d-i-y glass and mirror ‘whiteboards’ (write right on ’em)

photo: adam mørk

After we posted about clear white board paint, which would allow you to write/and erase any wood or painted surface, Diary of a Tomato alerted us to the very cool alt-whiteboards spotted at Noma Foodlab, an ambitious restaurant and food “experimentarium” in Copenhagen. In the huge high-design loft space, big slabs of glass are afixed to the walls to display notes and lists.

Just to make sure you really could write on glass and then erase it, we tried marking the bottom of a jelly glass with a Sharpie

photo: sally schneider

photo: sally schneider

We waited a few hours, and washed the writing right off with a damp paper towel. It cleaned up even easier using a non-scratch scrub sponge

photo: sally schneider

Then we experimented with writing on mirror using a broken face powder case: we got the same fine results (the ink washed right off)…

experiment: mirror as wet-erase board

photo: sally schneider

Our discovery: you can use just about any glass or mirror wall, window or surface as a WET-ERASE ‘whiteboard’! (Even an old picture frame will do…)

We are also amazed that we never heard of a variation on this idea sooner: mark labels on glass storage jars – flour, suguar, Darjeeling tea – that could be washed off later when the contents change.

It also means that you don’t need an actual china marker to write your guest’s names on wine glasses; an ordinary Sharpie will do. (They come in a bunch of colors.)

Note: Taking a cue from the Commenter who said that some pens DO NOT WASH OFF, we recommend colored dry erase markers in addition to Sharpies, which we’ve tested.

photo: adam mork

Photos of Noma Foodlab: Adam Mørk

Related posts: clear ideapaint for ‘whiteboard’ surfaces ANYWHERE
hack: reverse-painted glass brick room divider
idea maps on a ‘whiteboard’ wall
more writing on the walls (indoors)
smudged chalkboard paint as chic wall color (+ how-to make your own chalkboard paint)
graphing novels, business plans and other big ideas

31 Responses to d-i-y glass and mirror ‘whiteboards’ (write right on ’em)

  1. Allison 06.25.2012 at 4:50pm #

    Yep, great for my glass storage jars in the kitchen, but even better — you can frame pretty paper (or other interesting flat things) for custom colored/patterned memo boards.

  2. Elizabeth Wang 06.25.2012 at 10:17pm #

    I think that using dry erase markers on glass and mirrors would be a safer bet. I remember a situation at work where someone (not me) wrote notes with a Sharpie on the windows of a conference room window. They could not be erased, while the dry erase notes on glass were easily wiped away.

  3. Kay 06.25.2012 at 11:00pm #

    When my granddaughter came to live with me I wrote a daily inspirational quote or passage on her bathroom mirror that would greet her every morning. She would occasionally erase mine and write another one for me. The Sharpie erased easily with a tissue.

  4. Julie 06.26.2012 at 5:58am #

    Having accidentally used permanent marker (in error) on many a whiteboard I can share a secret that many teachers know – dry-erase pen erases permanent pen- you just keep scribbling over it.

  5. Diary of a Tomato 06.26.2012 at 9:54am #

    Thanks for testing out this idea, and I hadn’t thought of marking my canning jars this way! In the don’t-do-what-I-did department, I’d used a china marker on the reusable plastic lids made for canning jars, and had a heck of a time getting it off…

  6. Sally 06.26.2012 at 9:45pm #

    Yeah, plastic IS a different story, as I think plexiglass may be. But real glass does fine with Sharpies. Yaye! and Thanks again.

  7. Sally 06.26.2012 at 9:47pm #

    Wow, I’m really glad to know about this stuff…lots of possibilities and way cheaper than the smallish whiteboard sheets being sold for too much $$. Thanks!

  8. Sally 06.26.2012 at 9:47pm #

    Wow, is that a hot tip!! Thanks.

  9. Carolyn 06.27.2012 at 8:15am #

    A great idea! I use sharpies to label glass jars at home, but hadn’t thought of doing this on a larger scale. I am definitely going to make something framed to make lists on in my studio. If you find the Sharpie ink has become difficult to remove (the longer it stays on the surface), a little nail polish remover should take it right off the glass or mirror.

  10. ann 06.27.2012 at 3:45pm #

    Love the crowdsourcing of ideas here! I had NO IDEA that sharpie worked on glass and mirrors. I”ve been cursing those ubiquitous office labels for not sticking well enough — been writing on them with sharpies of course. skip the middle man!

