I’ll show you how to eliminate crayon marks from wood furniture in this review. But first, here’s a brief introduction on crayons:
Crayons are pigmented sticks of wax used for drawing or writing. Crayons are different from pastels and oil pastels: the former comprises a mixture of pigments and dry binders like gum arabic, while the latter consists of wax and oil.
Crayons are mostly used by children, and they can get messy when the toddlers carry them around and start drawing on household furniture like tables, cabinets, and cupboards.
There are two main approaches to the above undertaking, i.e., using natural cleaners and use of synthetic cleaning agents.
Under the natural cleaning agents, you can use warm water & vinegar, baking soda & warm water, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar & warm water, and mayonnaise.
Under synthetic cleaning agents, you can use water displacement 40th formula (WD-40), an adhesive remover (like Goo Gone), a toothpaste, a window cleaner (like Windex), and paint thinners.
Before getting into the crayon removal process, it’s essential to know the kind of wood or furniture finishing you’re dealing with; it massively influences the removal process. The most common types of processed wood are veneer wood, laminated wood, and raw/solid wood.
The processed timber could be painted or top coated with different textures, including matte, satin, or high-gloss.
There are many permutations from the above description, each of which requires a specified process and rigor for crayon removal. I’ll begin by detailing the most common types of processed wood and then proceed to their crayon removal methods.
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The Most Common Types of Processed Wood For Furniture And Construction
Kids are likely to use crayons on the following types of timber, whether deliberately or inadvertently:
Wood veneers are thin slices of natural wood attached to particleboards or panels of fiberboard. Generally, it’s easier to remove crayons from veneered furniture than from solid wood furniture.
There are numerous veneer finishes, including paper-backed veneers, reconstituted veneers, phenolic-backed veneers, and raw veneers. These, too, differ in ease of crayon removal.
Raw wood is the purest form of wood that has only undergone processing from tree to timber. It’s always the heaviest of all wood types. Solid wood can either be bare or top-coated with paint.
The bare forms present a good sticking surface for crayons, making them challenging to remove.
The difficulty level of removing crayons from painted wood depends on the finishing on its surface.
A laminate comprises synthetic materials like resins, plastic, binders, a wood-simulating printed layer, and a protective layer. All these are glued on timber for protective and decorative purposes.
It’s much easier to remove crayons from laminated wood than the other two types of processed timber.
How Do You Get Crayon Off Wood Naturally?
As I’ve mentioned, there are two broad methods of crayon removal; natural-based and using synthetic agents. Let’s start with the former; how do you get crayons off wood naturally?
Using Warm Water and Vinegar
Most people know vinegar as a flavoring agent. There are many types of vinegar, some of which are household cleaning agents.
Vinegar is produced through fermentation of natural products, which involves the conversion of sugars to alcohol using yeast; the alcohol is then converted to acetic acid by bacteria. The resultant solution contains acetic acid and water.
Use a combination of vinegar and warm water to remove crayons as follows:
- Take a clean, dry cloth and soak part of it in vinegar.
- Then, rub the fabric against the wood surface to remove the crayon.
- Let it sit for 2 minutes as you soak the cloth in warm water.
- Rub the surface again to remove the now detached crayon.
It is a relatively simple process, and it works best on laminated wood, followed by veneered wood, and lastly, bare wood. If your substrate has a rough surface, apply more pressure when cleaning to undo all the embedded crayon bits.
Using Baking Soda And Warm Water
Baking soda is also known as bicarbonate of soda or sodium hydrogen carbonate; it occurs naturally in dissolved form in mineral springs. Alongside other uses, it is a cleaning agent for removing paint, corrosion, mildew, molds, and even crayons.
Baking soda is suitable for bare wood, which is susceptible to acids and abrasive media (baking soda is mildly alkaline). The bicarbonate also absorbs musty odors that are characteristic of plain wood.
For crayon removal, follow these steps:
- Put small amounts of baking soda in a container and add warm water to dissolve it. The amount of bicarbonate you use depends on the surface area you’ll want to cover during cleaning.
- Then, take a clean cotton cloth and dip it in the bicarbonate solution.
- Wipe the crayon-laden surface gently but firmly, then let it sit for a few minutes.
