How To Get Rid Of Ink Stains On Wood

Whether it’s a cherished antique coffee table from your grandmother or a bookshelf you picked up from a thrift store, your furniture is crucial to you.

It helps make your house a home and makes a statement about your aesthetic.

The stress of how to get rid of ink stains on wood can be extreme.

I’ve been there.

I have a sweet little toddler who managed to get those chubby little hands on a Sharpie.

Her canvas was, in fact, the coffee table that I inherited from my grandmother.

Biology often sends us into fight or flight when we have an adrenaline rush, and this time, I fought.

I fought the ink stain, and I was the victor.

So, if you’re in the shoes I was once in, take heart, there is definitely an answer to this problem.

Read on to learn what items you’ll need to learn how to get rid of ink stains on wood.

Items You’ll Need

This section has all of the items you will need to successfully get rid of ink stains on wood.


You will use warm tap water to make your cleaning solutions, whether you’re using dish soap or baking soda.

Dish Soap

You will dilute dish soap with warm water to create your cleaning solution.

Whatever dish soap you have on hand will be fine.

I always use Dawn as my go-to.

I find that a little bit goes a long way, and I like to buy it in bulk on Amazon.


Use a bowl or dish to mix your cleaning solution in.

I always use a transparent glass dish to determine how much ink I am getting off the wood.

Clean Cloths Or Towels

The cloths will be used to apply your cleaning solution and dry the wood when you are done.

I really like these microfiber cleaning cloths for the job.

Cotton Swabs

Use cotton swabs, such as Q-tips, to test your cleaning solution on the wood.

Pro Tip: 

Test a small amount of your cleaning solution on a piece of the wood that is not easily seen.

This will allow you to see how the wood reacts to your solution.

Any unsightly effects will not be visible.

Optional Items

Here are some additional supplies that can help you remove pen from wood if the dish soap method is not entirely effective.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, the sure to most of life’s evils, chances are, you already have some in your pantry. 

Baking soda is another all-purpose cleaning agent that I like to purchase in bulk.

Step-by-Step Instructions For How To Get Rid Of Ink Stains On Wood

#1: Make Haste

Take action as soon as possible.

The less time the ink has to set into the wood, the better your results will be.

#2: Blot Wet Ink Off The Wood

Use one of your clean clothes to blot any wet ink off the wood gently. Do this until the stain is dry.

#3: Make Your Cleaning Solution

Combine warm tapwater and about a teaspoon of dish soap in your bowl.

Gently mix this solution until the soap is completely dissolved in the water.

You should start to see bubbles.

#4: Treat The Ink Stain

Dip a clean cloth into your soapy water and lightly ring it out.

There should be enough water on the rag to clean the ink, but not so much that you are soaking your wood.

Rub at the ink stain in circular motions, stopping to rinse your cloth in your soap solution every minute or so.

Do this until there is no more ink coming off the wooden surface.

If your ink stain is large, get a new cleaning solution halfway through the process.

#5: Dry The Wood

Use a clean, dry cloth to dry the wood. Blot or rub the water off gently.

Too much movement on wet wood can damage your finish.

If the ink is not entirely gone, proceed to the next, optional step.

#6: Use Optional Items If Needed

Make a paste with baking soda and warm water.

Mix the baking soda in a little at a time to allow it to dissolve properly.

Using just your fingers, lightly rub the paste over the ink stain.

Allow this to sit for about 20 minutes.

Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the mixture away.

You will repeat this process until the ink stain is gone.

Pro Tip: 

This paste is slightly abrasive, which is why it works.

Take great care that you do not put too much pressure on the wood while applying it.

You want to protect the varnish on your wood.

Commonly Asked Questions

Can I use nail polish remover to remove the pen from wood?

– No!

Please, do not do this.

While the acetone in nail polish remover will help remove the ink, it will also remove the finish or varnish and do permanent damage to your wood.

Can I use steel wool to help get ink stains off wood?

– Again, please, no.

At the same time, you may bump into this recommendation elsewhere; it’s just not a safe option for your wood.

The steel wool will damage your wood, even if the damage is not immediately apparent.

Only use steel wool if the damage is so significant that you have decided to refinish the entire wooden piece.


Did you enjoy learning how to get rid of ink stains on wood?

I hope so!!

The gentle options outlined in this article will save your precious wooden pieces quickly and cheaply.

Before you consider replacing or refinishing the item, follow my steps.

It’s a cheaper and friendlier solution for all. 

Good luck!