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A blank whiteboard

A whiteboard (also known as a wipeboard, markerboard, dry-erase board, dry-wipe board or a pen-board, and also commonly mistaken as a greaseboard) is a name for any glossy surface, most commonly colored white, where non-permanent markings can be made. Whiteboards operate analogously to chalkboards in that they allow markings to temporarily adhere to the surface of the board. The popularity of whiteboards increased rapidly in the mid-1980s and they have become a fixture in many offices, meeting rooms, school classrooms, and other work environments.[1]

The term whiteboard is also used metaphorically to refer to features of computer software applications that simulate whiteboards. Virtual whiteboards allow one or more people to write or draw images on a simulated canvas. This is a common feature of many virtual meeting, collaboration, and instant messaging applications. Today, the term Whiteboard is also used to refer to interactive whiteboards.



A combination whiteboard and bulletin board

Modern whiteboards evolved from chalkboards.

In the mid 1960s, the first whiteboards (also called markerboards) began to appear on the market. In classrooms, their widespread adoption didn’t occur until the late 1980s and early 1990s when concern over allergies and other potential health risks posed by chalk dust prompted the replacement of many blackboards with whiteboards.[citation needed]

The first whiteboards were very expensive and were made of a melamine surface. It was the "perfect" solution to the chalkboard, except that it ghosted in a short time and was not easy to keep clean. The first enamel-on-steel write-on/ wipe-off magnetic whiteboard is believed to have been created by Magiboards in the UK.[citation needed] Inventor Michael Boone of the United States, was the first to successfully mass-market the "Boone Board" brand dry-erase board.[citation needed]

Over the last 10 years, the enamel-on-steel magnetic whiteboard has gone through some improvements, such as cost reduction and a reduction in glare caused by the glossy surface. The current trend is porcelain steel magnetic dry erase boards. These are regarded as the highest quality in the industry. They are now very common in schools, universities, hospitals, etc.

Glue backed whiteboard sheets, posters, and rolls are available, permitting any surface, even if irregularly shaped or non-level to be turned into a whiteboard writing surface.

Surface materials

There are four types of materials commonly used for whiteboard surfaces:

  • Melamine: Melamine is a resin-impregnated paper which is typically used over a pressboard substrate. This type of whiteboard writing surface is the least expensive and therefore is sold in many office supply stores. A melamine whiteboard surface can be easily scratched and will show some staining as the whiteboard ages and over time it will become less and less erasable, usually within a few months. Permanent markers are permanent on this surface.
  • Painted steel or aluminum: These surfaces consist of paint sprayed on a steel or aluminum surface. These types last longer than a melamine whiteboard surface. Painted surfaces tend to be smoother, which leads to better erasability. Paint is porous and over time will show some staining from the use of markers. They are also susceptible to scratching. Painted steel surfaces allow the use of magnets, however, painted aluminum surfaces do not. Permanent markers are permanent on these surfaces. These types of writing surfaces are often sold aftermarket for offices.
  • Glass or Magnetic Glass: Glass whiteboards can be used with dry erase or permanent markers and do not retain any "ghosted" inks.
  • Hardcoat laminate: This type of surface is less porous and highly resistant to staining. Hardcoat laminate surfaces are less common than other whiteboard surfaces, because they were developed within the last decade. Most hardcoat laminate whiteboards have a lifetime surface warranty against surface staining, because this type of surface does not absorb dry erase or permanent marker ink. Depending on the manufacturer, the surface may or may not be magnetic. This type of surface can be susceptible to scratching, and is used most often in high usage environments such as classrooms.
  • Porcelain, enamel-on-steel: These surfaces are ceramic (glass) which is fired onto a steel surface in a kiln. They are the most durable surfaces and most carry a lifetime warranty. The surface is highly scratch resistant, although materials harder than glass (like diamond) can scratch it. Because there are so many different recipes for porcelain, erasability varies on this material. These types of surfaces do not absorb dry erase or permanent marker ink. Porcelain surfaces allow the use of magnets. Since it is glass, the porcelain surface can be cleaned with any non-abrasive cleaner, although water should be used following the cleaning to remove cleaner residue, or smearing can result. Permanent marker can be removed by writing over it with a dry-erase marker and erasing it. Some porcelain surfaces are environmentally certified and provide LEED credit in new construction.


Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert famously used a whiteboard during elections, such as here in the 2000 US Presidential Election
  • Whiteboard ink markings are less susceptible to external factors, such as water, because the ink adheres in a different manner than chalk does to chalkboards. Using markers does not generate the dust that comes from using and erasing chalk, allowing their use in areas containing dust-sensitive equipment. Some who are allergic to chalk or are asthmatic use whiteboards as an alternative.
  • A whiteboard can be used as the projecting medium for an overhead or video projector. This allows the person giving the presentation to fill in blanks, edit, underline and make comments by writing directly onto the whiteboard, which in turn shows through the projected image. Proper dry wipe boards are high gloss to enable the dry marker ink to be wiped off easily and high gloss surfaces will reflect the projector light, creating a so called "hot spot", a glare back from the board. Semi-matt whiteboards are better suited for projection but more difficult to dry wipe clean.
  • A whiteboard pen is easier to hold and write with. This can benefit persons with limited mobility in their hands, such as those affected by diseases such as arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus. In addition, marking on a whiteboard takes less time, effort, and pressure than marking on a chalkboard.
  • Like chalkboards, whiteboards help to save paper.
  • When compared to a chalkboard a whiteboard can have significantly more colors because markers have a greater range of color than chalk (sidewalk chalk).


Only special whiteboard markers are suitable for use on whiteboards. Using other markers that resemble whiteboard markers but contain the wrong kind of ink creates markings that are hard or impossible to remove, depending on the surface type (see Surface Materials above). However, some techniques have been developed, which include filling over them using a marker with the right type of removable ink and then erasing the ink; wiping the marks with acetone or alcohol; or by using board cleaning sprays or prepackaged wipes commercially available from the whiteboard manufacturers.

The white background can cause contrast problems for people with vision impairment.[citation needed] Additionally, whiteboards cause some problems for those who write left-handed as many write with their hand curved around the pen, therefore causing their hand to drag across the board, smearing the marker strokes previously made. Similarly, right-handed people have this problem with right-to-left languages, such as Arabic. This limitation is also present with a chalkboard.

When writing with chalk, it is also much more possible to distinguish and draw heavier and lighter lines, as it is more pressure sensitive than writing with pen on a whiteboard.

Another disadvantage of the whiteboard is concerned with the issues of the actual usable ink remaining in a dry-erase marker. Since the markers are often tightly sealed in plastic, it is not possible to accurately gauge the amount of ink available. In contrast, blackboards, using chalk do not have this problem as the chalk visibly reduces with use. Chalk also creates markings of equal intensity throughout its lifetime whereas whiteboard markers begin to fade in intensity almost immediately after first use (when the marker becomes too faint to read it is considered dead).

Finally, whiteboard markers often have a pungent and strong odor (depending on brand and color) whereas chalk is odorless.

See also

External links


Simple English

A whiteboard, also called a markerboard, is a drawing surface on which markings made with markers are visible. It is used as a surface to write on. Whiteboards are often used to help teach. Special markers are used that can be erased. Whiteboards usually have a glossy surface. In the past, when the whiteboards were not yet created, people used blackboards, where you needed to use chalk instead of markers. Now, there is another improvement, people are now using electronic whiteboards, where it is controlled by a computer.


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