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Friday, July 27, 2012

Crayola VS. EXPO Washable Dry-Erase Markers (and Crayons)

I love dry-erase markers, the white board is a marvelous invention.  But I’ve always lamented the fact that they simply DO NOT wash out of clothes or off of skin.  Which leads me to have to hide them all on a very high shelf out of reach of my adventurous little tattoo lady.  Yes, little Emma is quite the skin artist.  And why does she always seem to do it just before Mass?

Of course, being a bit of a scatter-brain, I tend to forget where I hid the markers.  Because I have to hide them, they absolutely cannot be in sight.  Or she will find them.

I was thrilled when I started spotting washable dry-erase products at my local discount store.  And even more thrilled when EXPO gave me the opportunity to host a washable dry-erase party last year.  Earlier this week I discovered that Crayola has developed their own washable dry-erase markers (they already had washable dry-erase crayons) and decided it was time for a SHOW-Down to find the best washables!
Crayola VS EXPO Washable Dry-Erase Showdown @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
On the left is a 6-pack of assorted Crayola Washable Dry Erase Markers.  From the top right are 2 Crayola Washable Dry-Erase crayons (all I was able to round up in the house ;0), 2 regular Expo Dry-Erase chisel tip markers, and a 6-pack of assorted fine tip EXPO Washable Dry-Erase markers (you can get these in chisel tip, too).

I will be comparing the washable markers and crayons to each other and to the regular non-washable variety. 

I tested them for:
  • color and vibrancy
  • fading/bleeding
  • writing ease
  • wipe-ability and ghosting
  • odor
  • and, naturally, wash-ability
All markers and crayons were used on a brand-new, fresh out of the package, unblemished EXPO 2-sided dry-erase board.

Now, this is a detailed comparison, if you want to cut to the chase, scroll down and read my overall recommendations.

Color and Vibrancy
There’s little point in writing with a marker that you can’t see, so I compared the color selection and how vibrant those colors are (especially compared to regular dry-erase markers).

On the left are the available Crayola Washable Dry-Erase colors (they are basic): Green, blue, yellow, orange, red, and black.  Crayola’s Washable Crayons also come in basic colors.

On the right are the available EXPO Washable Dry-Erase colors.  None of these are basic, they are all fluorescent:  green, blue, yellow, orange, pink, and purple.  The non-standard colors makes it a little difficult to pit them color to color, but this gives you an idea.
Now, let’s compare these guys to a regular dry-erase marker.
First orange, because it was one of the colors available in all of them.  I guess the crayon is actually a bit yellowish orange.
It’s hard to tell with the orange.  I think you can see more with the black, but, unfortunately, EXPO doesn’t do black in the washable, so I used purple, the darkest choice.
Notice that the regular dry-erase is very vibrant, the others are more faded looking.  The washables are not as vibrant as regular dry-erase markers.

There was a little bit of fading with the EXPO washables, but the fading for the Crayola Washable dry-erase markers was quite noticeable, especially yellow.  The second line was written only a couple of minutes after the first.
If you look closely, you’ll also notice a little bleeding on the surface, the edge of the line is fuzzy.  The EXPO markers did not do that.

There was no fading or bleeding with the Crayola Washable dry-erase crayons.

Writing Ease
The numbers correspond from top to bottom.

(3)The regular EXPO chisel tip markers write quite smoothly with no skipping, and they are nice for a narrow or wide line.

(2)The Expo Washable dry-erase fine tips cannot make a broad stroke (but you can get the fat chisel tips).  You can feel friction on the board when you write with these.  They wrote fine right out of the package, but after only writing a few words, all of the colors were starting to skip some.

(1)The Crayola Washable Dry-Erase markers write incredibly smoothly, with no detectable friction.  The point is very fine.  You can get a broad line on the side of the point, but you can’t really write that way.  I felt that the tip might actually be too fine for a board that will be viewed across a room, but it should be fine for a personal board or a wipe-off sheet.

(4)The Crayola Washable Dry-Erase crayons write much like crayons, with a slightly greasier texture.  They can be sharpened for a finer tip.  They do rub off easily onto your hands, so I do not recommend peeling the paper off except to sharpen them (good thing they are washable ;0).  If you have a kid who doesn’t like dirty hands---don’t get these.  They are messy.
These are the Crayola markers, you’ll especially notice the bleeding I mentioned before.  But they do write consistently.
These are the Expo Washables.  Notice the skipping in the lines.

