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What’s in a Dry Erase Marker?

We’ve all used dry erase markers before; the first time it’s like magic—a marker that erases like a pencil! Better yet, you don’t even need an eraser handy. If you need to erase in a hurry, a rag, paper towel or even your hand will do in a pinch. How cool is that? Now that we’ve all used dry erase markers hundreds of times, however, the novelty has worn off. But it’s still always been a question on our minds; what exactly is in a dry erase marker?

Dry erase markers and boards became popular in the mid-1990’s, and were created as an alternative to the chalky, messy blackboards we used for over a hundred years. Dry erase markers are better than chalk in a number of ways; they are unaffected by water, they can be applied to a board using less pressure, and they erase more easily than chalk.

Dry erase markers were made for non-porous surfaces, which is why they work well on mirrors, metals and glass. The ink in dry erase markers is very similar to the ink in permanent markers and it can stain porous surfaces just as easily, if you aren’t careful. The ink is made of color pigments, a chemical solvent and a polymer or “release agent.” The difference between dry erase markers and permanent markers is the kind of polymer used. Permanent markers use an acrylic polymer that helps the pigment stick to surfaces, while dry erase markers use an oily silicone polymer.

The silicone polymer makes dry erase marker ink slippery and prevents the colored pigment of the marker to come in direct contact with the surface. This is why dry erase markers can be wiped off of non-porous surfaces so easily. Also, the solvent in the marker (usually an alcohol) helps the ink dry quickly, which attaches the ink to the surface, not absorb it. Dry ink is easiest to wipe off, since the ink is in place.

Dry erase whiteboards have long been used because they have a slight static charge, which helps the pigment stick to the surface. The only problem with traditional whiteboards is that they can hold onto some of the pigment, creating a ghosted or streaked look after too many uses. Many people are now turning to glass whiteboard, which are tempered for extra strength. Glass works very well with dry erase markers, as it’s a non-porous surface, it can be back-painted any color or left clear for a stylish look and it never stains or gets ghosted by the markers.

About Clarus Glassboards: Clarus is the leading manufacturer and innovator of glass whiteboards and glass visual display products. For more information about clear dry erase boards and our other glass architectural systems, please call 888-813-7414 or visit

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