Trick for removing pen from surfaces

Even though they are young, I try to tell my kids that the world is their oyster and they can do and be whatever they set their minds to. Normally, messages like these are great, except when they get lost in translation.

For example, my daughter misunderstood, “The world is your oyster” to be, “The world is your canvas.”

Or more specifically, “Your chair and your walls are your canvas.”

DSC04311 DSC04313

When you are used to washable markers, dealing with a ballpoint pen (or Sharpee) can be a little disheartening. I remembered hearing about rubbing alcohol for pen and decided to try it.

Here is the chair before.


I just soaked a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rubbed it on the pen marks in a circular motion.

The drawing immediately came out but then it looked like the ink was smearing lightly around the spot leaving a purplish hue. This worried me.


I was too far gone to stop at that point so I finished rubbing it out. When all the pen was gone, I went over the entire area again with a soaked cotton ball to erase any of the leftover traces of ink.

I had a wet spot for a short time (alcohol evaporates quickly) and then when I went back in to check on it….


It looked better than new. Since no water was involved, there were no water marks left. There wasn’t a trace of pen or discoloration. I was amazed.

I took this excitement over to the walls hoping for the same miracle.

Dealing with paint is a little different. No matter what you use, you risk stripping the paint. I started out with the same method with the alcohol and it worked but it was painfully tedious. Her artwork was more of a mural than a picture. She covered a lot of territory.


I looked into it and found some other suggestions and hopefully tried them all. None were magical. I tried hair spray but the fumes were awful and not worth it. A magic eraser worked just as well as alcohol but wears down quickly making it a more expensive route.

The end result is that if it were in a small area, alcohol or a magic eraser would have worked. Since her artistic vision was more grandiose, it was just too much territory.

I ended up painting over it in the end. But not before I gave my daughter a rag with water (for effect) and had her wipe the walls until she was miserable.

I’m praying she learned a lesson because I’ve decided if anyone draws on the walls again, we are just going to move.


pen removal collage

19 thoughts on “Trick for removing pen from surfaces

  1. Hi , I just wanted to share a tip with everyone that I didn’t see posted . My son literally just got done creating his art on my apartment wall , after panicking a little I remembered how well lemon juice extract took koolaid stain off my countertops , turns out it takes ink off of walls as well with little scrubbing efforts . Hope this helps a lot of moms and dads out there .

  2. Awesome! My daughter is developing some affinity towards pens lately. So far she has painted on her hands, papers and once on her face. I dread the moment when she decides to become an artist too and take on the walls and sofas. Thanks for sharing this tip.

  3. I have used the magic eraser for walls before and that has worked wonders! I did not know about the alcohol on upholstery so thanks for sharing! My girls are just getting to the age of wanting to draw on everything!

  4. Sadly, the magic eraser is the only thing that works on walls. I made my daughter “wash” the walls with water too after she created a similar masterpiece.

  5. Wow, the seat cushion looks amazing! Thank you for sharing! I love, love, love my Magic Eraser for scuff marks, but yeah, that was a BIG area your daughter “created” on… 😉

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