Wipe-ability and Ghosting
Both the Crayola and the EXPO Washable Dry-Erase markers wipe off incredibly well, as did the regular EXPO.  Keep in mind this was a new board, a more worn board may have less stellar results.  The Crayola’s Dry-Erase crayons, on the other hand, really need a wet cloth.
I saw no ghosting.  A wet paper towel removed even the smeary dry-erase crayon.

To those of us with kiddos who are sensitive to odors or turn hyperactive when inhaling the wrong thing, this one is important.  And, I admit, highly subjective.  Surprisingly, there was a big difference in this category
EXPO regular (Low Odor!) Dry-Erase just about knocked me out.  Wow!

Expo Washable Dry-Erase markers also had a strong odor, but not quite as bad.

Crayola Washable Dry-Erase markers had no noticeable odor.  None.  Really.  I’m not saying they are odor-free, but they are close.

Crayola Washable Dry-Erase crayons smell like crayons.

So, How Washable Are They?

First, I did the skin test.  Because 1 thing I really hate about regular “washable” markers is that they really do not wash off of skin (but I’m so thankful they wash off of clothes).
Left to right:  Crayola Washable Dry-Erase marker (blue), Crayola Washable Dry-Erase marker (black), EXPO Washable Dry-Erase marker (blue), Crayola Washable Dry-Erase crayon (black), EXPO Washable Dry-Erase marker (purple).  Notice I did more than one color, because just because one color washes off doesn’t mean they all do (ok, I wasn’t willing to totally tattoo myself with all the colors ;0).

The results:
You can see a brownish ghost from the Crayola black marker.  The others washed off completely.

Next was the WALL test. 
I decided to test all the colors for this one.  This is a plain white painted, dry-wall wall.

First, the Crayola Washable Dry-Erase markers (please pardon my lighting, our power went out that day):
Completely disappeared with a few wet paper towel swipes.  I’m impressed.
Now, EXPO’s Washable Dry-Erase markers:

With a wet paper towel:
Ok, at least the blue and green disappeared.

With a baking soda and water paste gently rubbed over it:
Oh, EXPO, I am not happy with you!

Here’s a close up (it’s actually more noticeable in person with good lighting).
Let us hope one of the Magic Erasers will do the trick.  Do you see what I go through for y’all?

Ok, last is the Crayola Washable Dry-Erase crayons.  I did not have high hopes for these.  They have a greasy texture and I was just sure they would not wash off easily.

Sometimes surprises are a good thing!  It did take a little more effort than for the markers, but the crayons came off completely.

Last test:  Fabric!
Because, you can repaint a wall, you can’t repaint your child’s Easter dress.  I was willing to sacrifice a perfectly good cloth napkin for y’all.  You know I love you now. 

You’ll notice that I goofed and wrote the a name with the wrong brand of marker.  Oops!  So I could easily tell them apart, I wrote each letter of the brand name in a different color of that brand’s marker (or crayon).  this napkin is a cotton/rayon blend (I think, I’m going by feel since there’s no label ;0).
Here’s the back, you can see there was some bleed through:
I washed this in cold with my normal wash.  Now, to be fair, Crayola says on their package to wash it in hot (I don’t wash anything in hot, it would shrink all our cotton clothes).

EXPO does not put washing instructions on their package.  They want you to visit their website for that.  Really? 

So I did what any normal person would do, I just washed it the way I would normally wash my clothes, cold water with a free and clear detergent.  You’re dying to see this, aren’t ya.  Don’t tell me I’ve never done anything for you.
This is hard to photograph, so let me give you some close-ups.
EXPO Washable (really?) Dry-Erase Markers---notice the green and blue did wash out.
The Crayola Washable Dry-Erase markers vanished. 

The Crayola Washable Dry-Erase yellow-orange vanished, but the black hung around.

Overall Recommendations:
Skip the EXPO Washable Dry-Erase.  I give them a thumbs down for writing ease, color, odor, and wash-ability.  They are acceptable if you only use the blue or green (which washed out beautifully), but they do skip and I have a feeling no one will be able to read them across the room after a few uses.

Skip the Crayola Washable Dry-Erase crayons.  They do write well and wash well off of skin and painted walls.  They are low odor.  But they are messy.  They rub off on hands and smear when you try to wipe them off your whiteboard.  They also break easily, more easily than regular crayons.

Try the Crayola Washable Dry-Erase markers.  The colors are not as vibrant as regular dry-erase markers and the fine tip does bother me a bit (I like bolder lines when I’m writing on a board), but they should work well for closer applications.  I’d love it if they’d do a chisel-tip.  They have no noticeable odor and they’re completely washable (even when you ignore the manufacturer’s instructions).  They do bleed a little, giving a fuzzy edge to your writing, but I can hand these to my 3-year-old with complete confidence and that’s saying a lot.  Just beware of the black if your child is a tattoo-artist (see the skin wash test above).

