How Are Washable Markers Different From Permanent?

Written by wendy strain
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  • Introduction

    How Are Washable Markers Different From Permanent?

    When you're creating a scrapbook or marking up other materials for equally or perhaps more important reasons, you need to know that the marker you have selected will stand up to the challenge. It's easy to assume that a permanent marker will do the job, but what really is the difference between a permanent and a washable marker? Comparing the differences between these two marker styles will make it easier for you to select the product that best meets your needs.

    Choosing the right kind of marker for your project can significantly affect the results. (marker and two pens image by Dasha Varigina from

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    Ink Components of Permanent Markers

    Permanent markers contain water-insoluble ink,which means that the ink does not break down with water. These types of markers are also generally made with some kind of pigment agent and a binding agent. According to, permanent markers often use xylene or toluene (both toxic) as solvents to keep the pigments suspended until they are exposed to air.

    Permanent markers behave more like artist paints in their overall composition. (marker image by Rich Johnson from

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    Ink Components of Washable Markers

    Washable marker manufacturers generally avoid the inclusion of toxic components in their ink, although they are present in some styles. Most washable inks are water-based, which makes them easier than other inks to clean up with a generous amount of water. Washable markers also contain pigments of various hues to distribute the colour. According to, many washable markers intended for use on dry-erase boards also contain an acid or polymeric dye as a means of reducing water content and enhancing dry time.

    Washable inks have a variety of compositions, depending on whether they are intended for whiteboards, highlights or other uses. (businessman write marker on white desk on white background image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from

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    Durability of Permanent Markers

    Just because they say they are permanent does not mean the ink from permanent markers will last forever. Ink quality can fade over time, it can be painted over and it can be removed with acetate or similar solvents. One of the world's leaders in permanent ink, Sharpie says, "We do not have a mathematical formula to figure how long a permanent marker will 'last.'" According to the company, marks will fade in three or four months with outdoor exposure on a nonporous surface, while they may last several years indoors on a porous surface.

    As with any kind of pigment, permanent markers can fade with exposure to sunlight or otherwise erased. (number image by Charles Taylor from

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    Durability of Washable Markers

    Although washable markers may be presumed to be, obviously, washable, there are times when the colours they carry will create a long-term stain. Whiteboards may show streaks of previous days' work in spite of regular cleaning. Smudges of ink can threaten a new business suit despite the use of proper cleaning techniques. In many cases, however, you can remove these stains with strong cleansers.

    Washable marker stains may require more than one simple approach to remove them. (plastic spray bottle tops image by Warren Millar from

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    Appropriate Surfaces for Marker Types

    As a result of their ink composition, permanent markers are suitable for marking up a variety of surfaces, from metal, to wood, plastic and even paper. The toxic chemicals can give off a strong odour, so use them in well-ventilated areas. By contrast, washable markers are better suited to surfaces like whiteboards and overhead transparencies, where ink needs to dry quickly and erase easily. They are also better suited for use in enclosed spaces and by children.

    The best type of marker to use will depend entirely on the nature of your project. (the girl with a marker image by 26kot from

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