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My wife and I have a toddler who is ready to graduate to a big boy bed, and her parent's handed us down a twin bed that they've had in storage for years (woo hoo).

The problem with it is that someone drew all over a section of it with pen (probably a Bic pen, or similar):

enter image description here

My wife says this stain has to go, and wants me to sand the entire bed so that, when re-finished, it all looks the same color/etc. Not my ideal weekend: I envision the sanding being a 10 - 12 hours job, minimum.

If it helps with a solution, this wood is maple.

Before I lose an entire weekend to sanding a 20-yr old bed, I have to ask: is there any solution under the sun (besides buying a new bed) to getting rid of this pen stain, that (ideally) doesn't involve any sanding, but at the very least only requires me to sand this one area? Requirements:

  • Minimum amount of work for me
  • Entire bed frame looks contiguous/the same (no eye sore patch where the stain used to be)
  • Safe/eco-friendly/non-toxic solution (my 2 year old son is sleeping on this thing and could be gnawing on the wooden frame for all I know)

Thanks for any ideas/solutions!

  • Have you tried soap and water? – Steven Jan 17 '15 at 21:56
  • Some pen inks are soluble in ethanol. That probably won't damage the finish. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 18 '15 at 0:33
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unlikely, since ball-point pen will also have dented the surface so the pen mark is lower that the rest of the wood stain. Paint-thinner will dissolve some pen-inks, but of course it'll also remove the finish on the wood.

how about a covering? Pick some interesting fabric, a think layer of batting, and upholster it??

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Before you go at this with trying to sand it.....I would try using paint and finish stripper. This will take off a huge percentage of the finish with a lot less work than sanding it off. The first part of the stripping can be done by scraping off the bubbled surface. The secondary applications of stripper can be done with steel wool.

Do wear GOOD rubber gloves when using stripper.

The stripper will almost certainly take off the pen ink marks too.

After everything has dried after the stripping process it would be the time to sand it out all smooth with fine sandpaper.

Always wear appropriate breathing filters when dealing with sanding.

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I find that lacquer thinner really removes a lot of different types of marks off wood. In your case, it will most likely remove the finish, since most commercial furniture finishes are lacquer based. Try a soft lint free rag dampened with lacquer thinner first to see if it removes any ink, AFTER you bring the footboard outside where there is lots of fresh air, this stuff is potent and probably will kill a lot of brain cells. (that explains a lot about me...) Anyway, you may be able to only treat the spot, since the thinner will not remove the stain, let it dry a while and touch up the area with a few coats of lacquer spray. After the few coats have built up, lightly sand the whole face of the footboard with 400G and give the whole face a spray coat. Mask off other areas to control overspray.

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Looks like a felt tip pen to me. Most inks are partially water soluble (good news) but they usually have acid in them (bad news). You can probably remove some of the ink by water or other solvent, but no matter what some of it will stay in the wood because it is acid-etched into the wood. So, basically you will have to sand deeply into the wood to eradicate it.

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