Look for Crayola and EXPO Washable Dry-Erase products at local discount stores in the school or office supply section.

You might also like:

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Tonka XT Ricochet Tricksters

Disclosure:  I did originally receive the washable EXPO products and board from EXPO to host a Washable EXPO party last year.  All other products were purchased by me.  This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.


  1. Thank you for a very comprehensive review! We use dry-erase a LOT (daily math and spelling as well as worksheets for my 5 yo) and so far haven't had many problems with washability but we will be rejoined in the fall my my 18 mo niece when her mom goes back to work... and I think we need to be more careful about what will wash off us, our walls, and our clothes when she's in the mix! We will give Crayola a try, on your recommendation! :)

  2. What a great (and helpful) comparison. Thank-you! We like to use dry-erase on markable maps and personal-sized boards, so the fine tip that Crayola has is actually a big plus for us!

  3. Thank you, ladies. Perhaps marking up the wall was worth it, lol!

    That is a good point, Debbie. In the past I've resorted to Wet Erase markers for the finer tip for things like wipe-off assignment sheets and maps. These might work great for that.

  4. Oh, Thanks! I am sensitive to scents and had been tolorating the small expo dry erase markers but now I will try crayola. Amazing how much better Crayola did overall. I'm especially impressed with the wall test!

  5. I was actually shocked by the low odor of the Crayola markers. I had come to believe that having a true low odor dry-erase was impossible.

  6. This is such a fantastic review, Thank you so much for taking the time to do this!

  7. Thank YOU for all the positive feedback. ;0)

  8. Great review! I bought some Crayola Washables last week, and I was hoping to use them on my sliding glass door, but alas, they are way too light for that. I'll have to stick with the regular black Expo. At least the Crayolas can be used on the regular white board when I pull it out!

  9. That's a good point, Boscopup. I wouldn't recommend any of the washable dry-erase markers for use on glass. They are simply too light. But, I think the Crayola washable dry-erase crayons might work pretty well for that.

  10. Thank you so much for doing this--it was very timely! I just purchased the Expo washables at Staples the other day and then found the Crayola washables at Target. They were both sitting unopened until I could look up reviews. I'm thrilled the Crayola markers won out as they were nearly three times cheaper than the Expo washables. (Back to Staples the Expo's will go!) I have a three year-old, too, and am so pleased to have a product that will allow her (and her older brother) to draw safely on our dry erase board! And now I don't have to keep the markers hidden away either :)

  11. Great, Susannah! I hadn't noticed a huge price difference, but my Walmart does carry both brands of the washables(I suspect Staples' prices are a bit higher ;0).

  12. Yes, but did you try any of these on beige leather couches in my living room! :)

  13. Ha ha! Sorry, my leather couch is a SANE dark brown. Test at your own risk.

  14. Great review! Thanks for this. That said, having looked at Amazon for them I was shocked at how poorly the Crayola markers were reviewed. Obviously, your review is quite a bit more thorough, but it made me wonder about quality control as well as the types of expectations people have. We'll see.


  15. Thanks, Dan, I'm glad you found it helpful.

    I haven't read the Amazon reviews. I did find that the washable dry-erase markers (both EXPO and Crayola) paled in comparison to non-washable dry-erase EXPO markers when it comes to vivid, clear colors. They aren't perfect, but there is often a trade-off when you are seeking certain features in a product.

    I very happily hand the Crayola washable dry-erase markers to my 3-year-old to use in her wipe off books and on the white board, because I know that she will color herself when I'm not looking and almost all of the marks will wash off. It doesn't matter to her or to me in this situation how clear or vibrant the colors are, or whether they bleed. ;0)

    But I continue to use traditional EXPO dry-erase as my go to for teaching my older kids.

    It's simply a matter of choosing the right tool for a particular situation.

  16. A little update: My munchkin decided to "color" the cloth canopy on her sister's doll-baby stroller with the blue Crayola washable dry-erase marker. And it is NOT a removable piece that I can throw in the washer. Uggs!

    But, it all came off by vigorously scrubbing with a wet paper towel! Yay!

    A caveat: the cloth is a woven polyester and we caught it right away. Not sure how well it would work with a natural fabric or if it had been sitting for hours.

