How to Remove Pen Marks from Wood Furniture and Floors

Wood furniture and floors can add warmth and beauty to a home. But pen marks, scribbles and ink stains can quickly mar and damage your beautiful wood pieces. Removing pen from wood takes a bit of care, but it’s possible with the right techniques and cleaning solutions. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to get pen off wood surfaces and restore them to their original beauty.

What You Need to Remove Pen from Wood

Gather these recommended supplies before starting to tackle pen stains on your wood furniture or floors:

  • White cloth or paper towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Butter knife or dull table knife
  • Clean water
  • Dish soap – mild, unscented
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Acetone nail polish remover
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
  • Fine grit sandpaper – 220 or 320 grit
  • Rags
  • Terrycloth towels
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood finish/polish to match your furniture

Step 1: Act Quickly for Fresh Pen Marks

When ink or pen marks are fresh, it’s best to act quickly while the stain is still wet. Blotting up excess ink immediately will make the cleaning process much easier.

Follow these steps for fresh stains:

  • Blot the stain right away with a white cloth or paper towel to absorb as much wet ink as possible. Don’t rub the stain at this point, as it can spread the ink deeper into the wood.
  • Hold a cloth under cold, running water and gently dab the stain. Check the cloth to see if any ink is transferring.
  • Repeat blotting with clean sections of the cloth until no more ink comes up.
  • Lightly scrub the spot with a soft bristle brush and a few drops of dish soap mixed with water. Use a gentle, circular motion.
  • Rinse the area with clean water and blot dry with a towel. Allow the wood to fully dry.
  • If any hint of the stain remains, move on to trying a solvent like rubbing alcohol or acetone nail polish remover. Use a cotton swab to gently apply a small amount of solvent to the stain. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes, then blot dry.
  • Check your work, and repeat if needed. Rinse the area with water and dry thoroughly when the stain is gone.

Following these steps right away will remove fresh pen marks from wood before they have a chance to set in and dry.

Step 2: Remove Dried-In Pen Marks From Wood

If ink stains have dried on your wooden furniture or floors, removing them takes a little more work. But don’t worry – you can still get that pen ink out of wood with a bit of persistence and the right cleaning solutions.

Here are the best methods for removing dried and set-in pen stains from wood:

Use Sandpaper

For dried ink spots, lightly sanding the area can help lift the stain from the wood. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as you don’t want to damage the wood surface.

Follow these steps for sanding:

  • Try to scratch off any crusted ink with your fingernail. This will make the sanding process easier.
  • Sand the stained area using a fine grit sandpaper, like 220 or 320 grit. Fold the sandpaper into a small pad and work in the direction of the wood grain.
  • Check your progress frequently. Sand only until the stain is removed.
  • Carefully vacuum up any ink and wood dust.
  • Wipe the area with a dry cloth and let the wood dry completely.
  • Apply a fresh coat of wood polish or finish to help blend the sanded area. Buff in the direction of the wood grain.

Sanding can safely lift dried pen stains without harming most wood finishes. But be cautious on softer woods that are prone to scratching. Test sand a small area first.

Use a Magic Eraser

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work great for scrubbing off set-in stains on hard surfaces. The melamine foam helps lift grime and dirt from wood without damaging the finish.

Follow these steps when using a Magic Eraser on wood:

  • Lightly dampen the eraser and wring out any excess water. You don’t need the eraser dripping wet.
  • Gently rub stained and dirty areas using a back-and-forth motion. Apply light pressure.
  • Check your progress frequently. Rinse the eraser and wring it out to keep it moistened but not sopping.
  • When the stain is removed, wipe off any eraser residue and let the surface dry.
  • Apply a fresh coat of polish or finish to help even out the area.

Magic Erasers can be used on most finished and sealed wood pieces. Avoid excessive scrubbing to prevent damaging softer woods.

Use Solvents

Chemical solvents like rubbing alcohol and acetone work well to break down dried ink and lift it from wood. They can be used alone or in combination with the sanding method.

Follow these precautions when using solvents on wood:

  • Never apply solvents like alcohol or acetone directly on bare, unfinished wood. This can damage the surface. Only use them on finished and sealed wood pieces.
  • Test the product on an inconspicuous area first. Make sure it doesn’t affect or soften the wood’s finish.
  • Pour a small amount of solvent onto a clean cloth. Rub gently over the stained area using a circular motion.
  • Check your cloth, and re-apply the solvent as needed until the stain is removed.
  • Once the ink is gone, wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth. Use a towel dampened with water to remove any solvent residue.
  • Allow the wood to completely dry before applying any polish or finish.

Solvents work well to penetrate dried, set-in pen stains. But be cautious and always test on a hidden spot before using them on antique or delicate wood furnishings.

Use Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil

Olive oil or vegetable oil can lift stubborn ink stains from finished wood surfaces. The oil helps break down the stain without chemicals.

Here’s how to use oils to remove pen marks:

  • Apply a small amount of olive oil or vegetable oil to a soft cloth.
  • Rub the oil into the stained wood area using gentle, circular motions.
  • Let the oil sit for 2-3 minutes to penetrate the stain.
  • Wipe off the excess oil with a clean cloth. Check to see if the stain lightened or came up.
  • Repeat the process if needed, reapplying more oil and letting it soak in before wiping it off.
  • Once the stain is gone, wash the area with dish soap and water. Dry thoroughly with a towel.
  • Let the wood dry completely before applying any polish or finish coats. The oil residue could cause finishing problems.

