How Do Magic Erasers Work?
We spoke to a Mr. Clean senior scientist to find out.
If you're curious about how natural cleaning products work or why baking soda is such a powerful ingredient, you've come to the right place. We'll explain the science behind some of the most popular cleaning methods and tools, so you can you clean smarter—not harder. Follow along with Clean Science to see which technique we break down next.
Magic Erasers ($13.99 for eight, amazon.com), the ubiquitous white sponges that have been manufactured by Procter & Gamble for nearly two decades, seem capable of tackling any and every cleaning job. The tool is often recommended for everything from clearing smudges on walls to removing stuck-on soap scum. To discover why, we spoke to Mr. Clean senior scientist Morgan Brashear. Ahead, the secret behind these sponges' scrubbing power, and whether or not this magical tool really can do it all.
These cleaning staples are "magic" because of both how much they can do and how they do it, says Brashear. "Most people know they work great for marks on walls, but they can also handle the toughest kitchen and bathroom jobs with just water and bit of scrubbing," she says. "They are perfect for stove backsplashes and easily cut soap scum on tubs and shower enclosures." What makes them so popular, she continues, is that the provide a mechanical clean—not a chemical-based one—which makes them safe to use on a variety of surfaces and ideal for those looking to avoid harsh cleaning solutions.
Since Magic Erasers provide an abrasive clean, Brashear recommends beginning with light pressure anytime you use one. "We do not recommend using Magic Eraser on surfaces with a high gloss, stainless steel appliances, non-stick coating, or on the body of a vehicle," she says, adding that they shouldn't be paired with any chemicals, either.
Magic Erasers are made up of a melamine foam, which has undergone heat compression to increase their durability, explains Brashear, who says that this is the extent of their manipulation. "What many people might not realize is that there are no other added chemicals in the Magic Eraser Original ($13.99 for eight, amazon.com), Magic Eraser Extra Durable ($12.48 for 10, amazon.com), or the Magic Eraser Sheets ($14.82 for pack of three, amazon.com)," she says. Additionally, the product fits snugly into the palm of your hand, like a traditional sponge does—but better. "To take it a step further, the grooves on the sides have been specifically designed to match your finger placement, so it makes the Eraser more ergonomic to hold and easier to use," Brashear adds.
Method Behind the Magic
As for why they are able to tackle such a broad number of tasks? "The Magic Eraser is blown into a foam, creating tiny air pockets, which are visible if you take a very close look," Brashear continues. "At a microscopic level, the web of material surrounding the air pockets look like tiny upside-down triangles." When activated with water, these individual triangles become hard as glass—but the way they flex and mesh together ultimately helps the sponge remain soft and flexible. "The struts, or the bottom points of the triangles, catch on the soil—whether it's a scuff mark, soap scum, or buildup of grease and grime—and drag across the surface, like a windshield wiper," she continues, adding that this is what ultimately gives the sponge its "micro-scrubber" action. "The 'magic' is that the Magic Eraser is harder than the soil it's clearing, but softer than the surface it's cleaning."