Monday, September 12, 2011

Office Supply of the Month | Correction fluid

I'm not sure about you, but I generally think of Wite Out before I think correction fluid. It's one of those brand names that's somehow seeped into our everyday vernacular, like Kleenex and Chapstick.

Back in the early typewriter days, there were very few ways to correct a document with a typo on it; usually the answer was just to toss it and start over. Inventors started by creating special typewriter erasers, complete with eraser shields to protect the type around the mistake. Then erasable bond paper allowed typos to be erased by a regular pencil eraser, but the coating also made any ink easily smudged. Then came correction fluid, and later on, correction tape built right into the typewriter, which used a sticky substance to pull the ink powder right back out of the paper.

Typewriters have a soft spot in my parents had an electric one, and even after we had a home computer, I'd pull it out to play with and use from time to time. I typed all my college applications on that machine, lining up the row so it would fit in the little spaces just right. The case was the size of a suitcase, and it took all my strength to lug it from the study room across the house to my room (good thing we still had carpet upstairs back then).

Our typewriter had correction tape built in, so I rarely used Wite-Out with it, which is why I'm so fascinated with the fact that the product has held on so long even after the technology that necessitated it has solved the problem in a different, more efficient way. Maybe folks are just having too much fun with it (see uses below).

The invention of correction fluid is traced back to Bette Nesmith Graham, a typist. Frustrated with the existing options for correcting typos, she created a tempura paint-based solution in her kitchen blender in 1951. The resulting liquid dried quickly and opaquely, and could be typed over. She bottled up her concoction, dubbed it "Mistake Out," and distributed it at work. In 1956, she started her own company and sold the product from her house for almost two decades. Somewhere along the line, she changed the name to "Liquid Paper." In 1979, Graham sold her Liquid Paper Corporation to Gillette Corporation, and the brand was later acquired by Newell Rubbermaid in 2000.

Liquid Paper (and probably other correction fluid manufacturers) has had issues with its products containing harmful chemicals in the past, and some brands may still carry small risks. There are water-based products on the market today if that's something you're concerned about, although they tend to be slightly thinner and dry slower.

  • Paint your nails (bonus if you can find colorful correction fluid). You can do your whole nail or use a pen for
  • Make etchings in metal more visible, like on file cabinet lock numbers (dab it on and swipe it right back off before it dries...the excess will remain in the grooves of the numbers)
  • Label keys or other items that pen ink won't stick to and sharpies may not show up on.
  • Use as touch-up paint for white items.
  • As a paint pen for crafts. 

Fun with correction fluid

Some discontinued colors (sometimes on ebay or other websites): Green, blue, pink

Do you still use correction fluid? Or did that go the way of the typewriter?


  1. I love your Office Supply of the Month posts. I used to play around with an electric typewriter too. The clicka-clicka-clicka sound was so soothing, like white noise for writers.

    I use Liquid Paper DryLine Grip correction tape. It's in a plastic container that sort of looks like a snail. The white stuff rolls out when you drag it across the page. I use it in my planner and when I write with a pen, but I raely use it on printed documents.

    And of course I had a Wite Out manicure when I was in school! :)

  2. I used to love using white out in school! Sadly in the industry I'm in we can't use white out, it's against the law! we have to cross out any errors and initial and date it.

  3. I still use it for tape covers. I type all of our tape cover labels because it's too hard to print on them and when I make a mistake I pull the WiteOut out. I have also used it to touch up white paint edging in my kitchen before a party. I love it.


Like this? Leave a comment!
Comments with emails attached will receive emailed replies; otherwise replies will be added below the original comment.