Starting Fresh: The Best Way to Clean Your White Board

I decided that the new Federal fiscal year would be an opportunity for me to start fresh and get organized.  There was no better way to manifest this than to erase my white board and make a new list of all of the amazing things I was about to begin.  Sadly, though, none of my old (notes and ideas would leave the white board; they hung on as if written in permanent marker and stood between me and new beginning.  So I began what became an interesting study of how to clean and restore a white board.  It turns out I’m not alone, there were a lot of Google hits.

There are several commercial cleaners out on the market, prices vary and some of them have really awful smells.  My office appears to have no budget for office supplies, so instead of shelling out for some Expo White Board Cleaner, I discovered the D.I.Y. solution is isopropyl alcohol (99% if you can get it).  It turns out that the pigment in white board markers floats in alcohol so the isopropyl alcohol will help release that pigment.  I tried it and it works at a fraction of the cost and much less harsh smells than some of the cleaners that smelled like fingernail polish remover (which WikiHow suggests you can also use).  Some other intrepid D.I.Y.’ers also suggested aftershave and toothpaste, but I didn’t think either minty fresh or manly scents were what I was going for with my new start.

You have to be careful when cleaning the board- if you use a harsh cleaner or if you scrub too hard (especially with anything abrasive) you run the risk of removing the finish and turning every white board marker into a permanent marker.  But don’t worry, if you flew into a fit of rage and sprayed bleach on your board to get it clean, you can still be saved by spraying a little WD-40 on a clean board and then buffing it with a soft cloth.  You may need to do it a few times, but it really works!  You can then be a real hero and go around the office and fix every squeaky door and file drawer.

So I’m now left with a totally clean white board for my new Federal fiscal year reboot.  As George says at the end of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, “White… a blank page or canvas… so many possibilities…”

Brett Tarnutzer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Catherine Andrews

This is really funny, and useful. At my last job, I shared an office with my coworker, and we had one wall painted with white board paint, which we thought was going to be awesome. And it was awesome — until we realized that nothing really fully erased from it. Any attempts to erase were just left with disgusting marker streaks, and the board was turning a completely muddy brown. We even ordered some seemingly off the market cleaner from Mexico that promised to clean all white boards, no matter how stubborn (and it also smelled like chemicals that might kill you) and even that didn’t work! So now, I’m wary of white board paint – but not white boards. Thanks for the post!