Magic Erasers: Toxic or Terrific?

updated Jul 15, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which hit the U.S. market in 2003, has garnered an almost cultlike fanbase — and for good reason. We have reported on the Magic Eraser’s impressive ability to tackle seemingly impossible housekeeping challenges, from dirty hubcaps to filthy baseboards. In fact, the Magic Eraser does seem to be, well, magic. So much so that it makes many people a little nervous. How can this little white sponge succeed where so many other products fail?

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Could it be that what we think is magic is actually toxic? Well, that was the claim in a widely distributed Internet rumor about Magic Erasers several years ago, The claim focused on the toxic chemical formaldehyde, a substance most of us associate with the smell of frogs awaiting dissection in science class.

As reprinted on Snopes, Procter & Gamble formally addressed the rumor, explaining “formaldehyde is not and has never been an ingredient in Magic Eraser.” The melamine foam sponge does contain something called formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer but this is not the same as formaldehyde and “poses no health or safety risks.” As we learned in high school chemistry, when you mix different chemicals the resulting compound is more than just a sum of its parts; the new chemical has different properties than its components. The company went on to say that it is “possible that formaldehyde may be present in minute, trace amounts as a result of the manufacturing process. Even then, the amount present is significantly lower than standards established by governmental agencies and trade associations, and is actually less than what is found in indoor air.”

According to P&G, no ingredients in Magic Eraser are subject to any health-related labeling laws in North America or in the European Union. The National Institutes of Health lists the Magic Eraser as non-toxic.

So it seems we don’t have to worry that the erasor will be “off-gassing” toxins during use. Still, the sponge is not biodegradable or “eco-friendly” (though it is certainly a decent alternative to the full-on chemical cleaning sprays out there). Green cleaners should still remain the first line of attack against household mess. For me, the Magic Eraser is reserved for those sinister stains impervious to my eco-friendly cleaners.

Next time you reach for the Magic Eraser, here are a few things to remember:

1. Do not let your kids (or pets) play with or use Magic Erasers! They can be swallowed and can cause rashes and burns if rubbed against the skin.

2. After using, wipe up any remaining residue.

3. Don’t eat, lick or taste Magic Erasers. Remember what happened when powdered melamine was found in pet food and infant formula in China with tragic consequences?

4. Don’t rub Magic Erasers on your person. Just don’t. And, again, don’t let your kids play with them. The superfine foam can cause abrasions.

For more information on how the Magic Eraser actually works visit Daily Apple.

For more uses for the Magic Eraser see 10 Kids’ Things a Magic Eraser Is Killer at Cleaning.

Images: Cruft