The History of Dry Erase Paints and Coatings

Performance coatings companies have been supplying dry erase capable coatings since the mid-1990s to technology companies, health care facilities and educational institutions to create writable and erasable surfaces with dry erase markers. Over time the manufacturers of performance coatings and the distributors/marketers of dry erase paints and coatings have gradually moved from “Do it yourself” waterborne paints to high performance, professionally applied coatings including two component polyurethanes, two component waterborne epoxies, single component moisture cured urethanes and two component, ceramic like, weatherable and chemical resistant epoxies.

Requirements of Dry Erase Paints and Coatings

A dry erase paint or coating must be made of a performance resin system that forms a dense non-porous film with good to excellent ink release properties to be erasable. The coating must be able to be applied to a smooth vertical surface by roller or spray application. Dry erase paints and coatings should be flexible enough to be applied over acrylic latex painted surfaces and dry wall without damaging the substrate.

Dry Erase Paint and Coating Selection Includes Safety, Environment and Performance

Safety must be considered in selecting a dry erase paint or coating for installation in occupied space. Two component polyurethanes contain an activator known as an isocyanate and require specialized breathing apparatus for the coatings applicator as well as the evacuation of interior structures when such chemistry is used. Industrial solvents, strong odors and high VOC are also unacceptable in occupied space, thus most dry erase high solvent containing epoxies and moisture cured urethanes should not be used for occupied structures.

Weatherable modified epoxies are high solids, LEED compliant, non-HAPS, contain little solvent and the odor during the application and cure process is similar to that of a mild disinfectant. Weatherable modified epoxies were originally introduced in the early 1990s as a replacement for isocyanate containing polyurethanes in the industrial and marine markets for the protection of steel and non-ferrous metal substrates. The original weatherable modified epoxies were excellent in ink release properties but should not be used on dry wall or acrylic latex coated surfaces due to the extremely high cohesive strength of the coatings and the potential destructive damage to the underlying acrylic latex paint and dry wall through delamination over the course of time. Developments over the past two decades in weatherable modified epoxies have resulted in a more flexible resin system that can be used successfully over dry wall, adherent acrylic latex paints and alkyd paints without damage to substrates.

Dry Erase Pens and Dry Erase Markers

Dry erase ink markers are similar to permanent ink markers in formulation of the inks with the exception that the dry erase ink includes a surfactant that makes the ink more erasable while the surfactant exists in the ink film. Once the surfactant dries out of the ink film, which takes a few days, the ink is relatively permanent on most surfaces. To remove the dried ink or for that matter the ink of a permanent marker, you can write over the original ink with a dry erase marker and the surfactant will penetrate the film and the ink will once again be erasable. You can also use a dry erase board cleaner, isopropyl alcohol or a commercial cleaner such as Krud Kutter® Original as long as the dry erase paint or coating is chemically resistant to such solvents.

Cure Time, Optimizing Performance, Maintenance

Ghosting and stains on dry erase coated surfaces have three causes:

  1. Not fully cured
  2. Needs to be cleaned
  3. Dry erase coating film is not robust enough to resist dry erase ink staining

Cure times to writing with a dry erase marker vary with the type of coating, thickness of the coating, temperature, air flow and humidity at the time of application and the following seven to fourteen days. Most dry erase coatings can be written on at five to seven days at 70 degrees with good air flow, but if ghosting occurs, a dry erase cleaner, isopropyl alcohol or a cleaner such as Krud Kutter® Original can be used to remove the ink, the ghosting and clean the entire board. It is a good practice to test a small area of the dry erase coating before using any of these cleaners/solvents to ensure you are not damaging the dry erase coating film.

Dry erase coated surfaces need a regular cleaning to remain dry erase. On walls that are used daily or with dry erase markings that have been up over four days we recommend you should consider cleaning weekly with a micro-fiber cloth and a cleaner such as a dry erase cleaner, isopropyl alcohol or Krud Kutter® Original. As we suggested earlier, the cleaner/solvent should be tested on a small area of the dry erase coating to ensure it does not damage the dry erase coating film. Never use an abrasive cleaner to clean a dry erase coating.

Some suppliers of dry erase coatings in an attempt to provide a low cost, do it yourself dry erase coating systems have introduced products that are not robust enough to resist staining and ghosting. Such products usually do not form a dense enough film with minimal porosity required to resist penetration by dry erase inks. Such “Do it yourself” coatings should be replaced with professionally applied products with proven commercial track records when the low cost, low technology products do not perform.

Professional Application = Professional Results

Dry erase coating application should be done by a performance coatings professional with the equipment, knowledge of safe chemical handling and skill set to do a professional application. The coatings professional is responsible for over 70% of the success of a dry erase coatings application. Such an application requires surface preparation to ensure the wall is smooth and the surface is tightly adherent to the substrate. The professional applicator has mastered the technique for roller or spray application of the dry erase coating system and has the equipment to safely and properly perform the dry erase coating application.

The best performing dry erase coatings are LEED compliant, high solids, low odor, low VOC, chemical resistant, modified epoxies designed for occupied space application. The modified weatherable epoxies form a hard ceramic like film that results in easier cleaning of the surface even when dry erase ink is left on the surface for more than the recommended four days. In our testing, one area done with Expo® and Foray® markers in reds, blues, greens and neon colors went three weeks before we easily erased the dry erase inks off the wall with a dry micro-fiber cloth. Since the chemical resistant modified epoxies are weatherable and do not chalk as traditional epoxies, the modified epoxy dry erase coatings can be used on exterior surfaces.

Coatings West, Inc. supplies Precision Coatings’ EeZeClean Dry Erase Coatings to commercial painting contractors. Our own testing, ongoing usage and follow up with contractors who apply dry erase coatings has proven EeZeClean to be one of the top performing dry erase wall coatings. EeZeClean is also sold at a very reasonable cost per square foot. EeZeClean Dry Erase Coatings are available in gloss in white, black, clear, high visibility metallics and custom colors which allows architects and designers versatility in meeting design and aesthetic criteria.

We recommend you consider Precision Coatings’ EeZeClean Dry Erase Coatings due to low odor, occupied space friendly application and LEED compliance. Precision’s EeZeClean is a top performer in the dry erase market with excellent film formation resulting in a ceramic like hardness and superior ink release properties. Call us at Coatings West for a price quotation on EeZeClean in quart kits or gallon kits.