Q: I have tried everything to remove pen marks from my wooden wardrobe and nothing seems to work. The marks just keep coming back after a while so I am getting really frustrated. My parents are insisting that we use white spirit (mineral turpentine) but given the fumes, how effective is it likely to be? I would prefer not to use anything too harsh but at this stage, I am willing to try anything!

Ann Hines, by email

A: Hi, Andy.Some stains can be very difficult to remove and the problem with marks from ball-points is that they are often oil based.

As white spirit is a solvent, it will usually evaporate leaving behind whatever was dissolved in it. You could try dabbing some on a clean cloth and seeing if any marks soften or disappear entirely – but I would do this outside or in an area with extraction, as the fumes are very strong! Just be careful to get rid of any residue left on your floor afterwards! If you do decide to go ahead with it, make sure you protect all surfaces/furniture etc before applying – including yourself; gloves and eye protection would be wise. And don’t forget that mineral turpentine isn’t suitable for everyone. If you or anyone else in your family have asthma, don’t use it!

Another option is to try a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water on the marks – I’ve had success with this when faced with a similar problem but I can only recommend it if you’re sure that the marks are not oil based .


How to remove marks and scratches from wooden furniture without chemicals, Zazzy Home

The oils from our fingers can often linger on wood even after cleaning so it’s best to treat any marks as soon as you see them. I would recommend rubbing a damp cloth in plain water with a bit of washing up liquid added. You could follow this with some furniture polish if necessary. And maybe, just maybe, if none of these methods work for you, you might want to think about painting or varnishing your wardrobe! They are pretty common designs but the effort involved in removing pen marks and sanding back all that surface – not to mention the mess – may make it worthwhile for you! Choosing colours that will stand out (in this case white!) is also an option – although you could be left with a ‘

A White spirit is often recommended for removing ink stains as it dissolves some of the components of inks that can get trapped in wood, rather than merely smothering them or changing their colour. As with any solvent, however, care must be taken when using it and I was not aware of any safe levels of exposure to mineral turpentine.

If you don’t have any acetone around, you can dilute a good quality type of nail polish remover. Take care when using this method though – apply to a part of the furniture that doesn’t need polishing and use very sparingly! Apply the nail polish remover with an old cloth or paper towel – it’s important not to spread the chemical too far or get it on your clothes or skin. Wait for about 30 minutes before polishing off with a clean cloth and repeat if necessary.

Ok, I’m going to be honest here – linseed oil is a bit of an odd one out in this list. It’s a natural wood preservative and sealant that has been used for centuries and it’s the only substance on this list that you can apply yourself! But bear with me – there are some sound reasons why you may want to polish your furniture using linseed oil and it really works! Here’s how…

1) Linseed oil does not contain any chemicals or solvents, so it won’t endanger our health or the environment. Just apply with a clean cloth or paper towel to the wooden surface you want to protect (don’t forget those hidden corners!) and then leave to dry. When you want to apply another coat, just repeat the process.

2) Not only does linseed oil protect your furniture against water damage and eliminate any cracks or marks, it will also help polish up those wooden surfaces! Use a clean cloth to buff out the surface after applying for a beautiful finish.

3) You can use linseed oil on floors too! Just make sure you don’t use too much as it could leave some areas greasy, particularly on non-absorbent wood like oak. If you do accidentally put on too much, just wipe off immediately with a damp cloth rather than risk leaving any oily marks behind!

4) Because linseed oil is so versatile and easy to apply by hand with a paper towel, it’s a great way to keep your furniture protected and shiny without the need for expensive polishing treatments. And now you know why I included it – there are many benefits in using this old fashioned method of furniture care!

Good luck!


Readers’ Tips

Here are the best tips from the comment section

A glossy varnish may help smooth out a lot of the marks. A furniture refinisher can also remove scratches and restore wood to its original state with lots of time and effort, or you could apply paint to try and cover them up. I’m not sure it’s worth all that work though–does look like your wardrobe is on it’s last legs… Claire S


This is not a serious question. If I had pen marks on my wooden wardrobe, the first thing I would do is take it to the dry cleaners and hope for a “miracle.” Ben, J


This is a question with too many possible answers. One of the most popular methods for removing ink stains, or at least making them less noticeable, is as follows:
If all else fails, rubbing alcohol can be used to remove permanent ink from surfaces that are made of plastic (sinks and countertops), metal (such as on white appliances) and laminated wood (remember the chalkboard project from when you were in school?). It seems to do well against marking materials such as “magic” marker fluid. However, this should only be done in a well-ventilated space and never around open flames.” Karl,K


I once got the pen marker off my cork board by rubbing it with a used toothbrush and some toothpaste. I think this should work on your furniture too! Smith, Y



first, you need to go over the stain with hot, soapy water, using a scrub brush or cloth
then wipe off the excess residue by rubbing in a circular motion making sure as much of it is gone as possible before rinsing off again
After soaking for at least 12 hours, use a soft toothbrush and rub in a circular motion while holding the rag under soapy water – this will help remove any remaining residue that may be sitting on top of the wardrope. Afterward just rinse again using clean soap and some warm water and then dry with a clean towel. NE Carpenter


How about trying alcohol and a lint-free cloth?

Ok. Grab the following
-lint free cloth
-mild dish soap, regular white vinegar or rubbing alcohol (your choice), water
-combine 1 tablespoon of dish soap in 2 tablespoons of water, stirring until dissolved, for light cleaning, use only 1 teaspoon per cup of water if needed. Mix well. Remember to mix well before applying it to the stain as this will help get rid of any clumping that may occur when you apply it and spread it out later on. If you are not using a heavily soiled piece of furniture, then you can skip an additional step telling you to brush out all excess liquid from the solution Jeff, J



Pen marks left on wood quickly wear away and stain the surface of the wall. Simple household items can be used to remove pen marks from furniture surfaces such as dressers, cabinets, desks, etc.
Before you begin the process of removing pen marks from a surface covered in ink or other writing materials take note of how long it has been since you stained your piece with bedazzling pens or markers. Depending on how long it has been after staining – dry erase markers will not work for this treatment – if there is still some ink on the surface then use cold water mixed with dish soap or laundry detergent. Spray solution onto stains and scrub gently using an old toothbrush or sponge, Mr E



the easiest way to get rid of this stubborn stain is to use rubbing alcohol and paper towels.

soak a paper towel in an isopropyl alcohol on one side of the pen, then wipe off with the other side. Keep repeating until all marks are gone or lift off easily with your fingers. No harsh chemicals or expensive rags needed, just pen and paper towels, Trotty



If you have pine wood, mineral oil will help.

If the wardrobe is oak or something similarly soft and porous, try glycerin soap with lemon juice and vinegar. Glycerin is a good moisturizer for wood, while the lemon and vinegar act to dissolve some of the stains from ink that are on it. Soapy water should be enough to get off any excess liquids after letting them sit for a few minutes afterwards. Dry with paper towels or at least let air dry before trying to re-oiled it like you would furniture made of softer woods (pine). I’ve done this trick on hardwood as well and had amazing results come out still touchable but shining with new life afterwards! Clare Smith




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