- Then, rinse the wood surface with a cloth soaked in clean water.
- Repeat the above process until all the crayon comes off.
Using Lemon Juice and Water
Lemon juice (from lemon fruits) contains 5% to 9% citric acid. It’s an excellent cleaning agent for crayons on wood, plastic, and glass surfaces. Water removes the polar part of the crayons. Citric acid can easily solubilize wax because both of them are nonpolar.
The procedure is as below:
- Take a dry cotton wool ball or clean rag and soak it in lemon juice.
- Then, swab the treated wool on the affected area to remove the crayon.
- Next, wipe off the same area using a rag soaked in water.
- Repeat the above procedure until all the crayon detaches.
Using Olive Oil
Olive oil is a liquid fat extracted from olives, a tree crop found originally in the Mediterranean Basin. It is used for culinary, religious, lubrication, cleaning purposes, etc.
Both olive oil and wax crayons are nonpolar and organic; this means they are miscible. You can therefore use olive oil to remove crayons from wood furniture.
The steps are as below:
- Take a clean rag and dip it partially in olive oil
- Rub it on the crayon part until it dissociates
- Clean up the surface using a cloth soaked in warm water
- Reso the above steps until all the crayon sloughs off
The above is an emulsion of egg yolk, oil, and an acidic agent like vinegar or lemon juice; there are variant forms. Their colors and texture vary from pale yellow to near-white and from thick gels to light creams.
Though not their designated purpose, they can clean crayons from wood surfaces. The oil, acetic acid, and citric acid components of the above substance weaken and disengage the crayon-wood bond, removing the stain.
As we’d already discussed, all of the above constituents are miscible with wax crayons.
Here is the procedure:
- Apply the mayonnaise to the affected area of the wood
- Then, let it stay for 5 to 10 minutes
- Afterward, take a clean rag or cotton wool and wipe off
- Lastly, use a cloth soaked in warm water to clean up the substrate
How to Remove Crayon From Wood Using Synthetic Cleaning Agents
Crayon adheres more tenaciously to some wood surfaces than others. It binds to bare wood surfaces than laminated and veneered wood; it also binds more to matte finishes than to high-gloss finishes.
The more textured wood surfaces require synthetic cleaning agents for stain removal. The natural cleaning agents are only good at undoing weak crayon attachments. Without further ado, let’s look at how to remove crayons from wood using synthetic cleaning agents.
The process varies depending on the agent you’re using and the type of wood you’re handling. Since synthetic agents contain strong chemicals, you shouldn’t rush into applying them to wood surfaces; you need to do a patch test beforehand to avoid unintended damage to your furniture.
How to Perform a Patch Test
Carrying out a patch test is not as complicated as it may sound. In this context, it only means a prior investigation of whether a cleaning agent will effectively remove the stain and cause no harm to the wooden substrate.
The procedure is as I’ve shown below:
- Take a ball of cotton wool and dip it into the cleaning agent.
- Apply the agent on a scrap wood piece of the same make as the actual substrate. If you don’t have a scrap piece, apply it to inconspicuous parts of the wooden substrate.
- Allow the setup to sit for 10 minutes; this gives the chemicals enough time to interact with the wood.
- Afterward, observe if there are any changes in texture, discoloration, or any form of degradation of the wood.
- If the wood deteriorates, consider using alternative agents.
- If the crayon stain comes off smoothly and there is no damage to your substrate, deploy the synthetic agent for large-scale stain removal.
Let’s now get into the particulars of using synthetic cleaning agents:
Using a Paint Thinner
Paint thinners are agents used to thin oil-based paints. They are also used to clean up paint spills and oil-based stains. Since waxes comprise fatty acids, they are soluble in organic solvents like paint thinners.
The thinners include mineral spirits, turpentine, and acetone; check the one that is compatible with your workpiece before using it. The procedure is as follows:
- Open the paint thinner and apply it to cotton wool or a clean cloth
- Rub the soaked wool on the crayon part of the substrate; do so gently
- Let the swabbed surface sit undisturbed for 5 minutes
- Rinse off with clean water, then mop the wood surface using a dry rag
Note: Use paint thinners cautiously as they can easily remove paint (mainly water-based) from wood. If it so happens, recoat the affected surface with the original paint and apply a clear finishing coat to match the rest of the wood.
