Technology for Educators

June 2, 2010

Whiteboard Markers: AusPen

Filed under: Presentations — Sue Frantz @ 7:38 am

On one of the teaching listservs I’m subscribed to, participants were having their periodic row over using PowerPoint versus not using PowerPoint. But this time, rather than simply defending themselves, the PowerPoint users went on the attack noting that using the whiteboard was not exactly the idyllic world the non-PowerPoint users were making it out to be. Whiteboard markers, they argued, were often dried up, and colors other than black weren’t bright enough to see. Throwing away all that plastic is bad for the environment. And they stink! Literally.

While I enjoy my pixels, I’m not opposed to writing on a whiteboard. In fact, sometimes it’s exactly what the situation calls for.

I knew that there were low-odor whiteboard markers, but I wondered if anyone had gotten around to making refillable ones. A quick internet search turned up AusPen, an Australian company that makes no-odor, refillable whiteboard markers.

I promptly ordered a set. AusPen will ship anywhere except Canada or the U.S. For those of us who occupy all but the most southern section of North America, we can order from EcosmartWorld.

I chose the “Starter Kit.” Six markers, six refill bottles, and a little orange wrench come in this handy carrying case. If you’d like to forego the kit, you can order markers in packs of 6 or 12. Ink, or course, can also be ordered separately.

(Images courtesy of EcosmartWorld)

The markers are aluminum, so you feel like you’re holding something that’s going to last. The refill process is easy. Unscrew the marker and unscrew the ink bottle cap; if either is a little too tight for you, use the enclosed wrench. Squeeze 10 to 12 drops of ink into the marker. Screw the marker back together and replace the cap on the ink bottle. You’re back in business.

We have a locked cabinet in our classroom, so we just keep the set in there. With the carrying case, there are no worries about individual markers going missing. When you put them back in the case, you can see that a marker has been left out. That means you probably won’t have any uncapped markers lying around. If you do manage to leave a marker uncapped, AusPen assures us that it won’t dry out for another 72 hours.

The markers truly have no odor; they’re xylene-free. EcosmartWorld says the markers are “low, low odor” but my nose can’t pick up anything at all.

You have a nib choice: Bullet or chisel. The nibs are also replaceable so don’t feel like you’re making a permanent decision.

How do the markers work in the classroom?

I was really pleased with the brightness of the colors. With other markers, I found non-black colors tough to see. That’s not the case with these markers. Here’s a photo I took in my classroom. I don’t think the photo quite does these markers justice, but you get the idea. (The AusPen kit is bottom center; it gives you a sense of the size of the box.)

Cost-benefit analysis.

Office Depot sells a box of 12 low-odor Expo markers for $14.99. That’s $1.23/marker.

AusPen says each refill bottle holds ink equivalent to 40 regular whiteboard markers. With the starter kit, you get 6 filled markers plus 240 refills (6 bottles, 40 refills each), for a total of 246 markers. The kit is $69.95, so that’s $.29/marker – including the carrying case. Ink refills, when purchased separately, are $7.95, making each marker refill $.20.

Any way you do the math, refillable markers are less expensive.

Try them out.

I haven’t found an administrator yet who wasn’t interested in saving money. If you try them out, I’d love to hear what you thought of them!



  1. Sue, thanks for the review – I write the blogs for EcoSmart Products. I’m so glad you can take advantage of the complimentary tickets to the Seattle Green Fest. Say hi to my sister, Kerry at the AusPen booth!

    This is a great overview of AusPen markers. I like your picture of the inks on the board. Great idea!


    Comment by Maureen O'Neill — June 3, 2010 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

  2. I *love* mine. No odor, easy to refill, long-lasting, always great color. AND…. quick and easy clean-up. My whiteboard stays WHITE, the track doesn’t collect bits of black dust, my hands stay clean, I no longer use whiteboard spray cleaner. They just clean up way better than Expos.

    Comment by Another teacher — June 20, 2010 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  3. I’m thinking of buying a set to try out in the fall term, so I appreciate this review! Which nib did you use in your “demo” pictures?

    Comment by Elizabeth — July 26, 2010 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

    • I use the bullet nib. With repeated use, the nib gets flattened. Each nib actually has two, the one that’s pointed out and one that’s pointed in. When I did my first refill, I flipped the nib, too.

      Comment by Sue Frantz — July 26, 2010 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

  4. I really wish that I could order the 3-pen “Spring” pack to try them out. ( But, seeing that I live in the States, that’s not an option for me–it’s 6 pens or none from what I can tell. I don’t see the point in buying 6 pens without the refill ink, but 6 pens with the refill ink is $70. A little on the steep side compared to the EXPO’s I picked up 4/$2 while they were on sale this summer at Walgreens. (I know–after refilling the dry erase marker many times, I recoup the investment. Just like if I drive a Prius for 10 years I eventually recoup the extra cost over, say, a Yaris. But, how do I know I’ll stick with it and refill the pens the necessary 200 times to make it worth the investment??) This had me wondering–has anyone tried using the refill ink with regular, disposable dry erase markers? They never seem to “wear out” or break for me–just run out of ink–so if I could refill them then they could, theoretically, last much longer. Also, if I could go on ink only, I think that I could get empty dry-erase markers for free from other teachers, thus immediately lowering my cost to the cost of one bottle of ink for the next 40 markers worth of usages.

    Also–anyone tried mixing colors?

    Just wondering. . .

    Comment by Naomi — September 7, 2010 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

  5. Hi
    we have developed an even better truely water based marker pen (blue, red, purple, green, black)

    please email me your postal address, I will send u one for free to test it.

    Comment by stan — September 25, 2010 @ 6:51 am | Reply

    • Please send me a free marker to try out. If the price is good We’d be interested in saving mulah! thanks. Send to Juan Lopez, c/o Hidalgo Elementary School, 601 S. 2nd Street, Hidalgo, Texas 78557.

      Comment by JUAN LOPEZ — November 17, 2010 @ 8:42 am | Reply

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