  17. Thank you for the wonderful comparison! Just what I was looking for!!!

  18. Thanksssss.Susan for your times to review this product. I just bought crayola dry erase marker from walmart the day before. I don't know which brand is the best, I just pick one and try. After I used on my English class white board, it's turn great, although the color too light but it's easy to clean.

  19. Thank you so much for such a thorough review. I thought to myself, "I wonder how she's gonna handle a wall test... there's no way she's actually going to write on her walls for this review!" I was surprised and deeply impressed. It may sound silly, but I truly appreciate you going through that effort to help others out! Thanks for helping me decide between the various options out there.

  20. Pinkroses,
    Given the number of things my 3-year-old has drawn on the walls using very definitely non-washable writing implements, a few more marks is not going to break me. I really do need to get around to painting over those marks, though, lol. ;0)

  21. Thank you so much for the in-depth review of dry-erase markers. Every week I have an hour of training in a small room and the Expo dry-erase markers give me a whopping migraine. I Googled "odor free dry erase markers" and this blog came up. I'm so glad you saved me from spending my own money on Expo "low odor" only to find out it likely would have made me just as sick as the regular ones. I will be buying Crayola and substituting them for the Expos on the sly. (Don't want the company to think I'm "high maintenance" but I do have to solve the problem!). Thank you, again!

  22. Thank you for saving me the hassle of buying "low odor" Expo markers only to find out they really aren't. Expo markers give me whopping migraines and I was looking for an odor-free alternative when I found this very handy and thorough comparison. Thank you for taking the time to do this!

  23. You are welcome! Please keep in mind, though, that the Washable Dry-erase Markers (both Crayola and EXPO) are not as vibrant as the regular Dry-Erase and may be harder for your students to see. They may be just fine in a small room.

  24. Hi guys....awesome review and comments... do you know if there is any paper like medium that I can use to scribble and draw... I don't want any laminated sheets...a nice medium ? anything that you guys know ? dry erase boards are not comfortable in carrying...
    any thoughts ?

  25. Hi guys....awesome review and comments... do you know if there is any paper like medium that I can use to scribble and draw... I don't want any laminated sheets...a nice medium ? anything that you guys know ? dry erase boards are not comfortable in carrying...
    any thoughts ?

  26. My kids are supposed to have a BLACK FINE POINT dry erase marker and I am looking for something suitable that is WASHABLE, low/no odor, and non-toxic. The Crayola brand looks good based on this comparison, but the pen does not seem to be enough of a "fine point." Plus the markers width is maybe too thick to work on penmanship etc. in 1st/2nd grades. Any suggestions...

    1. Unfortunately, as of this time, Crayola is only producing fat washable dry-erase. I have fine tip, black EXPOs that I use, but I would not characterize them as "low odor" (even though they are labeled as such). There are other brands out there that you could try that are not washable but claim to be low-odor and non-toxic. I have seen Bic dry erase markers, for instance.

  27. Thank you very much for this post. My wife just came home with all three products and asked me which one we should go with. I was partial to the Expo products due having the most experience with them but as always I turned to Google to seek opinions. Your information came up first and I am very glad that I clicked the link and read through as we are now taking back both the Crayola crayons and the Expo markers in favor of the Crayola washable dry erase markers. Thank you so much for taking the time and sacrificing your home so other parents did not have to.

  28. Wonderful Susan! Thank you! Just what we parents need.

  29. Thank you! I know what I'll be buying now. :o)

    1. Somehow I missed your comment when you first posted it, stonemama---happy to help. :)

  30. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! My 9 yr old has ruined 3 pairs of pants in the first month of school because of non washable expos. They do math on their desk at school. They have to have black or blue so I'm glad the Crayola markers work best and have black. Ordering now!

  31. Thank you! I have been researching a washable marker to use on our chore/behavior chart that I have created for our home and to share with others on my homeschool blog: I googled washable dry erase markers and came across this post! This has saved me a lot of money and time! Thanks so much! I definitely plan to purchase the Crayola markers!

  32. Susan
    Thank you for your review. I was looking into purchasing the crayons because my students keep forgetting to put the lids on the markers. After reading your review I think the crayons might not be a good fit. I think I will look into a creative way to keep the lids attached or purchase a markers stand that keeps the lids in the stand. Great review! Debbra

    1. Yes, it's very frustrating to find that all your dry erase markers are dried out because the kids didn't put the caps back on. I wish you could get retractable washable dry erase markers, which might solve that problem (maybe some day). :) I'm glad this review was helpful to you. It's been a few years since I published it, so it's possible the dry erase crayons have been improved---maybe it's time to do an update.


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