Removing Vandalism From School Desks

After the school year ends, teachers prep their classroom for summer vacation. Other teachers will start at a new school with well-worn furniture. This means stacking furniture and taking inventory of what classroom furniture you have. It’s times like this you often come across student vandalism you may not have seen during the course of the year. Some types of damage can be more easily repaired than others.

Student Desk

  • Pencil/Marker Marks – These are typically the easiest to remove. Pencil and magic markers come off most classroom desk with basic soap and water.
  • Permanent Marker – Removing permanent marker (Sharpie pen) from desks can be more difficult. Fortunately several around the house items can be used. Make sure to test any chemical on the underside of the desk in a small patch before attempting removal on a new surface. Nail polish remover is extremely effective at removing permanent marker from laminate top desks, solid plastic desks and even finished wood. Permanent marker applied directly to unfinished wood may be difficult-to-impossible to remove. Other chemicals that might be found in the Janitor’s closet can include acetone, or denatured alcohol.
  • Graffiti -If soap, water and elbow grease won’t remove paint from tabletops, a wide variety of spray on graffiti removers are available. Due to the chemicals involved it is best to use these products outdoors. Always test the removal chemicals on a small inconspicuous spot before proceeding. In most cases you can simply spray the offending desk, wait several minutes, and wipe the desk clean. Repeat as necessary.
  • Chipped PaintPainted metal book boxes can become either intentionally or unintentionally scratched. Sometimes phrases or symbols are scratched into the paint, letting the metal shine through. Most desk book boxes are black and smaller scratches can be covered up with a black sharpie. If this is a recurring problem you may consider plastic book box student desks. Plastic book boxes are the same color throughout and hide scratches best. You may consider “see through” or wire frame book box desks, as they have no paint to scratch.
  • Chewing Gum -Although frustrating, common chewing gum, depending on age, can be removed fairly easily. The older gum is the easier it is to remove. Fresh gum can be cooled using ice in a plastic bag, at which point it becomes easy to snap off, or take to with hammer and makeshift chisel such as a flat screwdriver. Once removed, scrub any residual gum with soapy water to remove.

The best way to avoid vandalism and graffiti is to buy graffiti-resistant desks. Solid plastic tops have a smooth, hard, monolithic surface that resists gouging by ballpoint pens, compasses, scissors and other school supplies. Nail polish remover works excellent on these desk tops. Graffiti removal chemicals will wipe these clean without damaging the desk or fading the color. Wire Frame book boxes contain no paint and are virtually impervious to scratches in paint due to their inherent nature.

8 thoughts on “Removing Vandalism From School Desks

  1. Wow, I didn't know you could use nail polish remover to remove marks. I'll have to try that, thanks for the tips.

  2. I have really old laminate top desks. can you remove graffiti and then put a laquer or sealer on them to make them shiny again?

  3. Sarah,
    Sounds like you need new student desks, but we understand that that’s not always in the budget. You can buy laminate rolls from the hardware store and use their recommendations for adhesive. If you do decide to reseal your existing desktops, I would suggest using a liquid glass type finish that you pour on, so that you have a smooth surface for writing. Contact for quotes on new classroom desks.

  4. Hi!! How can we remove penmarks that are like a year old is it like the first one? and what if you have a broken desk what do you do???

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