How to remove permanent marker lines from wood cabinets
Q:We recently bought a house with wood cabinets. One has green permanent marker lines on it. How can we remove these marks without damaging the wood?
A:The Sharpie website suggests using Amodex Ink & Stain Remover ($7.98 at Lowe’s), to remove permanent marker stains. The product, according to its manufacturer, is suitable for use on wood, plastic and many other porous and nonporous surfaces. You can download instructions from the Amodex website. For wood, the company recommends applying a thin coat of the stain remover, rubbing it in with a dry Mr. Clean Magic Eraser ($10 for a box of eight at Lowe’s) and then wiping the surface clean with a damp cloth.
Rubbing alcohol is another product that usually erases ink from permanent markers.
But the big caveat is that there are many kinds of cabinet finishes, so there is no one effective and safe removal method. A stain-removal product that works fine on some cabinet finishes may damage others. That’s why the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association recommends checking with the manufacturer about the best way to remove stubborn stains. If you know the brand and model, you may find the information you need on the manufacturer’s website, or you can call or email.The grout between the tiles in a reader's bathroom has cracked and/or fallen away in many places. (Reader photo)
If you don’t know the manufacturer, look inside the door to the sink cabinet for a seal that says KCMA. All members of the association are supposed to put a seal there, with a code at the bottom. To decipher it, look at the association’s website, kcma.org, and click on “Find Your Cabinet Code.”
If you aren’t able to verify the type of finish, test cleaning methods in an inconspicuous place.
Q:About five years ago, we hired a contractor to remodel our master bathroom. When the contractor tiled the new shower stall, he explained to us that he did not need to use tile spacers because he could just eyeball the spaces. We don’t know if this is a common practice, but the grout between the tiles has cracked and/or fallen away in many places. There are too many holes to count. Is this due to normal wear and tear, use of the wrong type of grout, or a failure to use spacers so that there would be enough grout between the tiles for the grout to grab hold? What is the best course of action?
A:The problem could very well stem from the lack of spacers. From the pictures you sent, it appears that the grout lines are too skinny, which wouldn’t have happened if spacers had been used. It’s also possible that improper selection, mixing or curing of the grout contributed to the problem, or even was the main cause.
When gaps between tiles are too thin, installers can unwittingly just skim grout over the surface of the gaps. Using sanded grout on gaps less than an eighth of an inch wide is especially problematic because the sand particles are big enough to bridge the gaps, keeping enough grout from getting in, according to the Tile Council of North America, a trade group that represents manufacturers and installers. Installers should press in enough grout to not only fill the gaps but also cause grout to squish out around the back edges of each tile, forming a “key” that locks the tiles into place.
Also, proper installation calls for covering the newly tiled walls with plastic sheeting or misting them with water frequently for a few days so that the grout cures properly. Like any cement-based product, grout that dries too fast is brittle and crack-prone. Mixing too much water into the grout before it is installed or adding water to re-soften grout that has begun to harden also makes grout brittle.
What to do now? Unfortunately, it sounds as if there are so many cracks that there is a good chance that moisture has gotten behind the tiles and perhaps even into the framing. A home inspector with a moisture meter could help you diagnose that. If there is moisture in the wall, the only remedy is to remove the tiles, repair any structural damage and start over.
If that hasn’t occurred, you might be able to scrape out all of the existing grout — enough at least to clean out two-thirds of the depth of the gaps — and apply new grout. Use a non-sanded grout if the gaps are less than an eighth of an inch wide, as they appear to be from the pictures.
However, realize that it might not be possible to clean out gaps as narrow as the ones on your walls. Even a putty knife might snag. In that case, the only option is to rip out the tiles and start over.
Trying to fill the gaps with caulk won’t work — you’d have a mess. Caulk in showers belongs in gaps where the direction changes — corners and along the edge of the tub or shower base. It’s not for filling spaces between tiles within a wall.