Citric Acid Cleaners
These are different from citric acid of lemon juice, as they are strictly meant for cleaning; lemon juice, by contrast, can be taken orally.
The cleaners in question are potent agents that remove mold, mildew, wax, and other oil-based stains. Citric acid is so effective at cleaning that it can be used as a chelating agent to remove and prevent limescale development in evaporators and boilers.
The removal process of crayons using the cleaners named above is as follows:
- First, dilute the citric acid cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Transfer the resulting solution to a spray bottle
- Spray the agent onto the wood section with crayon
- Let it sit for 5 minutes before wiping gently with a clean rag
- Rinse off with water or wipe using a water-soaked cloth
- Repeat the above steps until the crayon separates out
An adhesive remover like goo gone gel is an agent that is meant to loosen and remove glue and stains like crayon drawings from surfaces. The removers contain organic solvents which soften adhesive polymers that are insoluble in water.
They are also formulated with a gelling agent that increases its viscosity and residential time on the substrate. It enables the product to cling effectively to the treated surface, even when it’s vertically oriented.
Follow the steps below to effect crayon removal:
- First, test the goo gone remover on scrap wood or hidden parts of your workpiece to assess compatibility
- If it passes all checks, spray the goo gone spray gel on the crayon-filled surface to saturate the stains
- Next, swab the wood surface using a clean rag to undo the crayon stains
- Finish by wiping the surface with a water-soaked rag
- Repeat the above process until all the dye comes off
Water Displacement, 40th Formula Penetrating Oil
The product named above is commonly known as WD-40. It is a multipurpose agent used for degreasing, cleaning, lubrication, and rust prevention projects. Its active ingredients include aliphatic hydrocarbons, petroleum base oil, and carbon dioxide.
In the context of crayon stains, the hydrocarbon and base oil components slacken the crayon bonds and make it slippery, while the carbon dioxide makes the agent non-flammable.
This agent comes in various packaging, including spray cans, gallon containers, plastic bottles, and the no-mess-pen pack. The no-mess-pen type is convenient for dodgy spots that the spray can’t reach.
Here is the procedure for removing the crayons:
- Take the WD-40 no-mess-pen and remove the cap: this package actually resembles a marker pen
- Apply the product to the crayon-stained spot as though you’re writing on it; it’s so much fun to use
- Let it stay for 5 minutes, then wipe off the surface with a clean rag
- Afterward, clean up the surface with clean water
- Repeat the procedure until all the crayon gets out of sight
If the stained surface is extensive, I urge you to use a spray can instead of the no-mess-pen; this will hasten the clean-up process.
Glass And Hard Surface Cleaners
The above agents are mainly used on glass surfaces; they are also multi-surface cleaning agents. They include Windex Streak-Free Shine and Glass Plus. The other substrates they can clean are metals, wood, and plastics.
The agents contain polar and nonpolar components. The hydrophilic parts enable them to dissolve the water-soluble parts of the stain.
The nonpolar elements allow them to weaken and attract hydrophobic regions of oily and waxy stains like grease and crayon marks.
They also contain fragrances that eliminate odors from wood and other surfaces.
These are steps for removing crayons using the products in question:
- First, do a dry run of the product on a scrap piece of wood or concealed spots of your furniture
- If the agent qualifies, spray it on the crayon-marked wood, ensuring you cover all the spots
- Let it sit for 5 minutes before rubbing with a clean rag or cotton wool
- Afterward, rinse the surface using water or mop with a water-soaked rag
- Repeat the procedure until the surface becomes crayon-free.
Other methods of removing crayons from wood furniture are:
Toothpaste is a chemical formulated for cleaning teeth, but its constituents can also remove mild nonpolar stains. The stains include crayons and even fats/oils from our food.
That’s how it removes plaque from teeth; plaque is a collection of fatty substances, cellular waste products, and cholesterol; these are all nonpolar substances.
So, toothpaste can remove crayon marks from wood even though it’s not as strong as surface cleaning agents.
