Our office has installed new whiteboards over the last two years. Many of these boards are heavily used and have already devolved to the point of being useless -- the writing on them has become all but permanent and they are heavily stained.

I've found that simply cleaning them (with a household cleaner, such as Simple Green) goes a long way toward keeping them in a usable state. After cleaning, much of the marker (80%-ish) can be simply wiped away, but there is still a strong "ghost effect" remaining.

I've tried commercial white board cleaner. It's about the same as household cleaner, but is more expensive.

I've tried both WD-40 and car wax (Turtle Wax and Rain-X), as recommended by various sites on the internet. The car wax does not seem to offer much improvement. The WD-40 is the better of these two solutions, but leaves the board a little greasy, and the markers tend to smear (only a bit) when wiped.

What is recommended maintenance for keeping the boards working well? And what is the best way to recondition a damaged whiteboard?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I am a maintenance person at a facility that has 30+ whiteboards. I have done ALL of the suggestions I found online. The whiteboards we have here will stay clean and work fine for 3 days after cleaning, but the ghosting appears and then quickly becomes a huge mess. I have used: 99% Iso alch., re-conditioning rubs (aka wax, rub on rub off) Expo cleaner,which is the best of them all, don't be fooled by advertisements of others. There is NOTHING, NOTHING that will restore these boards to like new condition. The only thing that works and will last for 1 week is to first clean thoroughly with Expo, then with as hot as you can stand it(without burning your hands of course) just plain water. After cleaning with water, dry with paper towels, making sure there are no water spots (water spots attract and keep the dust) Other than that....buy new boards.

  • How do you go about cleaning with the hot water? Do you soak a towel and apply that across the board? My board said to initially "rinse" it with water, but that was a bit difficult with it already on the wall. – Paul Oct 6 '16 at 12:22

The quickest trick to get rid of ghosting is to completely color the board with a black dry-erase marker and then erase with a dry (as in not wet) and clean microfiber cloth or eraser. This works by applying the marker solvent evenly across the board, which will of course dissolve the remnants of powder left on the board as ghosting.

Sometimes detergents cause their own problems, so I only use them if there is actual dirt on the board (from people's fingers or mishaps). My standard "deep clean" technique is as follows:

  1. Tap / scrape / vacuum the excess dust off of your eraser & thoroughly erase the board from top to bottom
  2. Use a clean, soft cloth slightly dampened with plain water to gently wipe the last bits of dust off the board, again moving from top to bottom.
  3. Repeat step 2 until the cloth stops picking up marker dust.
  4. If there are stubborn marks, use a cloth dampened with isopropanol or 70%+ ethanol to gently remove them.
  5. Let the board dry thoroughly before using it.

You want to avoid scratches and any kind of residue - waxy, soapy or greasy. Good luck!

  • The problem isn't so much thoroughly cleaning the board, but keeping it usable for "regular" service. The boards can certainly be cleaned with some effort, but when an eraser doesn't work to remove the marker after just a few minutes (even immediately after a thorough cleaning), what use is the board? – Jeff W Mar 10 '15 at 11:50
  • Excellent point on the residues too. We have been concerned about this, and have been limiting our testing of various solutions (waxes, wd-40, cleaners) to small areas of one convenient board as a controlled experiment. – Jeff W Mar 10 '15 at 11:54
  • The marker trick will restore the hydrophobicity of the board, the lack of which I am beginning to suspect is the main cause of ghosting on an otherwise clean board. That's why I specified letting the board dry thoroughly in my "deep clean" protocol (which I renamed from "reconditioning" because that seems like a more accurate name for it). – DPD91 Mar 11 '15 at 19:50
  • Delta Escher is onto something - there are also "whiteboard" paints. I have never used one nor have I heard of anyone renewing an actual whiteboard with one, but someone has to be first, right? – DPD91 Mar 11 '15 at 19:53
  • This works so well that I've done this to remove permanent marker. I accidentally wrote on my board with a Sharpie once... – gregsdennis Oct 23 '15 at 0:35

I have been very successful at reconditioning white boards by following these steps.