    And I am absolutely going to start writing on my girls’ mirrors. That is BRILLIANT!

    One benefit of idea paint over a big piece of glass is the ease of transportation (bucket of paint vs big heavy awkward sheet of glass) and of course mounting the sucker on the wall. I can easily paint a wall by myself, but would need serious to find someone with engineering skills and brawn to help me mount a big lovely glass board. Glass ain’t always cheap, either.

    Great ideas here, for all kinds of contexts. Pick your design challenge and work around it!

  11. Claire Duffy 06.30.2012 at 10:07pm #

    I have been using glass as a whiteboard for years. The kitchen splashback is perfect for notes and reminders: “Stew off 7.30, de-fridge pastry 4.30, buy dogfood etc”. The only time it cause me a problem was when the cleaners in my office took my week’s brainstorming off the glass door one Friday night.

  12. Ms. K 03.31.2013 at 11:13pm #

    About the cheap, giant “dry erase board” from Home Depot / Lowes: Yes, that works. However – NOT WELL. We use them often (as teachers in a public school). They do work, but THE LONGER THE MARKER STAYS ON, THE HARDER IT IS TO REMOVE. Also, the older the board – the worse it gets. This starts as being more difficult for colors (non-black). Then it gets more difficult to dry-wipe off the next day. Eventually it gets impossible to remove the marks without massive cleaning, even when using solvents. (Soap and water works better than dry-erase cleaner spray). Over time, your board develops a tinted grey hue, and the faint marks of past writings build up. Still better than nothing, but not equivalent to a real dry erase board. It’s the clear coating used over the board – it wears off much faster on the “shower board” stuff from Home Depot. FYI: a 12 dollar board lasts about 1-2 school years (as a secondary board) before you’ll just want to give up and replace it. However, a board from some stores last longer than others. This probably has to do with the brand/type of board – so I doubt the store is a reliable indicator. We bought some from one hardware store that lasted several years with only minor problems – and these were used as primary boards (the only boards in the room). I can strongly advise that you DON’T USE CLEANERS (that includes those alcohol solvent spray things that are especially made for dry-erase boards!). They definitely seem to erode the board faster. For a thorough clean, use a wet washcloth or paper towel. Put water in a spray bottle and use those cloth-covered kitchen sponges if you like to obsessively clean the board. The nice thing is that the cheap boards are taller than regular dry-erase boards (a more square-ish shape) – thus perfect for digital projectors! You can project and write over/next to the projected image as needed. With regular school-room dry erase boards, you have to either project over bumpy stuff or project smaller.
    I’m really glad there was at least one commenter to noted a case where glass didn’t wipe off! That’s what I was searching for – verification if glass really works! I’ve often found lots of “dry erase alternatives” don’t work. Laminated posters? Nope. Clear pockets for paper? Nope. Certain types of paint? Nope. Basically, stuff always wipes off if you wipe it off within a couple of minutes. Add a couple of days – and it’s just like removing permanent marker. Lots of scrubbing or solvents needed.

  13. Melanie Harvey 07.28.2013 at 1:00am #

    I skip the sharpies and dry erase and go for the Vis-a-Vis markers– the wet erase ones. Seems like people stopped using these when overhead projectors and transparencies went out of style… but I started making novel notes on a mirror (hiring cleaners is bad for writers, for sure…) I had an ugly triple mirrored medicine cabinet… and plexiglass backsplash… but in replacing a light fixture and outlet, those were gone and so was my apparently only inspirational place in the house. So I started writing on the gray striped vinyl wallpaper (figuring I’d be tearing it down next year anyway). But the wet-erase marker works the same way on the vinyl wall paper– doesn’t rub off, but with a wet paper towel, gone completely.

    Not sure what I’m going to do next year if/when I remodel the bedroom. But I prefer the Wet-Erase to the Dry always. No ghosting, more surfaces usable, doesn’t rub off when the dog walks by. 🙂

  14. Chris 02.07.2014 at 12:28pm #

    Great ideas on the markers to use, but what about the type of glass? Tempered, coated, safety, or ??? I like the idea of mounting the glass on the wall (as per the photo at the top of this post), but I’m sure can’t be ordinary glass (or can it?). I’m not sure the ‘jelly jar’ type of glass would hold up to mounting.

