How Do Dry Erase Markers Work? – Dry Erase Markers Facts

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

how do dry erase markers work

Have you ever wondered how do dry erase markers work? These tools are common in our set, but the first time we used them, it must have been a nice surprise. Actually, the silicone polymer is the secret behind these markers’ pigment.

Well, you better hang around to discover why you can erase these markers better than chalk on non-porous surfaces. We will also answer commonly asked questions!

History of Dry Erase Markers

Dry-erase markers are writing tools you can erase easily with a dry cloth or whiteboard eraser on non-porous surfaces, mainly a whiteboard.

Before whiteboard pens, wet-erase markers were first made available in the market. The narrative would change upon the invention of the first dry-erase marker by Jerry Woolf of Techform Laboratories.

In 1975, Pilot Corporation patented the invention. The year after, Sanford introduced EXPO markers.

By the 1980s, Europe had already embraced using whiteboards and dry-erase markers. It was only in the 1990s that whiteboard pens became popular in other countries.

What’s Inside Dry Erase Markers?


If you have always been curious about what lies within a whiteboard pen’s casing, here are the main components that dry erase ink is made of:

  • Color Pigment/ Dye – It is one of the dry erase markers ingredients responsible for the ink color. A color pigment is not soluble in water which makes it ideal for resisting dissolution caused by environmental factors, while a color dye is water-soluble.
  • Chemical Solvent – Without a dry erase marker solvent, the marker itself would not work.

It is the component used for dissolving the colorant and release agent so that they can pass through the sponge. If not, the ink will not flow through the pen’s tip.

After applying the ink on mirrors and other non-porous surfaces, the solvent evaporates, leaving only the pigment/dye and polymer.

Commonly used chemical solvents are ethanol or isopropanol. They are highly flammable; thus we need to be careful not to bring the marker tip near the fire.

  • Polymer/ Release Agent – The silicone polymer is why the colorant does not directly come into contact with non-porous surfaces like on acrylic sheets. It is a slippery barrier that makes dry erase markers easy to erase on whiteboards.

How Dry Erase Markers Work


Since you already know what mainly constitutes a dry erase marker ink, it will be easier to comprehend how whiteboard pens work.

You might be wondering, what makes a dry erase-different from a permanent marker? The polymer used in whiteboard markers makes all the difference.

  • Permanent markers use a glue-like polymer, while dry-erase markers’ ink contains silicone polymer. While a glue-like polymer ensures that the ink will permanently stick to a surface, a silicone polymer prevents the colorant from interacting directly with the surface.
  • It is also important to note that you can only wipe dry-erase markers like magic on non-porous surfaces, which includes whiteboards, glass, plastic, metals, and others.

Once you write or draw with a dry-erase marker on non-porous surfaces, the ink only stays at the outermost layer. It means the ink cannot seep into the surface because it has no pores. Therefore, cleaning a whiteboard only requires a few wipes, and voila! The ink will be all gone!

Thus, to make dry erase marker permanent, use them on porous surfaces like untreated wood, fabric, or paper.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions


Is dry erase marker the same as whiteboard marker?

Don’t waste your time choosing between a dry erase marker vs whiteboard marker because they are practically the same.

Dry-erase markers are also called whiteboard markers because they became popular as substitutes for chalk sticks. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use these markers on other non-porous surfaces.

What makes dry erase markers erasable?

The silicone polymer mixed with the colorant and solvent for dry erase marker makes it erasable on non-porous surfaces. The release agent serves as a deterrent for the ink to stick permanently on non-porous surfaces.

It also explains the viral experiment on Tiktok about how the drawings with dry-erase markers on a sink will float in water. Since the ink does not stick to the surface, the drawings can get detached from the metal sink basin, causing them to float.

Why do my dry erase markers dry out so quickly?

Leaving the pen uncapped for a long time is why this happens. Most solvents used in dry-erase markers are ethanol or isopropanol, which tend to evaporate quickly.

How to make dry erase markers work again?

The most common trick to make a dry erase marker work again is pouring just enough rubbing alcohol into the container or soaking the tip with this solvent.

To get a dry erase marker to work again, you can also try to inject water into the marker’s tip with a thin syringe to encourage ink flow.

Are dry erase markers permanent?

Dry erase markers were invented primarily to substitute messy chalk sticks. Therefore, they are meant to be erasable, especially on whiteboards and other non-porous surfaces.

However, it is hard to remove Sharpie dry-erase markers on porous surfaces like paper and fabric. Thus, serving as permanent markers when applied to these surfaces.

What is the main difference between dry erase markers and wet erase markers?

A wet-erase marker is a writing tool that you can use instead of a dry erase marker. The main difference is that you can clean off dry-erase markers using a whiteboard eraser or dry cloth, while a damp cloth is required to wipe wet-erase ink.


Hooray for reaching this part! We hope you had fun discovering how do dry erase markers work.

We applaud you for attempting to answer even the simplest yet intriguing questions. Learning never stops, and it is our pleasure to guide you in your pursuit of knowledge. If you have queries or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us.

Cheers to more learning!

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