The process is as follows:
- Conduct a trial of the paste on remnant or waste wood: this is an optional step as toothpaste is milder and rarely causes damage to wood (I’ve never encountered any case).
- Next, squeeze small amounts of toothpaste on the wood surface.
- Spread the paste with your fingers or an appropriate tool like a brush; make sure it covers the stained area entirely.
- Let the product work its way into the crayon for 5 minutes.
- Then, scrub with a soft brush or a clean rag.
- Afterward, rinse with warm water and dry it with a clean rag.
Sandpapers offer a quick and straightforward way of removing crayon marks. However, you need to do at least two rounds for maximum effectiveness.
first round is the easy, direct part; it involves using medium-grit hand-held sandpaper. The second round entails using fine-grit sandpaper. The last part concerns restoring the scoured surface to its original look.
The procedure is as follows:
- Take medium-grade sandpaper (100 to 150-grit) and scour the crayon-marked wood surface
- Next, remove the accumulated debris using a vacuum cleaner
- Then, smooth over the now rough wood surface with fine-grade sandpaper (180 to 220-grit)
- Get rid of the accumulated dust using a vacuum cleaner or by dusting off with a clean rag
- Lastly, restore the integrity of the wood surface by applying paint and top coating.
Using a Scraping Knife
The above is also called a putty knife. It’s effective for the physical elimination of stuck stains, especially dry ones. The good news about dry stains is they come off quickly and require minimal surface restoration practices after removal.
The crayon removal mechanism is as follows:
- First, dry-mop or sweep the surface to see the crayon marks clearly
- Next, take the putty knife and hold it acutely against the furniture surface
- Work the knife in a forward motion, away from the body repeatedly, to scrape off the dry crayon
- Then, vacuum off the collected debris before wiping it with a clean, damp rag
If the crayon is dry enough, it will come off quickly, and the wood surface won’t sustain any damage. Just hold the knife in the proper position, and be gentle. It’s analogous to shearing wool off a sheep’s skin; the wool comes off smoothly with no laceration or skin abrasion.
Using Water and Soap or Detergents
Soap and detergents contain surface-active agents that dissolve in water to produce excellent cleaning solutions. The soapy solution contains surfactants that can unfasten and emulsify the fatty acid component of wax crayons.
It also contains ionizable or polar water molecules that dissolve the alcoholic part of the crayon. In effect, it removes the crayon stains.
However, it’s essential to acknowledge that soapy or detergent-based water is not as strong/adequate as other surface cleaning agents in crayon removal.
The all-important procedure is as follows:
- Take soap or detergent and mix with water to form a soapy solution; add copiously to create a sufficiently soapy blend
- Dip a clean rag into the soap solution and apply to the wood surface
- Scrub the surface firmly and repeatedly to undo the stains
- Then, rinse using clean water before wiping with a dry cloth
Since soapy water isn’t as strong as other surface cleaning agents, you need to apply more pressure when scrubbing, and you also need to repeat the procedure to optimize the outcome.
On the upside, soapy water is comparatively innocuous to wood; you don’t have to worry about damage.
To conclude, children are a curious lot whose instincts are only notched up when they get a hold of crayons. When you buy them a set, you can’t limit them to canvases and sketchbooks.
They’ll always satisfy their urge to explore by drawing on other surfaces like wood furniture, floors, and plastics; after all, this is what normal kids do. Your next best move is to learn…
How to Remove Crayon from Wood Furniture
To exercise your memory, take a look at this recapitulation:
The technique and agents you’ll use will depend on the type of processed wood you have. It’s because the substrates differ in texture and stain adhesion power.
You can use natural cleaning agents or opt for synthetic cleaning agents.
Natural cleaning agents are generally weaker than synthetic agents. Most natural agents are used on a secondary basis, meaning cleaning wood is not their primary function. For example, mayonnaise and vinegar are used mainly for culinary activities.
The synthetic agents work better on crayon stains because they are primarily designed for cleaning.
Before using synthetic agents on your wood furniture, do a patch test to gauge their compatibility with your substrate.
I’ve covered all of the above, so all you’re left to do is get down to business. With this, we all break even; the kids get to do their thing until they grow out of it, and you get to restore/maintain the aesthetics of your wood furniture.