On Laurel’s first birthday my friend Anne gave us art supplies and a box of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and said, “These erasers will save your life.” Remarkably, whether it’s due to Laurel’s nature or our vigilance, the product sat untouched under our sink the last couple of years. It wasn’t until after a recent play date where we needed to break out the magic erasers to cope with a major bout of pencil + red crayon wall scribbling.
Unfortunately, the scribbles were all over Jon’s office walls (adjacent to the playroom) and I felt pretty crummy about this, given that he was out during the play date and some of the older kids were up in the playroom unattended while the parents kept an eye on the toddlers downstairs. As soon as I saw him futilely attempting to remove the pencil scribbles with a rubber eraser, I ran for the magic erasers and they were, in fact, magical - not only completely removing the scribbles, but also removing other fingerprints and smudges that haven’t budged with water and washcloth, and that I’ve been too afraid to approach with a household cleaner, lest it muck up the paint.
However, as an eco-gal who otherwise only has natural/organic cleaning products under the sink, I was suspicious. The product appears innocuous (plain white foam sponge) yet it's ridiculously effective and also disintegrates during use (they describe this on the packaging), leaving a little chalky residue on the fingers. So I reached back to the post I wrote following Seventh Generation & the Environmental Working Group’s panel on chemicals and kids to find the link for the Department of Health & Human Services Household Products Database. I also did some additional snooping around online.
In a nutshell, according to the DHHS listing (2003) and one from the Consumer Product Information Database (2007), the magic erasers are considered non-toxic (though of course, as with any other household products, you shouldn't eat it or let your kids eat it...). I also learned from Snopes.com and About.com Urban Legends that previous rumors (largely propagated via e-mail spam) about product banning of, and formaldehyde in, the product are false.
Despite all of this, I’m still a critical consumer; it’s hard for me to not understand the technology of why this sponge is so effective (beyond it being described as having “water-activated micro-scrubbers that reach into the grooves of the surface to lift and remove dirt around your home with water alone”). I’ll keep an eye out for additional safety information, but meanwhile, armed with the information above, I’ll use this product in instances where my natural products can’t cut it, and also with a pair of gloves on (just in case). Plus, I figure that sparing use of this mysterious magic eraser certainly is less environmentally impacting than repainting defiled walls.