Removing Chalk Marks from Wood

“I recently built my daughter a book case with maple plywood. I made a homemade pegboard jig for drilling the shelf support hole. On this jig, I used blue chalk to mark the holes for drilling. Some of the chalk got on the maple. I brushed it away. Most of the chalk was brushed off. Some chalk remained.

I did not worry about it at the time. I thought I could get it off later by lightly sanding or washing it off with a damp rag. Big mistake. Sanding did not work. Sanding too much and I would blow through the top layer. I tried spraying with bleach and a card scraper and probably a few other things that I can’t remember now.

Is there something else I could have done?”

Submitted by: afamig

WWGOA Editor Response:

I suspect a solvent, like denatured alcohol, would have been a better wiping choice than water. Put a little chalk on a piece of scrap and try removing it with the alcohol to make sure it works next time. You can find denatured alcohol at home centers and paint stores.

George Vondriska

Managing Editor

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18 Responses to “Removing Chalk Marks from Wood”

  1. James Wesley

    Maybe a little odd, but for chalk lines on unfinished plywood I find the following (slow) process eventually works. Work a thin paste of wood glue into the chalk line. Wait only a few seconds before wiping off with a clean paper towel. Rub with a damp clean cloth, pressing hard if the line is reluctant to come off. Rinse well with a wet clean cloth and rub with a dry cloth to remove any remaining line.

  2. TA Blank

    Just bought several pieces of QSWO, four were marked with pink chalk. I tried air and a toothbrush but that just seemed to drive some of the chalk deeper. Then I tried a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water and a lot of paper towels. I wet the surface liberally and immediately soaked up the solution trying not to rub it around too much. That worked pretty well on the marks that I had not scrubbed with the toothbrush. Those may need another pass with the vinegar solution.

  3. nohamfam

    a bit off topic, but I once had a situation in a remodel with new carpet; snapped a line (red chalk) for something now forgotten. Line was freshly refilled and between the excess chalk on the line and maybe the line laying on the carpet as I rewound it , the carpet stained with the chalk. Had to get the new carpet cleaned ! Live and learn (sometimes the hard way).


    I’ve used colored chalk for various applications and have found that the one color that’s easiest to clean/hide is white chalk; i.e., if you don’t want to see it later, use white.

  5. bhitb

    I had read somewhere that Blue chalk was considered permanent and Red chalk was temporary and easier to remove.But i haven’t had any experience with either.

  6. Mark Pavich

    I’ve never done it but you could try compressed air and a toothbrush to get it out of the grain. just a thought.

  7. Bob Bellhouse

    Several cycles of vacuuming and blowing with compressed air does it for me. Vacuum first.

  8. Jim Oliveri

    If it’s possible, try using compressed air. I find it works well especially using an air nozzle that you can control the force of the airflow. Obviously starting out with a low flow and increasing the flow as needed.

  9. Jon P

    A couple other options I would have tried before using a liquid wash would be compressed air or brushing with a fine wire brush. With regard to the latter, I’ve often used a drill-mounted wire brush with very fine stainless steel wire as well as a clothes brush with very fine brass wire to clean out/cleanup grain on refinishing projects.

  10. eggsngrits

    Cleaning putty (the type intended for cleaning dust from computer keyboards and auto vents) can help.

  11. Grover Carico

    You’d probably have better luck with vinegar. I’m not sure about the blue part, but chalk is calcium carbonate and will likely react in a similar manner as the fizzy reaction you get with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar.

    • Alyssa Taylor

      Would any of these remove any stain applied to the wood? I make signs for weddings and events and stain my wood then measure everything out with light chalk marks but the chalk always leaves a faint trace, no matter what I try. Would a solvent/solution damage the stain?

      • Customer Service

        Hi Alyssa. Yes, a solvent will typically lift stain from the piece unless you have applied a topcoat.
        Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

  12. Jerry Bandy

    I’ve done the same thing. I used my air chuck (rubber tipped) to blow it all away.

  13. Rich Taylor

    Instead of chalk, I prefer lumber crayons like those from Dixon. You can use different colors for different applications, and they don’t get down into the grain like chalk does. I’ve never had any marks left over from the regular sanding a piece gets, but I have experimented and found naptha removes them even without sanding.