acts as a corrosion inhibitor to shield against moisture and other corrosive elements to prevent rust
  • Frees sticky mechanisms, loosens rust-to-metal bonds and helps release stuck, frozen or rusted metal parts
  • Removes grease, grime, gunk, gum, tar, sap, super glue, sticker residue, and other sticky stuff from multiple surfaces
Check Price on Amazon

WD-40 is a common household item used to silence squeaky hinges, but it can do more! Test this one out in a hidden spot to make sure any discoloration is minimal. 

Dry Erase Markers

Dry-erase markers contain a solvent in the marker itself that makes pigments erasable. That means if you write on top of a Sharpie with a dry-erase marker, you are adding that erasable solvent to the old Sharpie mark! 

This method breaks down the Sharpie the same way as the other solutions on this list, and it can be wiped away afterward. This is great for glossy and smooth surfaces. 


Amodex is the only removal agent that is actually recommended by Sharpie themselves! This is probably a chemical that you don’t have at home, but you can easily find this on Amazon for pretty cheap. 

Amodex recommends using this in conjunction with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for hard surfaces.

Amodex Products Inc 104 Liquid Ink & Stain Remover
  • WORKS WELL: The ink and stain remover works on the toughest stains; from inks and ballpoint to gel, permanent marker, wine, grass, blood, grease, coffee, baby formula, food, and more.
  • PROFESSIONAL STRENGTH: The only SHARPIE RECOMMENDED stain remover on the market! Satisfaction guaranteed! Follow bottle instructions; it’s that simple. Bottle size: 4 fluid ounces.
Check Price on Amazon

Removing The Sharpie Mark

Apply your cleaning agent of choice to a cloth, cotton ball, or even a Q-tip if the stain is small. If your surface is sensitive to scrubbing, simply dab a cloth or cotton ball instead. 

If you can scrub away, that will be the best way to agitate the Sharpie mark and contact all of the affected surfaces. 

Repeat this process as necessary until the stain is removed. If the stain is very stubborn, a quick soak (10-20 seconds) of the solution will help penetrate the old Sharpie pigment. 

This method will work well on wood, plastic, laminate, and most other desk surfaces out there.

How To Get Sharpie Marks Off Desks Without Using Alcohol

Don’t want to use alcohol? Here are other household alternatives you can use if you don’t have rubbing alcohol at home. 

  • Acetone
  • Nail Polish Remover (Has Acetone)
  • WD-40 – Has Xylene
  • Dry Erase Marker Method
Photo of author


I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!