    Thank you!

  15. Sally 02.08.2014 at 11:36am #

    I went ahead and tested the markers on various kinds of glass around my house: windows (WITHOUT a solar film on them), jelly glasses, picture glass. i.e. “ordinary glass”. When I have an idea, I usually test out samples. So if you want to mount glass on the wall, I’d do that: try a small sample…see what works. And let us know how it goes.

  16. Julie 02.10.2014 at 2:08pm #

    One solution for the permanent marker that is difficult to remove from glass is to spray hair spray on it. It will very easily wipe off of the glass.

  17. AJ 11.26.2014 at 4:35pm #

    The simplest way to clean any glass is to use cheap foam shaving cream. Just smear it on and it cleans it all. Yes it will even take off sharpies. I use this on my car windows as well. If you use it on your bathroom mirrors, your mirrors will not get foggy after a shower. They stay clean and clear. Do not use it on computer screens as it will soak in and ruin them. I’ve tried this on old computers just to see what would happen….lol I hope this helps. Thank you for all the great ideas presented here. I love it.

  18. Darlene Zippwald 12.02.2014 at 12:51am #

    Also, a really fun idea for a party for names on wine glasses! No need for trinkets or colored ribbon around the stems. Saw the idea in a winery!

  19. nikki 12.07.2014 at 9:48am #

    I created a family calendar by arranging simple IKEA mirrors on the kitchen wall and use it as our weekly calendar and command center. A Sharpie wipes clean in one second!

  20. Sally 12.08.2014 at 12:57pm #

    Great idea! I’ve found Ikea to have some terrific inexpensive mirrors (you just need to check and see that the seams of the frames align well).

  21. Marker 02.12.2015 at 11:24am #

    Some great ideas here. If you go to your local vinyl printing store or vehicle graphics store, they often have off-cuts of vinyl. Stick to a piece of clear glass, flip it around and you have an instant ‘white’ board. You’ll need ‘dry wipe marker’ like the ones in the link.

  22. Sally 02.15.2015 at 1:18pm #

    Yes, we’ve done some posts on “reverse painted glass” which is pretty much what you’re talking about. It is a lovely, and incredibly practical effect.

  23. Kim T. 02.16.2015 at 4:12pm #

    Diy hanging glass dry erase boards can be done like your “reverse painted glass” post suggests, just using a tempered sheet of glass and mirror hanging brackets. I’ve even seen where people will use a tempered glass table top, which isn’t very expensive. Once you paint the back, I recommend covering with contact paper, so that it doesn’t get scratched or knicked during hanging or when moving. I love pops of color and this is a very functional way of bringing some color into a room.

  24. Sally 02.17.2015 at 1:50pm #

    Thanks for the hot tip!

  25. k 05.15.2015 at 7:11am #

    Hi, we used a dry erase marker in our bathroom mirror and wiped it off but now every time the mirror steams up we can see the residue, any suggestions?

  26. Sally 05.18.2015 at 5:40pm #

    Hmmm. Haven’t heard about that problem. What are you using to clean your mirror? I’d have to try it to see. I kind of like the idea of a message appearing in the steam…and then disappearing.

  27. An K 10.03.2015 at 8:38pm #

    Actually, glass whiteboards are incredibly durable and versatile! This website has tons of information on glass whiteboards and where to get them: http://www.monomachines.com/shop/presentation-tools/glass-dry-erase-boards.html
    Good Luck!

  28. brat 10.30.2015 at 11:35am #

    Dry erase ink removes EASILY with simple rubbing alcohol! It is a great solvent. No need for scrubbers, or heavy chemicals. I use it on all my windows and mirrors for sparkle. Works very well on white dry-erase boards, too, and removes most of the ghosting. The thing here is: be sure you are using Dry-Erase markers, and not permanent markers.

  29. Barbara Flock 07.19.2017 at 9:23pm #

    I want to do a seating chart on a mirror. I plan to use a sharpie, but any other idea about what to use to draw lines that can be erased? The erasing will be done AFTER all of the names are printed.

  30. Sally Schneider 07.20.2017 at 9:44am #

    As mentioned in the post, another alternative are colored dry erase markers in addition to Sharpies. I recommend you do some small tests on a mirror before hand.

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