Jene asked: I bought some vintage paper items from a thrift store, and the prices were marked in china marker. What is the best way to try to remove the prices without damaging the paper item? The items are from the 1940s to the 1980s and vary from somewhat glossy magazine covers to a kind of textures matte finish, like a matte used in picture framing. Thank you.
Removing china marker from paper can be tricky because paper is not a strong cleaning surface. While thicker papers or glossy pages will be easier to clean, there is no fool-proof method to remove the markings. Here are several different ways the removal can be approached. Find the one that works best for your product.
Removing the Wax with Heat
China pencils are composed of colored wax. Removing this wax can be approached in the same way as a candle wax stain. This removal process works best on thicker materials or glossy covers. Plain paper may simply absorb the melted wax further making it impossible to remove. The removal methods can be found in our guide How to Remove Candle Wax Stains.
Scraping the Markings Off
If there are no other methods that seem viable, scraping the markings off may be the safest removal method. There are several ways to accomplish this.
You Will Need:
- Razor blade
- Exacto Knife
- Paper towels
- Fine sandpaper
Steps to Remove the Marks:
- Choose which removal tool you will use. Both the razor blade and exacto knife can be safely used on paper surfaces.
- Hold the blade so that it is as level with the surface as possible. This allows you to carefully scrape across the surface without pushing the blade into the paper.
- Run the blade across the surface.
- Carefully wipe the edges onto a paper towel to remove the colored wax from the blade.
- Repeat until the markings are removed.
- If a thin layer remains, a small piece of fine sandpaper can be lightly rubbed over the surface to remove it. Sandpaper should not be used in thin papered documents as it may create a hole.
Chemicals need to be used very carefully on paper materials. Too much moisture will quickly ruin a paper document.
You Will Need:
- Oil paint thinner or Turpentine
- Small paint brush
- Paper towels
Steps to Remove the Marks:
- Select a solvent that will cut through the grease and color, such as turpentine, white spirits or oil paint thinner.
- Use a small brush to apply the chosen solvent ONLY to the marked areas. Try to keep any excess liquid off of the paper.
- Use a paper towel to carefully blot the liquid away.
- Repeat, using a clean cloth each time, until no more color transfers to the cloth.
Additional Tips and Advice
- Absorene is a soft putty that is used to lift stains and grease from paper products. It can be found at art supply stores. Simply tear off a small piece and work it in your fingers to soften. Press it onto the marks and remove. Repeat until no more of the marks are lifted.
- If the paper is thin or delicate, it may be best to leave the mark in place rather than risk damaging the piece.
- If the paper is old and fragile, consider having it professionally treated if it is of high value and important that the mark be removed.
Thanks for the help. I too am a thrift store shopper and I can get the grease pencil marks off the glassware and china fairly quickly by just using a dry Bounty towel. I sometimes will wet it when I am almost finished removing the piece to pick up any smudges.
With wood, there is a different problem. If the wood surface is finished or has any kind of coating, the dry Bounty towel still works and so does wetting it at the end to clear up smudges. The problem arises with unfinished wood surfaces where the price has been embedded into the rough surface. Some small wooded vases have unfinished bottoms and so do some wooden cars. When you try to lean it by rubbing it off with the paper towel, it gets further embedded and it looks like the item will be cursed to bear the thrift store grease pencil price on it forever.
My thanks, because you opened my eyes to other lines of inquiry and I am thinking about getting the “Goo.”
I will be 82 shortly and the thrift shopping is my daily walking exercise. Again, my thanks for being there in my hour of need.
Best wishes, Jack
Use lib balm. Seriously. It works.
I have found that a simple pencil eraser works quite well for removing grease pencil marks from book covers!
Over the years I have bought a lot of books from thrift stores. In addition to the stick-on price tags, most of the books are “sale” marked with a red grease pen. I have tried to remove the grease marks using Goo Gone and other commercially available products. I wind up damaging my books even more. So…I took your advice and tried a pencil eraser. For the most part it works. Many thanks for the tip. Who’d a thunk it?
Probably a dumb question, but is there a way a mark can be removed with some type of light/laser-off paper or fading significantly using this method? Thank you. Anyone have any ideas?
How can I remove grease pencil on the bottom of unglazed fired clay pots?
It is the same problem as raw wood – the more I rub, the deeper the stain.
Try using the heat method first; that should draw it out of the clay the same way it would with fabric or paper. Follow the general idea in steps 3-7 in the article How to Remove Candle Wax Stains. For a pot, you will simply put a brown paper bag or paper towel over the stain, then rub the warm iron over the paper. Move the paper to a clean spot as the marker is absorbed. This same method is used to remove wax from wood, tile, upholstery, carpet, etc.
I am an avid thrift-shopper, and find items regularly marked with these pencils. I just bought a set of paperbacks and did not initially notice that in addition to the paper tags, they had also marked each cover with grease pencil… so frustrating and unnecessary. Thank you for your helpful hints; I am hoping that one of them will remove the marks, as I plan to resell the books.
After reading numerous tips, I was able to remove the grease pencil prices off of all my book covers using only a paper towel and my finger! On non-porous surfaces, WD-40 is amazing.