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How to Clean your Dry-Erase Whiteboard

A quick online search will lead you to dozens of Whiteboard Cleaners. We tried them all! We used them to clean dry-erase “ghosting,” permanent marker, and years of grunge. We tested the dry-erase cleansers on standard whiteboard surfaces, painted-on whiteboards, and whiteboard adhesive film.

Conducting the Test of Dry-Erase Cleaning Solutions

We started by testing 10 products on two whiteboards that hadn’t been cleaned for many months, as well as an adhesive film dry-erase surface. Each had markings that wouldn’t erase with a dry eraser or paper towel. We tried:  white vinegar, WD-40, nail polish remover, isopropyl alcohol, hair spray, Bengay, toothpaste, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, Clorox Cleaner with Bleach, Coffee Grounds. In the first round, we tested a small area of each board with every cleaning solution. In the second round, we put our four favorite products to the test on a larger surface area.  We wrote again on the board, then erased that writing to be sure the new markings could be erased easily – no problem there. Finally, we tested our final four cleaners on their ability to remove stains made by permanent markers.

How-to-Clean-Your-Whiteboard: Results of the Whiteboard Cleaning Test

STAGE 1: Small area of the board

Using clean paper towels, we tried each cleanser in a small test area to determine our favorites. Here’s what we found:


Our least favorite selections were messy, smelly, left a residue, and didn’t work at all on removing permanent marker stains.

  • Coffee Grounds: these had previously worked okay on a horizontal surface, but using them on a vertical board was a complete disaster. We had coffee grounds everywhere, which caused an even bigger clean-up project. They also temporarily stained the board, thus requiring a second cleaning.
  • Bengay: This product removed ghosting stains, but not as well as other products we tested. Plus it required further cleaning to remove residual Bengay.
  • Toothpaste: The Crest product we used, did clean up stubborn ghosting stains quite well and left the board smelling minty-fresh, but we needed to clean-off residual toothpaste in a second cleaning.



This batch functionally worked, but each produced suboptimal results for a variety of reasons.

  • WD-40: Works well on ghosting, but leaves boards a little greasy.  Also, it didn’t perform well on stubborn residues, like that on the grainy painted-white board surface.
  • White Vinegar: Vinegar could help to remove subtle markings, but it didn’t have great results with deeper stains and ghosting. Plus, it smelled really bad.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Erasers: We used Mr. Clean as a dry eraser (no water added). Using the Magic Eraser is not a speedy process and requires you to rub firmly to remove persistent ghosting.


These last four solutions performed best in the Small Area Test and moved on to the Large Area Test:  Hairspray,  Clorox with Bleach, Isopropyl Alcohol, and  Nail Polish Remover.

STAGE 2: Large area — test with the 4 BEST PRODUCTS

  • Hairspray: Hairspray worked well in small areas, and on stubborn and permanent marker stains. However, when we used it to clean larger areas, it wasn’t great. We tried both spraying directly onto the board surface and spraying it into a paper towel. When sprayed straight onto the wall, we liked that it didn’t drip down at all. So, for persistent stains or divots in the textured painted whiteboard, it sat nicely on the surface and got into the grooves, allowing us to clean particularly dirty splotches. That said, it didn’t leave the board ready to use. We needed to follow up with a secondary cleaner for a perfectly pristine surface.
  • Clorox with Bleach: While we liked that you could spray the solution directly onto the whiteboard, it dripped down a lot, so you had to wipe it up right away. The Clorox seemed to perform best on the traditional whiteboard surface (not paint or film), and when the staining wasn’t too severe. It was certainly one of the easiest-to-use solutions that we tested.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol: Although we needed to pour this onto a paper towel, we were very happy with the results. It cleaned deep stains quite nicely and easily on all surfaces. To make it perfectly clean, we did need to apply two rounds of cleaning solution.
  • Nail Polish Remover: Applied onto a paper towel and then onto the whiteboards, the nail polish remover was all-around most effective at removing gnarly stains, and producing a very clean board.

STAGE 3: Close up on dealing with Permanent Marker

We spent a bit of time on this. our recommendation differs if you have just a small, stray permanent mark on the board, or used a permanent marker all over the board.

  • Hairspray – not great. can work on a small spot but not on a whole board.
  • Nail polish remover – yup. This easily removed permanent marker stains!
  • Isopropyl Alcohol – yup. No problem removing the permanent marker stains. It took two passes for a perfectly clean surface, but no scrubbing was required.
  • Dry-Erase Marker – yup.  If you don’t have any fancy cleansers, you can write on top of the permanent markings with a dry erase marker, then wipe them off.

The follow-up how-to-clean-your-whiteboard test

The alcohol worked so well that I tried Isopropyl alcohol wipes.  They’re also GREAT!

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Using Whiteboards to Increase Participation

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