When you're creating a scrapbook or marking up other materials for equally or perhaps more important reasons, you need to know that the marker you have selected will stand up to the challenge. It's easy to assume that a permanent marker will do the job, but what really is the difference between a permanent and a washable marker? Comparing the differences between these two marker styles will make it easier for you to select the product that best meets your needs.
Permanent markers contain water-insoluble ink,which means that the ink does not break down with water. These types of markers are also generally made with some kind of pigment agent and a binding agent. According to CDMarker.net, permanent markers often use xylene or toluene (both toxic) as solvents to keep the pigments suspended until they are exposed to air.
Washable marker manufacturers generally avoid the inclusion of toxic components in their ink, although they are present in some styles. Most washable inks are water-based, which makes them easier than other inks to clean up with a generous amount of water. Washable markers also contain pigments of various hues to distribute the color. According to PatentGenius.com, many washable markers intended for use on dry-erase boards also contain an acid or polymeric dye as a means of reducing water content and enhancing dry time.
Just because they say they are permanent does not mean the ink from permanent markers will last forever. Ink quality can fade over time, it can be painted over and it can be removed with acetate or similar solvents. One of the world's leaders in permanent ink, Sharpie says, "We do not have a mathematical formula to figure how long a permanent marker will 'last.'" According to the company, marks will fade in three or four months with outdoor exposure on a nonporous surface, while they may last several years indoors on a porous surface.
Although washable markers may be presumed to be, obviously, washable, there are times when the colors they carry will create a long-term stain. Whiteboards may show streaks of previous days' work in spite of regular cleaning. Smudges of ink can threaten a new business suit despite the use of proper cleaning techniques. In many cases, however, you can remove these stains with strong cleansers.
As a result of their ink composition, permanent markers are suitable for marking up a variety of surfaces, from metal, to wood, plastic and even paper. The toxic chemicals can give off a strong odor, so use them in well-ventilated areas.
By contrast, washable markers are better suited to surfaces like whiteboards and overhead transparencies, where ink needs to dry quickly and erase easily. They are also better suited for use in enclosed spaces and by children.