Do your dry-erase markers seem to last only a few months before they dry out and become useless?

If you’re tired of buying new whiteboard pens ones all the time, you’ve probably wondered: Is there some way to juice these dry erase pens back up?

illustrated whiteboard

Yes, a dried-out dry-erase marker sounds like a oxymoron. But if you’re in a meeting, standing in front of a bunch of kids in a classroom, or just trying to draw a cat for your favorite preschooler, you’ll know that having a pen that won’t work can be inconvenient and annoying.

No more dryness

So how can you refresh, revive and otherwise reinvigorate your favorite whiteboard marker?

We have five solutions for you, presented in order from easiest to the more complicated.

dried-dry-erase-markers1) Put the cap securely on your marker, and store the pen tip-down for at least 24 hours. Gravity should help drive any remaining ink downwards.

2) Solidly cap your pen, then tape a string to the bottom of your dry-erase marker and spin it around like a lasso. You’re using physics to help resuscitate your pen: centrifugal force will drive what’s left of the ink to the tip of the pen. Depending on how dry the marker is, you will need anywhere from a few swings to a lot more. Check it every few swings, and watch for ink drips! (Also be sure the secured top of the dry-erase is on the far end, or else you’ll instead force the lingering ink to the bottom of the marker.)

3) With a pair of pliers, gently remove the marker’s tip and turn it around. This should give you ink to use right away, and hopefully revive the pen’s flow.

4) If your marker is not water-based, briefly dab the pen’s tip in acetone or plain nail polish remover. Cover and store bottom-down to let the solvent soak in before using. After using an additive like the acetone, be sure to test the marker in an inconspicuous place on your whiteboard to be sure it doesn’t damage anything.

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5) With some needle-nose pliers, open the bottom of the non-water-based pen, and add a few drops of acetone or nail polish remover to the ink chamber. (Get more details on using this method to revive dead dry-erase markers here.) Again, test the marker in an inconspicuous place on your to be sure it doesn’t damage your whiteboard.

Care and feeding of dry-erase markers

So how can you keep your whiteboard markets happy? First, always cap your pen tightly when not in use. Then, the Expo markers site suggests storing dry-erase pens horizontally. Finally, use these markers only on whiteboards — don’t use them on paper.

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2 Responses

  1. Ian McAllister

    This is an excellent article, which I would like to expand a little.

    1. Wrightmarkers have a valve built into them to prevent ink evaporating when not in use. Store them horizontally, The only problem with that is that you have to “prime” the system, but you can use plain water to revive dried out tips.

    2. I like the idea. It should work wonders with the old-fashioned markers.

    3. Remove the tip as described – it is double-ended so you can choose a bullet point or a chisel tip. If it’s completely clogged up with old dry ink, soak it in plain water for a few hours then wash clean under the tap. Re-prime as for new pens, and you’re ready to go.

    4. This would work well, but a less toxic solvent is iso-propyl alcohol. Non-chemists should be warned that if you can smell a chemical it is probably toxic, and possibly the vapor is explosive, but iso-propyl alcohol is less toxic than acetone.

    5. This is where wrightmarkers really come into their own! The solvent is water, so can’t damage your whiteboard.

    If you are as negligent as I am, you probably won’t shake your pen very often to mix the ink, so the pigments will settle out round the barrel of the marker, and can be used again when you refill with water!

    Use needle-nosed pliers as above to separate the main container from the rest of the pen, keeping it (the barrel) upright to prevent spilling out the remaining liquid, then trickle in water to almost fill the barrel – you have to leave room for the valve mechanism that prevents drying out – then put the marker back together again.

    Shake well (there are three plastic beads that will rattle about and help to mix the ink) then prime by touching the tip on an old plastic bag and pressing down to free the valve. Hold down until ink soaks through the tip and starts to get onto the bag. If you’ve shaken the pen as little as I do each day, you might even find that the new marks are even more intense than the old ones.

    More about being water-based. Apart from water being less toxic, you can also wash the marks out of skin or clothes with plain water. If the ink builds up on the board, or in the eraser, just use water to remove it.

  2. Catholic ETURPZA

    Twirling it over my head for less than 15 seconds miraculously worked! Thank you!


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