While whiteboards came onto the market in the 1960s, they took off in the 1990s in nearly every company and school. Today, whiteboards are available in sizes from handheld to entire walls. By using the right type of dry erase markers, they are great for workflow until traces of past writings and drawings linger. There are numerous commercial and homemade cleaners that will clean the boards with success based on the type of whiteboard and its age.
There are three types of whiteboards:
- Glass: Considered the top-of-the-line whiteboard, glass boards are constructed from tempered glass. While they are the most expensive whiteboards on the market, they will not streak or leave ghost traces of previous writing.
- Porcelain: Similar to the finishes on washers and dryers, porcelain whiteboards like The Wall from Fluidstance are made of steel with a white ceramic finish. These boards are more resistant to ghosting and damage from frequent cleaning.
- Melamine: The most economical whiteboard, melamine is a more porous laminate coating. Repeated cleaning will wear down the coating and lead to significant ghosting from markers. Melamine boards should not be used for writing that will be left on the boards for extended periods.
Cleaning products for each type of board are similar and melamine boards can be reconditioned to improve performance.
How Often to Clean Whiteboards
If possible, whiteboards should be erased daily to help prevent ghosting. Smudges from hands, food splatters, and sticky residue from tape should be cleaned away as they happen or daily. Oily residues are detrimental to whiteboard performance. More thorough cleanings and reconditioning of whiteboards should be based on the frequency of use.
Equipment / Tools
- Microfiber cloths
- Whiteboard dry eraser
- Spray bottle
- Step stool
- Dry-erase markers
- Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or commercial cleaner
- Carnauba wax
How to Clean a Whiteboard
Tough-to-remove marks left on the whiteboard can often be removed by covering them with fresh erasable marker ink and then using a whiteboard cleaner for a more thorough cleaning.
Using harsh chemicals, scrubbing powders, or most household all-purpose cleaners on whiteboards will damage the finish by scratching or pitting the melamine or leave a residue that makes the whiteboard ineffective.
Color Over the Marks
Using a black erasable marker, completely cover the offending marks with fresh ink. Do a solid block of ink as if you were "coloring in" the stained section of the board. Black is a good color choice for the fresh ink because it will provide more coverage than a lighter colored marker.
Allow the Marker to Dry
Allow the fresh black ink to dry completely. The fresh ink will "attach" to the older ink to help lift it away.
Erase the Ink
Use a whiteboard dry eraser to erase the black ink. If there are still traces of the original marks, repeat the steps.
Wipe Away Loose Residue
Erasing the ink will often leave particles of dried ink that look like black dust. Slightly dampen a microfiber cloth with water and wipe away any particles that remain on the board.
Spray on a Cleaner
Whether you choose to use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or a commercial whiteboard cleaner, the board should now be thoroughly cleaned. Lightly spritz the board with the cleaner, starting at the top of the board. If you cannot easily reach the top of the board, use a sturdy step stool.
Pour the rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle for easy use. Be sure to add a label to the bottle identifying the contents. Rubbing alcohol is safe to use on any type of whiteboard.
Add a bit more cleaner on spots with sticky residue or smudges.
Wipe Down the Whiteboard
Starting at the top to catch any drips, wipe down the board using a clean microfiber cloth. Microfiber will leave no lint on the board.
Allow the board to air dry completely before using it again.
How to Recondition a Melamine Whiteboard
When a melamine whiteboard becomes worn and can no longer be erased, reconditioning may give it usability for a few months. This is not a permanent fix and will not restore a board to a pristine condition. Porcelain and glass boards are much more durable and do not need to be reconditioned.
Thoroughly Clean the Whiteboard
Follow the steps for cleaning a whiteboard before reconditioning. Carefully check that all sticky residue from tape and grime is removed and be sure that the board is completely dry before taking the next steps.
Apply Carnauba Wax
Apply a generous layer of carnauba wax onto the whiteboard. The wax is usually found in the automotive car section of mass merchandising stores. The paste will come with an applicator pad or you can use a small cotton cloth. Be sure to cover the entire board.
Allow the Wax to Dry
The wax needs to be completely dry before taking the next step. This may take 24 to 48 hours. When the wax is dry, it will have a slightly yellow color.
Buff Away the Wax
When the wax is dry, use a microfiber cloth to remove the excess wax. Work in small sections starting at the top. Apply steady pressure to make sure you rub away all of the wax. When all of the wax has been removed, use a clean microfiber cloth for a final buff to ensure that no residue is left on the board.