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What are Dry Erase Markers?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois

Dry erase markers come in a wide range of colors and are usually sold with a special dry erase eraser. These markers are temporary on a white board, but permanent on paper. A standard set has four colors: red, black, blue and green. Their most common use is in office meeting rooms and lecture halls. The use of a whiteboard replaces a traditional blackboard, which requires the use of chalk.

There are dry erase markers available now in a rainbow of colors, and they can have different types of tips, ranging from chisel to fine tip. The original markers have a chemical odor that can be difficult for people with environmental sensitivities. These markers are now available in low-odor, fruity scents, and with erasers attached to the back of each marker. The eraser tip is an important development, as there is no other tool that allows for precision erasing of writing on a whiteboard.

Dry erase markers are commonly used by teachers who are using whiteboards in a classroom.
Dry erase markers are commonly used by teachers who are using whiteboards in a classroom.

The ink used for dry erase markers has a combination of pigments and release agents. It is these agents that stop the pigment particles from sticking to the whiteboard and other non-porous surfaces. The ink is a combination of pigment, release agents and chemical solvent. Although these markers are non-toxic, the pigment will stain clothes and skin.

The markers are not affected by water and do not generate any dust. They are thicker than chalk, and easier to use for people with mobility issues in their hands. Less pressure is required with a dry erase marker and the writing surface is easily cleaned without the need for additional pressure.

Whiteboards are the ideal writing material for dry erase markers. They are designed to allow maximum flexibility. They often have a series of linear dots to help the writer align their text for easy reading. Whiteboards have a slightly static-charged surface that helps the pigment to adhere to the surface.

It is important to only use dry erase markers on a whiteboard. The tip can become damaged if used on regular paper or other surfaces and may have to be replaced. Remember to consider the lighting of the room and the location of your audience when using a whiteboard. If the color is too light and the audience is not close by, they may have difficulty seeing the text due to the color contrast between the marker and the whiteboard.

Discussion Comments


@ddljohn – I didn't know that there was such a thing as the refillable kind. I've never seen any refill packs for dry erase markers, so I just assumed that they weren't available.

What I've always done is try to shake what little ink remains in a marker back to the tip. I tie a piece of dental floss around the marker and do a lassoing motion above my head several times quickly. I keep going until the marker starts to produce ink again.

Of course, I can only do this so much until the ink totally runs out. Dry erase markers are pretty cheap, though, so I usually just buy some more.


I use retractable dry erase markers when I give presentations at work on the white board. I can carry them in my bag without worrying about ink spills or accidental marks being made on important papers.

Also, I can retract the marker in between making points. I tend to talk with my hands a lot, and if I use a regular marker, then I end up with the color all over my fingers by the end of the meeting. Retracting the tip keeps my hands clean as I move them around.

It's also nice to know that my nice work clothes won't wind up with color spots on them. So many times, I have accidentally marked my skirts and shirts with markers, and that's a good reason to love the retractable kind.


I liked to draw with wide tipped dry erase markers as a child. I could use the big rectangular eraser that came with the board to erase shapes out of an area that I had colored in with the markers. I did a lot of “reverse drawings” like this as a kid.

This was back in the day when the markers smelled terrible. There were no fruity scents available, and you also couldn't get markers with erasers on top. You just had to use the big separate one that resembled a chalkboard eraser.


The only kind of dry erase markers I have ever used had rectangular tips. They were slightly angled, but they were the same width all the way across.

This made it easy to get enough ink out onto the board to make the words very readable. I can't imagine that people far away would be able to read words written with an extra fine tip dry erase marker. Those must only be useful for people who write on the board to solve math problems and things of that nature that don't need to be seen by other people.


As a teacher, the problem I always have with the dry erase markers is that the dust stains your cose. I can get regular ink out just fine by using hairspray, but I haven' t yet found anything that gets out dry erase marks or dust.

But I do like them, and I use them with my overhead projector as well. Instead of using the wet erase markers, which are a pain, I often just use dry erase markers with a fine point to write on transparency sheets, and then I don't have to use water and make a big mess to clean the reusable sheets. Or I use Sharpie if I want to keep what's on the sheet.


@fify-- Oh yea, I heard that some people do that with acetone. But it's really not a good idea because the color doesn't come through right. It's too runny and leaky and can ruin the board and your clothes! Not to mention the smell!

There are refillable dry erase markers on the market now. You just take out the used up ink pouch and put in a new one. Not only does it save money, but it's good for the environment too because you're re-using the marker.

One good tip I do have for dry erase markers is using hand sanitizer to clean old marks from boards. Yes, dry erase markers come off, but if you keep writing on them for very long, it becomes really hard to wipe away sometimes. I had that problem one time when the dry board eraser wasn't working. I put some hand sanitizer on a tissue and it cleaned up perfectly.


When I was younger, I had gotten a small white board for my room and washable dry erase markers in different colors. I would use them to study and do my homework. I would pretend that I was the teacher and would teach a lesson using the board. It sounds funny, but it was a lot of fun and I would learn a lot!

The only problem with dry erase markers is they run out kind of fast. I didn't want to keep asking my parents for new ones. So when my dry erase markers ran out, I would open up the back and add alcohol to it to make it run longer. Obviously, I wouldn't recommend anyone to do that. But dry erase markers are not that cheap and as a child, that's what I would do.

@anon142222-- It can be harmful if the dry erase marker contains xylene and if it is used and inhaled a lot.

Xylene is found in almost all dry erase markers, unless it's specifically labeled "xylene-free." Xylene is a petroleum byproduct. It's not found in very high concentrations in dry erase markers. But if someone uses markers all day and every day, it could be irritating. It could cause breathing problems, headaches and things like that.

I suggest that you have the school you work at look into this and purchase xylene-free dry erase markers.


As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that dry erase markers do create dust and I would like to know if it is harmful.

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    • Dry erase markers are commonly used by teachers who are using whiteboards in a classroom.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Dry erase markers are commonly used by teachers who are using whiteboards in a classroom.