The natural oil method works well for stubborn stains without harsh chemicals. But you’ll need to thoroughly cleanse the area afterwards so the oil won’t interfere with refinishing the wood.

Step 3: Refinish and Polish the Wood

Once you’ve removed all traces of ink from your wood furniture or floors, you’ll want to refinish or reseal the area to protect it and help it blend with the surrounding wood surface.

Follow these finishing steps:

  • Allow the wood to dry completely after cleaning it. Make sure all water or chemical residue is gone from the cleaning process.
  • Sand away any rough spots and blend the area with the rest of the wood surface. Use fine 220 grit paper and sand with the direction of the wood grain.
  • Clean away all dust using a vacuum and tack cloth. Wipe the entire surface with a slightly damp rag. Let dry completely.
  • Apply a fresh coat of wood polish, wax, or other appropriate finish for the piece. Use a product that matches or is close to your existing finish.
  • Let the finish dry and cure fully – usually at least 8 hours. Then lightly buff the area by hand with a soft cloth.

Properly refinishing the wood after removing stains will help the area blend in with the surrounding wood. It will also add back protective sealant.

Be cautious when attempting to refinish antique or delicate wood pieces. Seek professional help if you’re unsure about the existing finish or how to properly restore it.

Tips for Preventing Pen Marks on Wood

Preventing those pesky pen stains in the first place will save you time and trouble. Follow these tips for keeping wood surfaces ink-free:

  • Use felt pads under furniture legs and other accessories to prevent scratches and damage.
  • Lift furniture when moving it instead of sliding across wood floors.
  • Keep pens and markers away from areas with wood furniture and surfaces. Monitor young kids using pens and markers.
  • Use placemats under plates and cups. Lift items rather than sliding them across tabletops.
  • Work slowly and carefully when refinishing. Use painters tape to protect areas from drips and errors.
  • Clean up spills and messes right away to prevent stains.
  • Consider using sealants formulated to resist pen, marker and crayon stains.

Stop stains before they start by taking minor precautions. But if an accident happens, now you’re armed with the knowledge to remove pen from wood surfaces. With a little time and elbow grease, you can erase those marks and restore the beauty of your wood finishes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Pen from Wood

What is the quickest way to get pen off wood?

For fresh stains, blotting and soaking up excess ink immediately is the quickest way to lift it from wood before it has a chance to set in. Using a dry white cloth or paper towels to dab fresh pen marks can remove a surprising amount before it stains.

What household item removes pen from wood?

Common household products like rubbing alcohol, olive oil and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers can all be highly effective for removing dried, set-in pen stains from finished wood surfaces. Test them first on an inconspicuous spot.

What removes permanent marker from wood?

Magic Erasers often work well for removing permanent marker from sealed wood. Softly sanding the area can also help lift away permanent ink from wood surfaces without damaging the finish. Be patient and cautious when trying to remove permanent marker.

What is the best thing to remove ink stains from wood?

Sanding and melamine foam erasers are two of the most effective ways to eliminate ink stains from wood while being gentle on the wood finish. Avoid harsh scrubbing. Test products first before applying them widely.

Can you use baking soda and vinegar to remove ink from wood?

It’s generally not recommended to use baking soda and vinegar directly on finished wood, as it can damage many wood surfaces. Baking soda can be used as a gentle abrasive for scrubbing with water. White vinegar could potentially lighten the ink stain, but use caution and test on a small hidden area first.

Will lemon juice remove ink from wood?

Lemon juice can help lighten some ink stains on non-porous surfaces like glass or tiles, but it’s not recommended for use directly on wood furnishings. The high acid content of lemon juice could damage or discolor the wood finish. Opt for safer methods like sanding and Magic Erasers instead.

Will toothpaste remove ink from wood?

Toothpaste contains mild abrasives to help scrub away some ink stains on non-porous surfaces like appliances or tiles, but it is generally not advised to use directly on finished wood. The moisture could soak in and damage the finish. Toothpaste can be safely used, however, for ink stains on bare wood that hasn’t been sealed or finished yet.

Final Thoughts on Removing Pen Marks from Wood

Pen stains and ink marks on beautiful wood can be annoying and unsightly. But with a little persistence and the right gentle cleaning methods, you can remove pen from wood finishes without ruining the surface.

Remember to work cautiously and patiently when removing stains from cherished wood furnishings and antiques. Test products first before applying widely. And be sure to properly refinish and reseal the area afterwards.

With a few household supplies and these techniques, you can erase those vexing pen stains from your wood surfaces. Don’t despair over ink stains – use this guide to clean, restore and protect your wood pieces.

Laura Kassovic

Laura Kassovic, a former engineer at Intel SOC, now dedicates her efforts to mentoring startups in the realms of Wearables and AI. As a co-founder of New Tech Brake, she spearheads a wireless sensing solution enterprise catering to diverse applications including product development, research, location tracking, and people monitoring, as well as asset and cargo supervision. The platform empowers developers to craft an array of innovations such as fitness trackers, temperature-monitored cargo systems, medical trial tools, smart running garments, or even straightforward transmission of unprocessed accelerometer data to cloud-based repositories.

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