  1. Wipe off the board of existing marks using the conventional felt eraser.
  2. If there is any tape or sticker residue on the board or around the edges use an orange oil material such as Goo-Gone to remove it.
  3. Use isopropyl alcohol to clean the board. For a badly gummed up board this will take some serious elbow work. I have cleaned with paper towels or cotton cloth. Both seem to work equally well.
  4. Let the cleaned board dry out completely.
  5. Apply a generous layer of carnauba wax based auto finish to the white board. I have applied it using the small pad that comes in the car wax package but a cotton cloth can be used as well.
  6. Let the wax dry for several days. It will look all yellowish color, particularly if it was put in extra thick.
  7. Use a terry cloth towel to rub off all the excess dried wax. This also requires some elbow grease and you want to really rub and buff the surface of the white board. If properly buffed out the board will be very smooth with none of the yellowish wax residue left anyplace on the board.

I have re-conditioned my white board in the office twice in the nine years that I've had it and it still works nearly as good as a new one.

From personal experience maintaining whiteboards at a university, strong cleaners like simple green and the like are not your friend. They may clean it initially, but tend to leave a detergent behind that alters the property of the boards. Water and a microfiber towel are the only things I'll use on a board. Once they are abraded, there is not much 'conditioning' to be done. The markers require a smooth, hydrophobic surface to function as intended. Detergents work against this.

  • That is actually what I thought this question was about: "How to recondition after hash cleaners have been used" – Lyndon White Oct 13 '15 at 6:27
  • What about whiteboard cleaners like Expo whiteboard spray? Are those safe? – Paul Oct 6 '16 at 12:21
  • Those designed for whiteboards are safe, but are little more than 10% isopropyl alcohol and water – BrownRedHawk Oct 6 '16 at 12:57

Repurpose it as a chalkboard! There are paints you can buy to make many different things become chalkboards. It may not be the best answer, but it's a fun one :)

  • I have a coworker who is pushing me in this direction. Blackboards would certainly be an upgrade at this point -- unfortunately, I don't think my employer would appreciate it. – Jeff W Mar 10 '15 at 11:52
  • I know, blackboards aren't for everyone. They squeak and you need to buy brushes and other equipment. Just as a last resort because it's a thing I thought would be used if nothing else works. – Demisemihemidemisemiquaver Mar 10 '15 at 14:16
  • Just love this answer, I might do this. – Kelley van Evert Oct 6 at 13:30

Try using a dry magic eraser instead of your normal white board eraser. One of my teachers did this and his white board was the cleanest one in the school.

FOR ANCIENT WHITEBOARDS THAT PROBABLY NEED TO BE REPLACED (not new): My whiteboard is old and I am not in the market for a new one anytime soon. After each cleaning, I spray it lightly with cooking spray and remove the excess. It is still slightly oily when I use it. The marker glides over the surface and the colors are just as strong. It is also much easier to clean afterwards. I use the whiteboard cleaner with a soft cloth (paper towel makes small abrasions) to get it as clean as possible then start all over again with the oil. The markers don't seem to mind and this is extending the life of a geriatric whiteboard.

I think, just about anything with bleach will get rid of leftover marks on whiteboards. I used Softscrub with bleach, then (Very Lightly) dab and spread the solution over the spots. After a bit of this exercise, the marks disappeared completely. After this, you have to use a wet cloth or paper towel to wipe off all of the scrub solutions. Repeat this again. And finally, re-clean with proper Expo cleaner. The Expo cleaner uses "3-butoxypropan-2-ol" Ya.... it's basically a Glycol Ether. This puts a coating on the top of the board that helps prevent the Dry-Erase markers from sticking long-term. If you clean a board with alcohol it will feel sticky... if you clean it with Expo cleaner it feels somewhat slippery. This is the evaporated Glycol coating.

I´ll suggest you to not use WD-40 to clean whiteboard anymore, because markers will be damaged (this will short it time usage). Similar is with car wax - avoid to use it to clean board.

Sure, isopropyl alcohol can do job but not effective like toothpaste, which is cheaper than commericial cleaners. I´m pretty sure you can safely use it to clean whiteboard - squeeze toothpaste directly onto board and scrub it with sponge and clean using cloth. Maybe you should repeat it one more time.

You can check where else you can use toothpaste to whitening and cleaning stuffs.

protected by Community May 5 '17 at 20:07

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